In 1997, fashion designer and founder of the world-renowned fashion house Versace – Gianna Versace – was assassinated outside his home.

The callous murder shocked many, and led to an outpouring of grief. The brand Versace has thrived in the last few decades – despite the murder.

Versace’s murderer eventually took his own life, and in doing so, left many questions unanswered. This article reviews the case.

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Who was Gianni Versace?

Versace had an interest in the fashion industry from a young age. In his twenties, he was able to build up a strong reputation in the industry.

In 1978, he opened a boutique store in Milan, Italy. This helped to catapult Versace into fame – with many since crediting with him ushering new eras of several areas within the industry.

Versace became especially known for championing bright, adventurous and vivid colours in his designs. This is something that has continued to be the case post-death.

As the years passed by, Versace’s brand and reputation continued to grow. As a result, Versace worked with world-famous names such as Princess Diana, Madonna, Cher, Sting and many others.

The Assassination

By 1997, Versace was at the height of his success. However, his life would be cut short tragically on 15 July 1997.

Versace went for a morning walk to collect his newspapers. Normally, a member of his house staff would run the errand – though on this day, Versace made the fateful decision to go himself.

Upon returning, Versace was shot outside his house. He was rushed to hospital, before being pronounced dead at the age of 50.

An investigation was launched, with the conclusion that a man named Andrew Cunanan was responsible. As a result, a manhunt ensued.

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Who was Andrew Cunanan?

Andrew Cunanan was a wanted serial killer. He was known to be intelligent, but had developed a reputation for being a serial liar. He was homosexual, and was a regular fixture at several local gay clubs.

Cunanan had been a drug dealer in his early adult years, and went by a range of aliases. His money was mainly derived from so-called “sugar daddy’s” – wealthy old men who were believed to have sexual relations with Cunanan.

His first murder came in April 1997, with the murder of his friend Jeffrey Trail – allegedly after an argument. Just 2 days later, Cunanan killed another apparent friend – David Madson.

Two further murders followed. Firstly, within a week of the first two murders, Cunanan killed real estate mogul Lee Miglin. Less than a week later, Cunanan killed a man named William Reese. It is believed the duo were strangers.

Cunanan was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. Cunanan – who was adept at changing his appearance – managed to remain under the radar for two months.

But in July 1997, Cunanan murdered Versace. This reignited the FBI’s search for Cunanan, with multiple states on alert.

Hunting Andrew Cunanan

After eight days, the manhunt ended after Cunanan had been found to have taken his own life. As a result, no true motive was ever discovered.

Cunanan’s body was found in a boat in Florida. Cunanan had shot himself in the head, with the same weapon used to kill many of his victims.

It was subsequently revealed that Cunanan was “obsessed” by the designer, and told friends that he had a friendship with Versace.

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Possible motives

One of the most confusing elements of this case concerns a possible motive. There have been many theories put forward as to why Cunanan killed Versace.

One of the most discussed questions in the case is whether or not Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan met in person. Most believe that they did, but it has not been confirmed.

Several eyewitness accounts say that the duo did meet – however this is denied by the Versace family. Their first meeting was believed to be in 1990 – seven years before the assassination.

By 1997, Cunanan was believed to be addicted to painkillers and drinking alcohol heavily, which may have clouded his judgment. Whether this is true or not was never confirmed.

It is also believed that he was obsessed with fame – with the murder of Versace making it possible for him to be remembered forever. Sadly, this came true.

Some psychologists posthumously diagnosed Cunanan with Antisocial Personality Disorder – a condition that causes a person to have a lack of empathy for others and a lack of remorse for the consequences their actions cause.

Legacy

The life and assassination of Gianni Versace continues to be discussed widely and attract plenty of interest. The story was the focus of an anthology of American Crime Story. While the show was criticised for its embellishment of details, it has educated many more people on the case.

From 1982 until his death, Versace was in a relationship with a model named Antonio D’Amico. In line with Versace’s will, D’Amico continues to receive money out of Gianni’s estate.

In terms of the Versace business that he built, Gianni’s niece Allegra Versace inherited 50% of the company upon turning 18 – at Gianni’s request. His sister Donatella Versace continues to play a role too.

His funeral was attended by over 2,000 people. He is buried at a family vault in Lake Como, Italy.

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The Takeaway

The assassination of Gianni Versace was a tragedy that robbed a man of his life. The fact that there was seemingly no true motive for the attack only makes the killing look more meaningless.

But Versace’s legacy lives on. Fashion accessories, fragrances and clothes are all just some of the products famously associated with Versace. But it could have been so much more.