The murder of an autistic man in Narrabeen on the weekend may have been a gay hate crime.

A police spokeswoman said officers were investigating several leads including the possibility the man was killed at a beat.

Gerard Fleming, 35, was found collapsed with stab wounds to his upper body at 11:30pm on Saturday night in front of a Pittwater Road bus stop, known locally as the Tram Shed.

However, blood stains found inside a nearby toilet block have led police to investigate whether Fleming was attacked there and then managed to stumble to the main road.

We need to work out why Gerard was out on the street at that time of night [and] whether anything he might have done provoked somebody, Detective Inspector Russell Oxford said.

A beat user told Sydney Star Observer that a man matching Fleming’s description was a regular user of beats on the Northern Beaches.

He was not as discreet as other users and tended to draw a lot of attention to himself, the source said.

It was his belief that Fleming had drawn undue attention to his behaviour and that the murder was a gay hate crime.

Police described Fleming as a gentle-natured friendly kind of bloke.

The Northern Beaches has long been popular with beat users leading to some controversy.

Sydney Star Observer reported earlier this month how North Shore MP Jillian Skinner had told parliament men were exposing themselves during daylight hours on Obelisk Beach.

Beats have never been safe places, with a spate of assaults against gay men at Bondi and Marks Park, as well as the possible murder of a gay man at Bluefish Point, in the late 1980s.

Police were unable to provide figures for gay hate crimes -“ mainly due to low reporting by victims and because it can be difficult to be sure assaults were motivated by homophobia.

Sergeant Brad Scanlan of the police’s gay, lesbian and transgender project, said it was not illegal to simply be at a beat and police encouraged reporting of incidents.

However, he continued, engaging in sexual activity at beats remains a crime and people can and do get prosecuted.

Anyone with information about Fleming’s murder is urged to contact Dee Why Police on 9971 3399 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 133 000.

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