Stephen Port: Met Police 'failed to follow leads that could have saved last two victims’

Jack Taylor was Port's fourth victim. Credit: PA

"Shocking failings" by the Metropolitan Police may have allowed serial killer Stephen Port to claim the lives of his final two victims, an inquest has heard.

A senior officer apologised to the victims' families as he admitted detectives failing to follow up to leads was “significantly incompetent” and meant Port was allowed to continue his 16-month killing spree.

Port, now 46, will be in jail for the rest of his life after killing Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, between June 2014 and September 2015.

The inquests heard that three detective constables had “batted away” concerns raised by friends and family that the deaths of Mr Walgate, Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth may be linked.

Inquests are being held into the men’s deaths to determine whether lives could have been saved had police acted differently.

Mr Kovari was found dead in a graveyard in Barking, east London, on August 28 2014, while Mr Whitworth was found just over three weeks later on September 20.

Investigators were told that Mr Kovari’s boyfriend, Thierry Amodio, had received messages from a man called Jon Luck claiming to have had sex with him before he died, inquest jurors at Barking Town Hall on Tuesday heard.

Mr Kovari had also sent photos and the address of Port’s flat to a friend called Carl, explaining that he was staying there.

Henrietta Hill QC, for the men’s families, told Acting Detective Inspector Rolf Schamberger, who supervised the investigations into Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth’s deaths, that had the leads been followed up Port could have been caught earlier.

She said: “If the police had either followed up who Jon Luck was or followed up who Carl was, either one of those routes would have taken them to Stephen Port before Daniel died. Do you understand?”

St Margaret’s churchyard in Barking, east London, where the bodies of Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth were found Credit: Emily Pennink/PA

Mr Schamberger replied: “Yes, I understand.”

Port planted a fake suicide note on Mr Whitworth’s body, falsely confessing to the murder of Mr Kovari in order to cover his tracks.

But the jury heard that the similarities between the deaths of first victim fashion student Mr Walgate, who was found outside Port’s flat on June 19 2014, and Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth should have aroused the suspicions of police.

Ms Hill outlined a series of other failings by investigators, including:

  • Failing to carry out key forensic tests including on the bed sheet on which Mr Whitworth was found, his clothes, so-called sex swabs taken from his body, the drugs bottle planted on him, and Mr Kovari’s sunglasses.

  • Failing to properly examine Mr Kovari’s social media accounts to see if friends could provide useful information

  • Not obtaining full phone data that would have shown Mr Whitworth was not in Barking on the night of Mr Kovari’s death

  • Failing to properly verify the handwriting on the fake suicide note

  • Failing to follow up information provided by the men’s loved ones about their movements before their deaths

Ms Hill asked the witness: “Your team ignored sensible suggestions from members of the public that there was a link, isn’t that right?”

Me Schamberger replied: “It definitely seems that way.”

She went on: “Every single one of those members of the public had cracked this in a way that none of you had.”

He answered: “Those links ultimately were true.”

Ms Hill said: “They were all right, and you were all wrong.”

Mr Schamberger said: “We had not considered them.”

He admitted that there had been “shocking failings” in the investigations, that were “significantly incompetent”.

Ms Hill put to him: “Had any one or any combination of these failings not occurred, Jack Taylor would not have been killed?”

He replied: “That is very possible.”

The officer then apologised for the failings, saying: “It’s hugely regrettable and I’m very sorry for how things transpired.

“It must have been very difficult for those involved to try to come to terms with very difficult facts that then turned out not to be the case.”

The jury had earlier heard that Mr Schamberger felt the way teams were working was not safe because they were so understaffed.