Shocking police failings over Stephen Port murders laid bare by inquest

Families say their concerns were dismissed by officers and some are now suing the Metropolitan Police, as ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia reports, after a jury found that police mistakes “probably” contributed to the deaths of Stephen Port’s victims

The jury's conclusions were damning. The families feel vindicated but incensed at the litany of police failings.

Their lawyer gave a scathing assessment of the initial police investigation. Neil Hudgell said, it "should be on public record as one of the most widespread institutional failings in modern history".

What is so hard to accept, as the jury found, is that if the police had done their job properly, at least three of the young men killed by Stephen Port, could and likely would have been saved.

To compound their anger, the families firmly believe that the actions or rather inactions of the officers concerned were driven, at least in part, by homophobia.

But jurors were told not to consider if prejudice, discrimination or homophobia contributed to the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor after the Metropolitan Police "fought tooth and nail" to keep the issue out of the inquests.

What the jury did find was a fundamentally flawed police investigation, littered with failings and missed opportunities, which left Port free to kill again, again and again. Basic checks were not done and crucial evidence was not sent for forensic examination.

Stephen Port is now in prison

Had just some of those things been done, they probably would have caught Port sooner.

Just some of those failings include: the failure to link all four deaths which occurred between June 2014 and September 2015, despite Port killing them in near-identical circumstances.

All were found in the same area of Barking, east London, within 15 months.

All had been drugged using the date-rape drug GHB and murdered.

Their bodies were left within yards of each other. Three in the same churchyard.

Port's first victim was Anthony Walgate, who he hired as an escort.

After killing him, he dragged his body outside, leaving it outside his block of flats.

Then he called 999, anonymously, claiming to have found him collapsed as he was passing. Port was swiftly identified as the caller, but in a police interview he concocted another web of lies.

The spots where Stephen Port dumped his victims Credit: PA

A basic check on the police national database would have flagged up Port as a suspected rapist who had a previous allegation made against him.

Port's laptop would have revealed his obsession with rape pornography, but it was not examined for many months.

Port was charged with perverting the course of justice for lying about not knowing Anthony and released on bail, leaving him free to lure his next victim, Gabriel Kovari, to his flat on a false promise of a room to rent.

Port dumped Kovari's body in a churchyard just 500 metres from his own front door.

The sunglasses found on Gabriel's body had Port's DNA on them. But they were never sent for testing.

Three weeks later, Port killed again.

"Gabriel's former boyfriend was giving them evidence on a plate that would have led them to Stephen Port" - John Pape, a friend of the second victim Gabriel Kovari, said "prejudice and discrimination" meant police missed key evidence

Daniel Whitworth was found in almost exactly the same spot as Gabriel.

Daniel was found wrapped in a blue bedsheet.

It belonged to Stephen Port and had his DNA on it.

Again, it wasn't sent for DNA testing at the time.

But Port, continuing his web of lies, also planted a fake suicide note on Daniel's body, suggesting Daniel had accidentally killed Gabriel.

That note too had Port's DNA on it. It too was not sent for forensic examination and the handwriting was never verified or sent to an expert.

Port was later jailed for perverting the course of justice over Anthony Walgate's death, but was freed and soon killed Jack Taylor.

Stephen Port was only arrested for murder after a family investigation Credit: PA

Despite numerous relatives, friends and members of the LGBTQ communities repeatedly raising concerns with the police over those 15 months, they say they were dismissed and ignored.

Until Jack Taylor's sisters, Donna and Jenny Taylor launched their own investigation.

Their notes - shown in court - pieced together the clues after extensive searches on the internet and looking up newspaper articles on other "unexplained" deaths in the area.

They then begged the police to investigate and it was at that point that detectives began a murder investigation leading to Port's arrest and conviction.

In the end, it came down to grieving relatives having to become investigators in order for the police to treat these deaths as murder.