The chief suspect in the murder of Russian gay broadcast journalist Ilya Zimin is being hailed as a national hero for killing a homosexual, according to newspaper reports.

Ilya Zimin, a reporter for NTV television was found beaten to death at his flat in Moscow last month, with clear signs of a violent struggle.

A correspondent from Moskovsky Komsomolets, Svetlana Samodelova, visited Moldova last week and discovered that the man accused of the murder, Igor Velchev, is being praised by family and locals as a “a national hero and martyr” because he killed a homosexual.

Police are looking for a middle-aged man who accompanied the journalist, 33, to the apartment, they believe the two argued after drinking vodka together.

The suspect’s father, Alexander Velchev said: “Imagine they get into the pants of your son. If he’s a real man, what would he do?! Igor is a simple rural boy … In order for him to lift a finger

against anyone you’d have to get him worked up. I can assume that Igor just responded to Zimin’s offer to get a drink together.

“I think Igor is suffering now because of his own naivety. Why was Zimin found naked? I think that my son just defended himself. And what happened later developed on the spur of the moment, we country folk don’t understand ‘alternative lifestyles.”

Homophobia is still quite common in Moldova although gay sex has not been considered a crime since 1995.