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FEATURE: Gay murder still unsolved one year on
The body of the 27-year-old Egyptian national was found inside his fourth-floor Greenknowe Avenue apartment after a fire broke out inside his flat in the early afternoon of Saturday, September 29, during the Labor Day weekend last year.
Original media reports suggested Ghoniem had been stabbed up to 20 times – however, detectives with NSW Police have denied this was the case. It is believed Ghoniem suffered several stab wounds and blunt trauma injuries before his unit was set ablaze.
Described by friends as caring, fun-loving and with a great sense of humour, Ghoniem was well-known to locals on Oxford Street thanks to stints working at local restaurant Raquel’s Spanish Kitchen and as a waiter for Stedmans Hospitality. He was well-liked by regulars at LGBTI venues and dance parties held at Arq and Phoenix. Ghoniem had also taken part in a number of Mardi Gras events and activities, including Fair Day and marching in the Parade.
Ghoniem had moved to Sydney in May 2010 after falling in love with a Sydney-based businessman who he met on an online gay dating website while employed as a bookkeeper with PriceWaterhouse Coopers in Dubai. Believed to come from a wealthy and powerful family linked to aristocracy in Egypt – his father was a senior legal officer under the previous regime of president Hosni Mubarak – Ghoniem made the decision to permanently live in Australia after wanting to lead a freer life as a gay man.
Neither NSW Police nor the Egyptian Consulate would confirm or deny reports Ghoniem received a permanent visa to Australia on grounds of asylum due to persecution of his sexuality back in Egypt. The Star Observer has previously seen a response from a law expert sent to Ghoniem about his chances of successfully applying for asylum.
Ghoniem’s relationship with the Sydney businessman ended tumultuously in 2011 after a number of months hiding the true nature of their partnership from the businessman’s religious family, who would not have accepted an openly gay son. The Star Observer understands Ghoniem was later forced to take out an AVO against the man following threats made against him after their relationship soured. Senior detectives have told the Star Observer they now believe this man is not connected to Ghoniem’s death – however, they refused to be drawn on whether a relative or close associate of the businessman may have been involved.
A report in the Daily Telegraph in November last year suggested the man police believed responsible was a former partner of Ghoniem’s who had escaped to Lebanon soon after the murder. Australia and Lebanon do not share an extradition treaty. A motive for the murder also remains unclear after police previously ruled out gang and drug links.
An Irish national who Ghoniem had met over Grindr and was living with in Woolloomooloo until their relationship ended in early 2012 was cleared of any involvement soon after the murder.
At the time of Ghoniem’s death, police were also looking at the victim’s use of dating apps such as Grindr after several people came forward to say they believed they were chatting with Ghoniem only a few days prior to his killing.
Of the 71 known murders in NSW last year, police refused to reveal to the Star Observer how many remain unsolved or whether they were close to an arrest. A spokesperson for NSW Police would only say: “Homicide Squad detectives continue to make inquiries to locate the person responsible for Mr Ghoniem’s death. No further updates are available”.
The Egyptian Consulate has repeatedly declined to make comment on Ghoniem or the status of the murder investigation.