Versace: after the murder, the mystery

Now 'America's most wanted man' is dead, reports Phil Davison, the FBI hopes to learn why he took the lives he did, including - supposedly - his own

Alleged gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan may not after all have taken his secrets with him to the grave. A small portable safe found close to his body could hold vital evidence to throw light on the murders of fashion designer Gianni Versace and four other people.

FBI agents last night sought a separate search warrant to study the contents of the dark blue 15in by 18in safe after removing it from the houseboat where America's most wanted man reportedly shot himself on Wednesday. They were not sure whether it belonged to Cunanan or the houseboat's eccentric owner, Torsten Reineck, a German who owns a gay health spa in San Diego and bills himself as a diplomat from"the Principality of Sealand".

"We believe the safe may contain evidence related to the five homicides," an FBI spokesman said. Since Cunanan appeared to have had a key and to have known the combination, investigators hope he may have left either a suicide note, explanations for his alleged five murders or evidence linking him to the crimes, such as gold coins stolen from one victim. The FBI hopes to study the contents tomorrow.

A purported Cunanan suicide note was received by the Miami Herald newspaper on Friday but police did not appear to consider it authentic. The envelope was postmarked 24 July, the day after Cunanan reportedly killed himself, but the letter carried today's date, 27 July. It contained "somewhat unfocused" references to the crimes, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, the headlines no longer focus on "Cunanan"or "Versace." Now, it is "The Caretaker" who is the lead character.

Fernando Carreira, a 71-year-old Portuguese-born caretaker who says he stumbled into Cunanan on a houseboat last Wednesday was, it turns out, wielding a pistol when Cunanan reportedly shot himself. He supposedly committed suicide after the caretaker discovered him, initiating a massive police siege.

Various changes or discrepancies in the caretaker's story remain the talk of the town here, where many people still question the confused police version of how and when Cunanan's body was found. After assaulting and searching the houseboat based on the caretaker's tip, police announced they had found no one. Two and a half hours later, they said there was a body on the main bed. Only the following morning, 14 hours after initiating the siege, did they say it was the 27-year-old killer - even though the first police detective on the scene said it took him just five seconds to recognise the wanted man.

Some doubted whether Cunanan, after apparently basking in world fame, would have committed suicide merely because a caretaker may have noticed him. Others saw it as further evidence that the Italian mafia was behind last week's killing of Versace - with or without Cunanan's participation - and suggested Cunanan may have been killed to shut him up.

At a news conference here on Friday to claim a $65,000 (pounds 40,000) reward, Mr Carreira for the first time revealed his wife had been with him on Wednesday afternoon when he noticed that the houseboat on a canal off Miami Beach was not locked. He also admitted he himself had not called the police but that he had called his 15-year-old son who, in turn, phoned the 911 emergency number.

He said he and his wife went on to the houseboat and noticed some items had been moved around. "I draw my gun, then I hear 'boom' from upstairs,"he said. That, police say, was the moment Cunanan shot himself but the sudden revelation of another gun - in the hands of a 71-year-old caretaker - thickened the plot.

"For all we know, he could have been a conspirator with Cunanan," said Seymour Gelber, mayor of Miami Beach, explaining why Mr Carreira should not get the reward before the Versace murder investigation is complete.While there was no suggestion he was involved in Cunanan's death, his changing versions are fuelling further doubts among sceptics.

Mr Carreira filed a lawsuit against Miami Beach and Dade County to claim the reward and was massively backed by TV and radio phone-ins, as well as a petition billing him as a hero.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works