A MURDER investigation has been launched after the badly beaten and burnt body of a young man was found tied to a lamppost by the side of a road in Ayrshire.
Stuart Walker, 28, who suffered “horrific injuries” had been out with friends earlier in the night.
Police have said they were not ruling out the possibility that his death was the result of a homophobic attack.
Strathclyde Police confirmed his body had scorch marks and that he had suffered terrible injuries.
Mr Walker’s body was found tied to a lamppost near the Caponacre Industrial Estate in Ayrshire at 5am on Saturday morning by a member of the public.
He was last seen alive by a family friend near the fire station in Glaisnock Street at about 2:30am on Saturday.
Police said there were several house parties in a nearby housing estate in the early hours of Saturday morning and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
Detectives yesterday launched a murder inquiry following the discovery.
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police confirmed that following a post mortem, they were treating the death of Mr Walker of Hearth Place, Cumnock, as murder.
She said that Mr Walker had not “died from his burns” and had been subjected to “a horrific attack”.
Last night detectives were conducting door-to-door inquiries and studying CCTV footage in an attempt to piece together Mr Walker’s final hours.
Streets in the nearby industrial estate were sealed off as part of the ongoing investigation.
A spokesperson for the force said relatives of Mr Walker, the former assistant manager at the Royal Hotel in Cumnock, had been informed of his death.
Strathclyde Police would not rule out Mr Walker had been murdered because of his sexuality and were now closely examining all aspects of the victim’s life.
A spokeswoman said: “In terms of claims of his sexuality and lifestyle we are not ruling out any aspect of his life to try and identify why someone would want to kill him.”
She added: “His body was scorched but it is believed that this was not the cause of his death. We are looking at CCTV and conducting door to door inquiries.”
The officer leading the investigation, Detective Inspector John Hogg, said Mr Walker had been with friends earlier in the night.
The police officer said: “It is imperative that we find out where he was between 02:30 and 04:50 hours, who he was with and why this happened to him.”
Kazza Sutherland used to work with Mr Walker at the Royal Hotel.
She said: “Can’t believe this has happened to such a great guy. I hope they catch those who did this to him. Hopefully justice will be served and I hope those who did this go to hell.”
The popular former Cumnock Academy pupil was the subject of countless heartfelt tributes on a Facebook page set up in his honour.
Many friends have paid tribute to the popular man, including Amanda Lindsay, who said: “Poor Stuart can’t believe ur life ended in such a horrific way xx a young man who always had a smile on his face & put a smile on everybody elses face too xx I’m sure ur’s will be the brightest star in the sky xx R.I.P ma lovely.”