Long-awaited inquests into murders of four gay men by Grindr killer Stephen Port forced to postpone
The families of Grindr killer Stephen Port’s victims have voiced disappointment after fresh inquests were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New inquests were expected to begin this month for the four men murdered by Port in Barking, London, between 2014 and 2015.
Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor were all killed by Port – who lured the men from gay hookup sites, plied them with GHB, and disguised their deaths as drug overdoses.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced fresh delays to the inquests, which were aborted shortly before they were due to begin on 7 January due to spiralling infection rates in the Barking area.
Inquests for victims of Grindr killer Stephen Port delayed.
In a ruling published on the inquest website, Judge Sarah Munro QC said: “I have come to the view that were the inquests to commence the chances of them reaching a conclusion are minimal.
“Given the current COVID figures, the high likelihood is that certain of the participants will need to self isolate either as a result of symptoms pending a test, a positive test or, for example, a member of their household or support bubble testing positive.”
The families of the victims have voiced disappointment at the delay to the inquests, which will explore the failings in the case.
The four deaths returned open verdicts at the time of their initial inquests after bungled police investigations, with Port finally identified and found guilty of murder in 2016.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct said previously it had found “systemic failings” in relation to the case, but none of the 17 officers involved faced further action for misconduct. Nearly all of the officers had refused to answer questions in interviews with the police watchdog.
Families face a wait for justice over inquest delay.
Neil Hudgell, solicitor for the four families, said: “Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack were murdered between August 2014 and September 2015.
“Given the years that have passed you can understand why the families are so disappointed by this delay.
“However, they understand the reasons and stand ready to assist the coroner with her inquiries when the inquest opens.”
Judge Munro said: “I took the decision to adjourn with great regret. Having considered all the circumstances with care, I concluded that, due to the current situation with the COVID pandemic, there was no safe nor satisfactory alternative to me adjourning the inquests.”
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She explained: “The current figures and the level of positive COVID cases in the South East, including in Barking and the surrounding areas are such that I am unable to guarantee the safety of those travelling to and from the town hall on a daily basis, while they are travelling.
“It is, therefore, hard, indeed impossible for me to assure attendees that it is, nevertheless, safe for the 20-30 individuals (including jurors and court staff) who must attend the inquests to do so.”
The BBC had commissioned a drama based on the unmasking of Port. The series, titled Four Lives, was initially touted to air this year but is believed to have been pushed back.
Little is known about the drama, which will feature Stephen Merchant as Port and Sheridan Smith as Sarah Sak, the mother of Anthony Walgate.