Friends of Gica, whose real name was Gheorge Hortolomei-Lupu, are speaking out after a teenage boy was arrested on Monday in connection with his death.
Iréne Linddahl, who works for local aid group Kyrkhjälpen, said she first met Gica four years ago when he came to a party hosted by her group in Huskvarna. He became regularly involved with Kyrkhjälpen’s efforts to help other homeless EU migrants in Sweden.
“He was friendly, grateful and kind,” Linddahl told Aftonbladet. “He lived outdoors and primarily devoted himself to begging.”
Gica’s body was discovered in a Huskvarna park earlier this month but it took police a week to determine that a murder had occurred. The police investigation then led to the teenager who was arrested on Monday. Police have also questioned two other boys in connection with the crime. Both are under the age of 15 and one is as young as 13 according to P4 Jönköping. One of the boys is suspected of assaulting the migrant on the same day as the alleged murder while the other is suspected of harassing the victim.
Videos of the teenagers beating and harassing the 48-year-old were reportedly circulated on social media.
Mikael Good, a volunteer who helped the homeless and other down-on-their-luck people in Huskvarna, also fondly remembered Gica and said he couldn’t think of any reason anyone would want to hurt him.
“I was completely destroyed [by the news]. I cannot understand why anyone would do this to a weak person who couldn’t defend himself,” Good told Aftonbladet.
Both Good and Linddahl said that Gica’s health had taken a serious turn in recent months and that he had lost a great deal of weight and had difficulty getting around.
According to Linddahl, Gica came to Sweden roughly four years ago from a town near Bacau in Romania. He reportedly lost his job at a printing company and got divorced shortly thereafter. This upending of his life led him to leave Romania. He spent time in several other EU countries before settling in Sweden.
“He probably thought people were nice here and that he had found a beautiful spot overlooking the lake and the mountains,” Good said.
He worked in the Huskvarna area as a fruit picker for awhile before becoming a bottle collector and full-time beggar.
Kyrkhjälpen held a memorial for Gica that was attended by roughly 50 people, including a number of other Romanians and local Huskvarna residents.
The investigation of the teenagers suspected of being involved in Gica’s death is ongoing.