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1997: Versace murdered on his doorstep

Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace has been shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion.

The incident happened shortly before 0900 local time (1400 GMT) as the 50-year-old designer returned from the fashionable News Café where he bought breakfast and Italian newspapers.

Witnesses described a white man in his mid-twenties taking a gun from a backpack and shooting Versace twice in the back of the head as he unlocked the gates to his Ocean Drive home.

A gun was found with discarded clothes in a red Chevrolet pick-up truck abandoned in a car park.

Prime suspect

Police have traced the weapon to Andrew Cunanan, 27, a gay prostitute with an "affluent clientele".

He is already on the FBI's most wanted list in connection with four other murders - all of the victims were, like Versace, homosexual.

Miami police chief Richard Barreto described Cunanan as the sole suspect, but he did not know if he had any relationship with Versace.

Hundreds of people have gathered opposite Versace's three-storey, Mediterranean style home, the only residential building in the art deco section of Ocean Drive.

Police have sealed off the area round the blood-stained steps to the house - Casa Casuarina - where Versace lived most of the time with his friend Antonio D'Amico.

Around the world Versace's stores have been closing as they received news of the tragedy.

Tributes are pouring in from the many rich and famous friends who enjoyed wearing Versace's flamboyant designs.

Amongst them Princess Diana has issued a statement saying she was "devastated at the loss of a great and talented man".

Versace had just released his new winter collection and a glamorous television launch planned for the Spanish Steps in Rome has been cancelled.

With the help of his sister Donatella and his brother Santo, Versace transformed the family firm into a multimillion-dollar fashion empire.

In Context
Following America's biggest manhunt, detectives traced Andrew Cunanan to a houseboat three miles from the murder scene on 25 July 1997.

After a five-hour siege a swat team stormed the boat and found Cunanan dead.

He had shot himself in the head with the gun he used to kill Versace.

His motive and any clues to his links with organised crime went with him to the grave.

There were some press reports which suggested he had been diagnosed HIV-positive, but a post mortem examination showed this was not the case.

Versace was his fifth victim, at the end of a killing spree which began in April 1997.

Versace launched his fashion label in 1978 and the year before his death made pre-tax profits of £60m from a global turnover of £300m.

The label has continued under the direction of Donatella and Santo Versace.


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