Police have said that a gay barman may have been sexually assaulted before he was murdered.

Stuart Walker’s body was found at 5am on Saturday near an industrial estate in Cunnock, Ayrshire.

The 28-year-old had been beaten and burned.

Detectives said yesterday that Mr Walker’s “lifestyle” is the “main focus” of the inquiry and that they have not ruled out a homophobic motive for the attack.

Chief Superintendent John Thomson said there was a “possibility” that he had been sexually assaulted before being killed.

Officers have confirmed that Mr Walker was found lying on the ground and was not tied to a lamppost, as initial reports said.

Few details of his injuries have been released but Mr Thomson said he had been subjected to an “extremely violent and sustained attack”.

He said the attack was not thought to be random and that it was likely Mr Walker knew his attackers.

He said: “There are a number of open lines of inquiry and we have no distinct motive as yet. I remain optimistic we will being those responsible to book sooner rather than later.”

Mr Walker was last seen alive near Glaisnock Street’s fire station at about 2.30am on Saturday.

His body was found by a passerby two and a half hours later.

Police are attempting to piece together his final hours through CCTV and door-to-door enquiries.

They are also asking anyone with information to come forward, particularly those with information about house parties on the nearby Netherthird housing estate.