THE killer of a retired university lecturer locked the victim’s flat from the inside in an apparent bid to slow down any rescue attempt.
A neighbour of Roger Gray today (tue) revealed he had a key to the dead man’s home but could not get in after smelling gas.
Bill Coventry said Mr Gray’s flat had been locked from the inside like “Fort Knox”.
It is thought the killer rigged up a gas explosion to destroy the crime scene and the door locked from the inside would have given the flames more time to take hold.
Detectives have confirmed that Mr Gray, 64, who was gay, was stabbed in a “sustained attack” at his home in Edinburgh’s upmarket Morningside.
Today new details also emerged about the Heriot-Watt lecturer’s lifestyle, including how gay and straight friends would mingle at parties in his Merchiston Crescent flat.
It has also been revealed that this is not the first tragedy to hit Mr Gray’s family. His elder brother committed suicide on a train line in the city.
And his sister died a few months ago, it is believed of natural causes.
Mr Coventry, 77, who lives in the flat above Mr Gray, raised the alarm on Saturday morning when he smelled gas from his bedroom.
Mr Coventry said he had a key to his neighbour’s flat as a result of an earlier flooding incident.
Mr Coventry said: “We were a very harmonious kind of house where we all help each other .
“I had a key to Roger’s flat because of a flood and because he didn’t have any family.”
But Mr Coventry admitted that on the morning of Mr Gray’s death he was unable to get into the flat.
He said: “I couldn’t get into his flat. It was locked from the inside because it was like Fort Knox.”
Mr Coventry said that he hammered on the door and shouted: “Roger! Roger! Roger!”
He added: “I went up and got the keys to Roger’s door. A mortice and a Yale and it wouldn’t open – so there must have been an additional lock behind the door.
“I certainly couldn’t get in.
“I’m glad I didn’t get in because it was full of gas and also he was there.“
The revelation raises the possibility that Mr Gray’s killer escaped by climbing out of a window in the first floor flat.
Mr Coventry also confirmed reports that his neighbour was gay.
He said: “He was just himself. He never said he was gay but he was. I mean everybody knew he was. But I mean he was courteous, he was a very intelligent man. He was utterly courteous and polite.
He added: “I didn’t go to all of Roger’s dos – he didn’t have a lot.
“I was at a party for his 64th birthday. They were informal and they were mostly Heriot-Watt faculty.
“There was a mixture of gay and straight people at them and they were all very nice people.”
He added that the parties were a very “Merchiston type of party”.
He said: “The party was people standing in wee groups chatting, having some nibbles and booze.
“It was the typical kind of party for older people. There were some younger students there but they were mature students, PHD students.
“There was background music playing but it wasn’t rock or heavy metal. It tended to be classical, Roger was a classical man.”
When asked about how he knew some of the people at the party were gay he said: “You just know. I’ve actually got gay friends. They are the nicest people you will ever meet in your life but you know they’re gay.
“They were not in your face they didn’t act gay, but the way they spoke and their mannerisms.
“I would say there was not more than 25 people and the parties and I would say most of them were straight.”
Mr Coventry said he was not aware of a “regular person” in his friend’s life.
He said: “There was a friend of his who was a surgeon and I met him several times. But I haven’t seen him for ages.”
And he revealed the tragic past of Mr Gray’s family.
He said: “I know that his brother committed suicide, because he told me.”
Mr Coventry lost his wife, Anna, and he remembers talking to Mr Gray about her death.
He said: “After Anna died I remember saying to him ‘God I wish I was dead’. Roger got very upset and said ‘Bill don’t say that, my brother committed suicide’.”
“And his sister died about a month ago. So I don’t think he’s got anybody.”
A death certificate for Mr Gray’s elder brother, William Morris Gray, reveals he was an architect and that he died after he was decapitated on a railway line near Stanley Place, Edinburgh, in 1987, aged 46.
Mr Gray’s sister, Sheila McNaughton McAra, died last October.
A death notice said she died peacefully in hospital, describing her as “much loved sister” of Roger and the late Morris. The notice suggested donations to cancer research.
Mr Coventry added that a large stone had been thrown through the window of Roger’s car when he was in China lecturing.
He added: “I went into his house and got the keys to his car.
“I drove the car into George’s driveway because it would have been vandalised and I left a wee note for Roger saying I hope you would do the same and he said yes he would.”
“This happened when a lot of reg plates in the area were stolen and they all happened at the same time but don’t think it was just an attack on him.”
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said the death of Mr Gray was still being treated as suspicious.