A friend of one of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port has accused the Metropolitan Police of “institutional homophobia”.
John Pape, a friend of murdered Slovakian Gabriel Kovari, described the police investigation into his death as "disturbingly incompetent" and "prejudiced" on Friday.
He was giving evidence at inquests into the deaths of Port's four victims Anthony Walgate, 23, Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, who were killed in Barking, east London, between June 2014 and September 2015.
He said he provided the Metropolitan Police with information he thought might link the deaths of Port's victims but claimed evidence was repeatedly dismissed due to the victims’ sexuality.
“I think it’s been said here that the police were underfunded and under emotional strain," Pape said.
“But I think, when grieving families, boyfriend and friends are getting close to the truth and trying to raise the alarm 10 months before the Met are even willing to acknowledge the deaths are suspicious, it can’t be a funding issue.
“What resources did the families and friends have?
“What emotional strain were we under at that time?
“The only thing that makes sense about how disturbingly incompetent this investigation was is prejudice.
“If the lives and deaths of young gay and bi men aren’t treated with significance and respect, I think that amounts to institutional homophobia.”
He said he was told by police at the original inquests for Kovari and Whitworth that there was no evidence to suggest the two men knew each other, despite a “suicide note” found on Whitworth’s body taking responsibility for killing Kovari.
Pape told the hearing at Barking Town Hall that he contacted gay charities, the gay press and campaigner Peter Tatchell to explain his concerns, adding: “I didn’t trust the police to link it properly.
“I was concerned about young, gay men in Barking.”
Pape wept as he described hearing that Port had been arrested.
He said: “I think I felt a mix of emotions, certainly a kind of anger because it felt like I had these concerns … that an older man might be preying on younger men … and I felt like I hadn’t been listened to.
“I wish I could go back and tell myself to push it more.”
In 2016, Port, now 46, was given a whole life sentence after being found guilty of a 16-month killing spree.
Peter Skelton QC, counsel for the Metropolitan Police, said officers involved in the case had apologised for the police response, but suggested to Pape that “incompetence does not always equate to prejudice”.
Pape replied: “I would agree that what happened here was incompetence… But behind that incompetence there has to be a reason why so many people were making such shocking mistakes.”
The inquests continue.