DUBLIN, IRELAND – A small Irish town is in shock after the discovery of two alleged anti-gay murders in the space of just over 24 hours. Another attack on a third gay man left the victim with serious eye injuries.
Irish police, known as the gardai, said on Wednesday a man in his 20s is currently in police custody on suspicion of killing political and peace activist Aidan Moffitt, 41, whose body was discovered on Monday evening, and a second man, Michael Snee, 58, whose body was found on Tuesday evening.
Both men were found at their respective homes in the coastal town of Sligo, which has a population of 20,000.
The bodies were mutilated, with “similar” injuries inflicted on both men, the irish time reported.
The paper’s respected crime correspondent said each man had met their attacker on gay dating apps, and suggested the suspected killer, who was arrested at 1.45am Wednesday morning after armed police flooded the town, may have been responsible for the attack on the man with eye injuries.
Gardai said they are actively investigating a “hate” motive. They said they were also investigating whether the men met their attackers online and issued urgent safety instructions to people using dating apps.
Ireland’s gay community was quick to react to news of the shocking killings, led by former Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who is due to return to office later this year. He publicly declared he was gay in 2015, ahead of a referendum on same-sex marriage that was won by an overwhelming “yes” vote.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the LGBT community had faced a number of “distressing” incidents in recent days, saying: “These are incidents that we thought were behind us. And again, I want to just reassuring people that any crime motivated by hate, bias or discrimination will not be tolerated and will result in stiffer sentences.I hope to introduce the Hate Crimes Bill in a few weeks to respond.
Garda Superintendent Aidan Glacken said Moffitt and Snee “were well known and respected in this community. They were assaulted and murdered in their own homes. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time, as well as their friends and the wider Sligo community.
A friend of Moffit’s, Blaine Gaffney, told the irish sun“It’s quite chilling, it’s quite scary. We’ve talked about a lot of things that have happened in Sligo over the past four days, but this one thing in particular would be really, really scary.