Cunanan remains mystery as past life is dissected

"He was always near the centre of the bar, always the centre of attention, but I don't think anybody knew him very well," said…

"He was always near the centre of the bar, always the centre of attention, but I don't think anybody knew him very well," said the manager of the Midnight Sun, a bar the man suspected of killing Gianni Versace used to frequent.

As the media and police across the US delve into the details of the strange life of the suspected serial killer and gay prostitute Andrew Philip Cunanan, he becomes even more elusive.

One frustrated police official said: "The problem we've had is the guy's so ordinary. . . average height, average build. You look at the photos of him and he could be four or five people."

And yet, his classmates in the Bishop's School, in the affluent La Jolla suburb of San Diego, remember him well. He was a good student specialising in French and theatre, an athlete and openly gay. Classmates voted him "least likely to be forgotten". His chosen quote in the school yearbook was "Apres moi, la deluge".

Young Andrew Cunanan seemed destined for success and was already self-assured, mixing easily with older people. But a family catastrophe threw a shadow over a promising career. His father, Modesto Cunanan, a Philippine-born US navy veteran who had become a stockbroker, was suspected of financial wrong doings and suddenly disappeared. He had fled back to the Philippines, leaving his wife and family nearly destitute.

Andrew followed his father but soon returned to California disillusioned at the "squalid" situation. He had enrolled for a history degree in the University of California but dropped out.

In the early 1990s he was living in San Francisco in the gay Castro district, a patron of the Midnight Sun, whose manager, Jesse Cappachione, remembers him as "gregarious, loud and always wanting to be the centre of attention".

"He threw a lot of money around. Some people thought he bordered on the obnoxious. He was constantly laughing."

By now Cunanan was reinventing himself as "Andy DeSilva", sometimes passing himself off as a naval lieutenant on leave. He was also a "millionaire's son" and at other times the "owner of a factory in Mexico". He showed photographs of an "ex-wife and daughter".

Still in search of an identity, Cunanan moved back to San Diego and enrolled again in university but left and worked for a while in a drugstore. But he also began to cultivate rich, older men.

While his mother has called him a "homosexual prostitute", the San Diego police say that he was more of a "gigolo" and had been kept by wealthy men. Certainly Cunanan had large sums of money at his disposal at this time and was noted for picking up the bill for meals in expensive restaurants for large groups and lavish tipping.

But gay friends also noted that he did not seem to have any "meaningful liaisons" and was never seen kissing or touching anyone. He rarely touched alcohol and usually drank cranberry juice while dominating the company with jokes and his views on politics and the arts.

Last April, a change was observed in Cunanan. He put on weight, let his hair become unkempt and began to drink vodka. Then he announced he was leaving San Diego and moving to San Francisco.

His friends threw a farewell party at the California Cuisine restaurant. He gave away a lot of his personal belongings like expensive shoes and sweaters. At one stage he is said to have looked around the table and said: "None of you really know who I am."

He said he would go to San Francisco after "taking care of some business" in Minnesota. Several days later, two of Cunanan's former lovers were found murdered in Minneapolis - one bludgeoned to death with a hammer, the other shot twice in the head. He has been charged with one of these murders.

Days later the car of one of these victims was found at the scene of a horrific murder of a Chicago property developer who had been masked and tortured with garden shears, and had his throat cut with a saw. The victim's car was found five days later beside the body of the caretaker of a cemetery in a remote area of New Jersey. This victim's red pickup truck was found in Miami following the shooting of Gianni Versace and in it were Cunanan's passport and some bloodied clothes.

Cunanan is now being described as a "spree killer" rather than a serial killer and more dangerous. "There's no pattern to his killings. That's what makes everybody so nervous," says Mr Jack Levin, a serial murder researcher at Northeastern University in Boston.

Cunanan's father, who has now been tracked down in the Philippines, refuses to accept his son is a murderer. Andrew was "an altar boy and had a good Catholic upbringing", he said.

Agencies add:

Friends and admirers attended a Mass for Gianni Versace in St Patrick's Church, Miami Beach, yesterday, as a private aircraft carried the ashes of the designer back to his residence near Lake Como in Italy.

A memorial Mass is planned for Milan Cathedral early next week.

Earlier, Miami police said they no longer believed there was a connection between the killing of Versace and that of a local doctor. There had been suggestions that the same man might be responsible for both deaths.