One of England’s most senior police officers has apologised to the families of Stephen Port’s victims over opportunities missed by Metropolitan Police officers to arrest the serial killer.
Giving evidence on Friday at inquests examining whether the victims could have been saved if police had acted differently, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said he was "deeply sorry" standards weren't met.
Mr Cundy was not in the Met during Port’s 16-month killing spree in 2014 and 2015 but led the review of the investigations into the deaths of his victims, Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.
The four young gay men all died in Barking, east London, after being given fatal overdoses of drug GHB by Port, who dumped their bodies near his flat.
Addressing the victims’ loved ones, Mr Cundy: “Every single one of you absolutely had a right to expect a professional investigation to the standards all of us expected.
“It’s fair to say those standards weren’t met.”
Mr Cundy said there was a “clear possibility that Stephen Port could have been identified and arrested sooner than he was”.
He added: “I have never seen anything as unique and as having such terrible consequences as we’ve seen at this inquest.”
He went on: "I can’t imagine putting myself in your shoes.
"I am deeply sorry – personally and on behalf of the MPS – that we didn’t conduct the initial investigations to the standard you expected and the standard you deserved."
He said it was "a matter of personal disappointment" that things were not done as they should have been.
Mr Cundy added: "Please accept my sincerest apologies."
Inquest jurors at Barking Town Hall heard Mr Cundy’s review highlighted five issues raised over the deaths:
the quality of the initial investigations, including "professional curiosity"
police leadership, direction and support to officers
interactions between local policing and specialist crime investigators
understanding of the use of the GHB drug
a lack of engagement with the LGBT+ community.
The inquests previously heard accusations that police ignored leads that led to Port, including from the victims’ family members and friends.
It was also told that the Metropolitan Police murder squad turned down requests from borough officers to take over the investigations.
There were substantial delays in analysing evidence on Port’s laptop, seized after he was initially arrested over Mr Walgate’s death.
There was also evidence that the local policing team was overworked as a result of cuts following the 2010 government spending review and did not have the specialist officers to investigate homicides.
Port, now 46, a former escort and bus depot chef, will die behind bars after being given a whole-life jail sentence for murdering Mr Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21, and Mr Taylor, 25.
The inquests continue.