The police's skill at predicting the future has been called into question as of late. It is, however, no cause for celebration that it appears they recently got one prediction spot on. A week and a half ago, on October 6, the Met Police issued a public warning (also here) after a man was garroted with wire and robbed by two men while cruising for sex on Clapham Common in September, and another assault in the same place a few weeks later. At the time, a police spokesperson said, " The motivation behind these attacks seems to be robbery, but the vicious methods used could lead to far worse"
Just eight days after that statement was issued, far worse happened. Around midnight on October 12, 24-year-old Jody Dobrowski was kicked and beaten to death in the same park. The police have not confirmed they believe the same two people are responsible for all these attacks, but it stands to reason. They have most recently announced that up to twelve other men may have witnessed the attack, which is hardly surprising considering that Friday night is always a busy night on cruising grounds, and boys might have wanted to get one last night in before the weather gets colder.
The question on straight people's minds (the minds of many gay men, too) is why anyone would want to go cruising in a park at all in this day and age, given the risk that something so horrific might result. We now have bars and saunas and the internet and book clubs... why in the world would we feel the need to reenact these practically Victorian rituals of anonymous sex? An uncomfortable part of the answer is, of course, that the sense of danger is part of the allure. But this is only one aspect of the story, if perhaps the easiest to understand. Anonymous cruising isn't simply how one meets men in lieu of other methods — it is singular experience all its own, a (dare we say) aesthetic collision of absolute honesty and absolute fantasy, one that just can't be replicated in other spaces. It is a mode of sexuality that is almost unique to gay men, and one that isn't going away.
In addition, although there's really no way to prepare for being garrotted with piano wire from behind, and there will always be some danger, there are things you can do to reduce the risk. Boys, stay aware of your surroundings. Trust your instincts, and leave as soon as things seem "wrong" to you. Don't go to the park when you're drunk. Keep in the relatively open spaces — if the trade wants to "get a little privacy," he shouldn't be in the park to begin with.
The police continue to search for the murderers, and, because of the earlier warnings, are looking positively on the ball. The inaugural meeting of the Wandsworth Borough branch of the Met Police LGBT Advisory Group had already been scheduled for October 25 weeks before the murder. This meeting will now be, we suspect, better attended that it might have been otherwise.