A man with a violent criminal past has been arrested as a suspect in the death of news photographer Ruben Espinosa, who was killed in a gory five-victim murder, Mexican prosecutors said.

The male suspect, whose name was not immediately made public, was identified by investigators with a fingerprint search that turned up a criminal record for rape and assault, prosecutor Rodolfo Rios told reporters on Wednesday.

Murdered photojournalist Ruben Espinosa [AP] 

"Investigating officers have located him [the suspect] and he is making a statement to their office about his possible involvement in this crime," Rios said.

Espinosa, who fled Veracruz in June after receiving threats, was tied up, tortured and shot in the head at an apartment in Mexico City on Friday.

The attackers also killed his friend, Nadia Vera, two of her roommates - a 19-year-old aspiring makeup artist and a woman believed to be from Colombia - as well as their 40-year-old housekeeper.

Vera had been active in organising protests for various causes in Veracruz.

Late last year, she had posted a video warning that if anything happened to her, it would be the fault of Governor Javier Duarte.

On Tuesday, authorities released security camera footage that appeared to show three men near the building where the killings took place.

They are seen leaving the scene calmly, and are believed to be suspects.

Threats

Mexicans protest over journalist murders

Espinosa was among the many journalists who had fled to the capital after receiving threats in their home towns. 

Mexican investigators have suggested the five may have been killed for any number of reasons, including robbery, and that the alleged Colombian woman was the target.

Friends of those killed told the AP news agency it is hard to believe Espinosa and Vera would be tortured and killed because they simply were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There are currently at least a dozen journalists from around the country sheltering in Mexico City because they fear for their safety.

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 88 journalists have been murdered in Mexico in the last 15 years.

Source: AP