Police investigating gay serial killer victims made ‘discriminatory’ assumption, inquest hears
Police made a “discriminatory” assumption about the gay community when investigating the murders of Stephen Port, an inquest heard.
The serial killer murdered at least four young men – Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor – by plying them with GHB and disguising their deaths as drug overdoses.
An inquest into the police investigation has questioned whether Port’s killing spree could have been stopped sooner if officers acted differently.
On Thursday (4 November) the jury heard that a Met detective told Whitworth’s stepmother that GHB was “a drug used in gay circles”. He told her to ask her stepson’s boyfriend about it as “they know about this stuff”.
Mandy Whitworth described the statement as “discriminatory”, adding that she believed “the police made an assumption about the gay community”.
“I feel the victims were treated the way they were because of the circles they moved in,” she said, as reported by the BBC.
She expressed disbelief at the contents of a suicide note found with her stepson’s body which claimed responsibility for the death of Kovari weeks earlier; it is now known that the note was written by Stephen Port to cover his tracks.
“I couldn’t believe he’d taken the life of someone else and it hadn’t shown,” she said. “It seemed to us that the police had already decided that Daniel was responsible for taking his own life and the life of another and were not open to any other possibility.”
Whitworth’s father also told the inquest that he did not confirm that the handwriting on the suicide note was his son’s, contrary to claims by a police officer.
“I definitely did not say it was [his handwriting],” he told Andrew O’Connor QC. “Me and Mandy looked at it. Cannot confirm it was Daniel’s handwriting.”
He said he told police at the time that he felt the letter was “odd,” noting that there were no special words or phrases that Daniel would have used or family members he would have mentioned.
But police are said to have “brushed off” the family’s concerns, telling them they were “overthinking” it and that he would’ve been in a strange frame of mind when he wrote the note.
Mandy Whitworth described the anger she and her family had felt after struggling to deal with their son’s suicide, only to be told a year later that he was murdered.
Having learned the truth, she said, “the only little comfort we had was that he really wasn’t in that dark place. Now we have got to take ourselves from suicide to a murder. Nobody knows how that feels”.
After discovering the body, police held a special meeting of key personnel and invited an expert on rough sleepers to attend. However, no member of the LGBT+ community was asked to offer their perspective.
“With hindsight, yes, we could have engaged them (the LGBT+ community) far more,” said Sean Wilson, who was deputy borough commander for Barking at the time of the murders.
Wilson has since apologised for the investigation, which he admitted was “substandard”.
“I would like to apologise to the families,” he said on Wednesday (3 November). “The investigation on the borough at the time was substandard.
“I hope in the future that somehow there can be a reconsideration of the failings. We are in a far better place now, but please accept my apologies.”
Stephen Port was given a whole-life order for the murders in 2016. The inquest continues.
Related topics: Stephen Port