By Claire Gordon • 10 December 2021 • 16:09
An inquest jury has found that police mistakes “probably” contributed to the deaths of serial killer Stephen Port’s victims. Officers in the Barking force repeatedly missed opportunities to catch the sexual predator after his first victim Anthony Walgate’s body was dumped outside the block of flats Stephen Port lived in. Walgate had been dosed with a fatal amount of GHB, the date rape drug.
Port has received a whole life sentence for his crimes, but many believe he should have been caught after Walgate’s death. He struck three more times before this happened, killing each of his young, gay victims in near-identical circumstances. The victim’s family carried out detective work that would have led the police to Stephen Port, but even with this, they failed to link him to the deaths.
Jurors at the inquests into the deaths of Mr Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and 25-year-old Jack Taylor, acknowledged police officers’ “heavy workload”, but said there were failures in the police response that “cannot be overlooked”.
The verdict came after weeks of hearings at Barking Town Hall in which police admitted failing to carry out basic checks, have evidence forensically examined and did not exercise “professional curiosity”.
The crimes were spread over a 16-month period from June 2014 – September 2015 and Port, 46, will die in jail after being convicted and handed a whole life sentence for the murders and a string of sexual assaults.
Mr Kovari’s friend, John Pape, and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell maintained that “institutional homophobia” played a part – a charge that the Metropolitan Police denied, and that coroner Sarah Munro QC had barred jurors from issuing for legal reasons.
“You have to hope prejudice did play a part,” Mr Pape said. “Because if the Met were this incompetent with every serious crime, regardless of the victim’s origin, sexuality or the setting in which they are found, rapists and murderers would be going unpoliced and no-one would be protected.”
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