A man accused of poisoning a string of gay hook-ups may have eluded detection by planting drug bottles on their bodies, a court has heard.

41-year-old Stephen Port, of Barking, east London, was charged last year with the alleged murders of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor.

Port is accused of used date rape drug GHB to fatally victims, after meeting them on gay hook-up apps. The four bodies were found in and around the St Margaret’s Churchyard, Barking, between June 2014 and September 2015.

Port, who is facing a total of 29 charges over the deaths and alleged attacks on other men, has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

At his trial at the Old Bailey this week, the court heard that GHB bottles and even a suicide note were found planted on the men’s bodies in a bid to confuse authorities.

Prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC told the court that three of the victims had GHB bottles “planted” on their bodies, and had been moved from Port’s Barking flat to a local churchyard where they were “propped up in a sitting position”.

Mr Rees added that a “cruel and maniplative” Port had also planted a fake suicide note found on the body of Daniel Whitworth, in a bid to implicate the deceased Mr Whitworth in the death of another victim, Gabriel Kovari

The prosecutor told the court: “The note was written to give the impression that Daniel Whitworth had deliberately taken an overdose of G, together with sleeping pills, to kill himself because he blamed himself for giving a fatal dose to Gabriel Kovari.

“The police at that stage accepted the apparent suicide note at face value and did not investigate further.”

Mr Rees said: “The prosecution say it is a case about a man – the defendant – who in the pursuit of nothing more than his own sexual gratification, variously drugged, sexually assaulted, and in four cases killed, young gay men he had invited back to his flat.

“We say all of the offending behaviour was driven by one main factor, namely the defendant’s appetite for having sexual intercourse with younger, gay males while they were unconscious through drugs.”

Port is facing four counts of murder and administering a poison over the deaths, as well as an additional seven counts of rape, four of sexual assault, and six more counts of administering poison related to alleged attacks on other men.

He previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

A separate investigation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission is ongoing.

The trial continues.