The rent boy suspected of a murderous vendetta

Phil Davison
Wednesday 16 July 1997 23:02

Andrew Phillip Cunanan, the 27-year-old Californian now being hunted for Gianni Versace's murder, has been described by both police and his mother as a high-class male prostitute, a brilliant, charming rent boy who sought out wealthy older men to maintain a lavish lifestyle.

The FBI believes his world fell apart earlier this year when he learnt he was HIV-positive, and he set off across the country from his home in San Diego on a revenge rampage of killings. Now, he is America's most wanted man, suspected of killing five men, including Versace, in four states. Part-Italian and part-Filipino, between 5ft 9in and 5ft 10in, weighing somewhere between 11 and 12 stone; he is described as "armed and extremely dangerous".

Two of his alleged victims over the past three months were thought to be ex-lovers, a third was the millionaire father of another, and the fourth was a graveyard attendant apparently killed merely because the murderer needed his pick-up truck, believed to be the one found near Versace's house on Tuesday.

Miami police say they cannot confirm reports that Cunanan may have met Versace before he allegedly shot him in the head twice on Tuesday. One witness said the designer acted strangely before sitting in his usual cafe for breakfast that day, suggesting he may have feared he was being followed.

Cunanan's San Diego high school yearbook - he was known then as a strong cross-country runner - described him as the pupil "most likely to be remembered". He himself, then only 18 but perhaps already revealing the seeds of violence, scribbled beneath his yearbook picture: "Apres moi, le deluge" - after me the catastrophe.

He dropped out of the University of California, San Diego, where he was studying history, after apparently finding he could make a good living selling himself to wealthy homosexuals. "He called himself Andy or Andre de Silva and became a social animal," one friend said. "He hung out in hard-rock bars with yuppies and off-duty servicemen, telling them he was heir to his family's fortune or that he was an upcoming actor. He'd pay huge dinner bills with lavish tips."

Police and the FBI described him as "extremely intelligent, extremely well-spoken and articulate".

It seems he likes to play games with the police which might explain the escape route he is said to have chosen, round a corner, into a little- used alley and up screened stairs into a public car park. Blood-stained jogging clothes he had been wearing when he allegedly shot the Italian designer were found scattered haphazardly under and around his abandoned vehicle. Police sources believe this may have been a teasing message to help them notice the vehicle after he had fled.

The FBI believes that Cunanan set out from San Diego on a rampage of murder and revenge in April, stealing and abandoning vehicles as he went in what may have been a deliberate trail of clues to tease and rattle his pursuers.

They suspect him of first seeking out his former lover, David Madson, 33, in Minneapolis. Between 27 April and 3 May, Mr Madson was shot to death and a friend, Jeffrey Trail, 28, was beaten to death with a hammer in Mr Madson's apartment. Mr Madson's red jeep was stolen at the time.

The jeep was found near the Chicago home of millionaire real-estate developer Lee Miglin, 72, a leading socialite, after he was found murdered on 4 May. He had been stabbed, his throat slashed and his body run over with his own car, then wrapped up in brown paper and masking tape like a mummy.

The car, a green Lexus, was found five days later on 9 May in Pennsville, New Jersey, along with the body of 45-year-old graveyard attendant William Reese, who had been shot with a pistol. Mr Reese's red Chevrolet pick- up was missing.

Miami police and the FBI believe the truck was the one found in a five- storey municipal car park two blocks from the scene of Versace's murder and where they suspect Cunanan changed his clothes before fleeing in a taxi. They also believe that the pistol with which Mr Reese was killed may be the same one that killed Versace.

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