Families of murdered gay men to sue Met Police over blunders that ‘let serial killer escape justice’
The families of the men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port are preparing to launch action against the Met Police over its repeated failures in the case.
Stephen Port, 41, of Barking, east London was jailed for life last month after being found guilty of killing Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor.
The former chef hunted young gay men on hook-up apps, before luring them to his house, drugging them with GHB, and sexually assaulting them. Some victims, who have been granted anonymity, survived the attacks.
The killings took place between June 2014 and September 2015, but a series of police blunders meant officers failed to make connections between them or investigate Port, who was already known to authorities.
After the first death in June 2014, Port was charged with perverting the course of justice for filing a false police report. The killer told authorities he found Anthony Walgate’s body lying unconscious in the street, but police later discovered he had hired him via an online gay escort service.
Despite Port already being known to police, officers failed to make the connection to the subsequent deaths of Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth, who were killed within days of eachother in August 2014. The deaths were treated as “unexplained”, but no murder investigation took place.
Over the next few months, Mr Kovari’s former flatmate John Pape raised concerns about a possible link between the deaths – but the Met confirmed to the Barking and Dagenham Post and PinkNews that the deaths were not being treated as suspicious, denying possibility of a link.
At the time, Det Ch Insp Tony Kirk said: “We do get sudden deaths on a very regular basis… there’s nothing, at the moment, suspicious about any of them.”
Port was jailed in March 2015 on the perverting the course of justice charge, but after being released killed his fourth victim, Jack Taylor, in September 2015. The fourth death finally prompted the Met to launch a murder inquiry. Port was arrested on suspicion of murder a month later.
The Met later referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Dozens of existing cases are also being reviewed, over any potential link to Port.
Speaking on the Victoria Derbyshire Show, relatives of the victims vowed to sue the police over blunders which allowed Port to carry on killing.
Amanda Pearson, Daniel Whitworth’s stepmother, said the police were determined to treat his death as a drug-related overdose, despite her insistence he would not have willingly taken drugs.
It later emerged that Port had planted drug bottles and a fake suicide note to throw police off the scent.
Ms Pearson said: “Daniel wasn’t a party boy… they [the police] didn’t want to know about the personality of my son, they didn’t want to know really, they had made up their minds and that came across.
“They took it at face value… they didn’t want to know about the personality of your son, they’d made up their minds and that came across.
“We were in the dark, I found out most of the things we needed to know at a public inquest five or six months after his death.
“They were very difficult to get hold of, the police. Our liaison officer basically didn’t liaise and that’s my take on it.”
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Jack Taylor’s sisters Donna and Jenny said: “Stephen Port obviously took Jack’s life but we feel that the police didn’t do their jobs, with any of the families.
“As far as we’re concerned, they have played a massive part in Jack’s death because if they had done their jobs properly, Jack would still be here today.
“There is no other way of looking at that and we feel we want them to be held accountable. We want the answers of why they didn’t do this, didn’t do that.”
“We kept saying to them [the police] from the start if this was a woman you’d be doing a lot more than what you are.”Anthony Walgate’s mother Sarah Sak said: “I keep thinking this: If they were four girls would it have been different?
“If Anthony had been a 23-year-old girl and then Gabriel and then Daniel, if they had all been girls in that area found in suspicious circumstances I think there would have been a lot more media coverage as well and a massive part of this investigation by the police was homophobic, I really do think that.”
The IPCC investigation is ongoing.