Scottish authorities have launched a murder investigation into the death of Stuart Walker, a 28-year-old man who was brutally beaten, burned, then tied to a streetlight left by a roadside early Saturday morning in the town of Cumnock. A police department spokeswoman told The Scotsman that Walker probably did not die from his burns, but reports suggest that he may have been burned while still alive. Walker was gay, which has prompted questions about whether his murder was a hate crime. Police told BBC that "there was nothing to suggest" it was a homophobic attack, though they haven't ruled out the possibility. Update: Earlier reports that Walker had been found tied to a lamppost are incorrect, police say.

The horrific nature of his death has shocked his community, which has already hosted several vigils in his honor. Meanwhile, a Facebook tribute page has quickly surpassed 5,000 fans. "He was a lovely person and nothing was too much trouble for him, he always had a smile for everyone," comments a Cumnock Rotary Club member who knew him. "Stuart you will be sadly missed and Cumnock will always be a better place for having known you."

[Guardian, Scotsman, Towleroad. Images via Strathclyde PD, BBC]