Police chief knew Stephen Port had been rape suspect when first murder victim’s body was found

·6-min read
Anthony Walgate was killed by Stephen Port (PA )
Anthony Walgate was killed by Stephen Port (PA )

A top police officer knew the serial killer Stephen Port had previously been accused of a drug rape when the body of his first murder victim was found, an inquest has heard.

Port had been accused in December 2012 of plying another man with drugs and alcohol until he was “unable to say no” to sex, in an incident that was recorded on the police national computer.

Chief Superintendent Andy Ewing was briefed on that allegations when, in June 2014, the body of 23-year-old fashion student Anthony Walgate was found outside Port’s home in Cooke Street, Barking.

Port was at the centre of the investigation, having called 999 to report Mr Walgate’s death and he was questioned by officers just a few hours after the body had been found.

But the inquest into the deaths of four men – including Mr Walgate – heard details of the earlier rape allegation against Port that was not passed to the investigating team until more than a week later.

Port - now serving a whole life jail term - murdered four men between June 2014 and September 2015 with GHB drug overdoses. It was not until after the fourth victim had died that the Met Police linked their deaths.

Chf Supt Ewing’s notebook reveals he was briefed on the death of Mr Walgate shortly after it had been declared a “critical incident” on the morning of June 19, 2014, and he recorded “previous sexual assault” next to a reference to Port.

Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel to the coroner, said the PNC record reveals a man had accused Port of having “given him poppers, a drug, and had non-consensual anal sex with him” at the Cooke Street flat on New Year’s Eve 2012.

The accuser said Port “kept plying him with poppers and alcohol each time he refused to have sex with him until he was unable to say no”, and claimed this had happened on more than one occasion.

Inspector Gary Learmonth, who was initially in charge of the scene after Mr Walgate’s body was discovered, said he was unaware of those details.

“I agree, that’s an important piece of information”, he said, but that it was “certainly not anything I was familiar with at the time or aware of.”

Mr O’Connor told the hearing: “Other than one reference in Chief Superintended Ewing’s book, a week or so later was the first time the investigators appear to have been aware of this previous incident.”

Chf Supt Ewing is due to give evidence later in the inquest.

On Thursday, the inquest heard Mr Walgate’s death was put down as “probably non-suspicious” by a medic despite concerns that the body had been moved before it was found.

Dr Mark Munro was called to the scene when Walgate was found dead, slumped against a wall outside the Cooke Street block of flats.

In his report which was handed to investigating officers, the forensic medical examiner recorded that the death was “probably non-suspicious”, and Dr Munro told the inquest he initially suspected an epileptic seizure might have been the cause.

Police believe 6ft 5in Port wrapped all of his victims’ bodies in bed sheets and carried them to the sites where they were found.

Stephen Port is serving a whole life prison term for the murders (PA Wire)
Stephen Port is serving a whole life prison term for the murders (PA Wire)

Jurors at an inquest into the deaths heard that a paramedic and police officers all thought the death of Mr Walgate was suspicious, which was at odds with Dr Munro’s report.

The medic said the absence of knife or bullet wounds contributed to his conclusion, despite the “extraordinary” circumstances of the body’s discovery.

“Do you think you would have discussed whether the death was suspicious with the police?” said Mr O’Connor.

“Yes, definitely,” said Dr Munro.

Mr O’Connor said: “You would have told them that the death was probably not suspicious in your opinion?”

A map showing the spots where bodies were dumped by Stephen Port (PA Media)
A map showing the spots where bodies were dumped by Stephen Port (PA Media)

Dr Munro replied: “Yes, I must have done because I wrote it on the form.”

He said the body of Mr Walgate had been “obviously moved at some stage”, telling the inquest: “If somebody had an epileptic fit, or any sort of collapse, they wouldn’t be propped against the wall, they would be flat out on the floor. That was the extraordinary thing about the whole scenario.”

He added: “It is a bit strange, although it doesn’t necessarily mean it is suspicious because people do all sorts of things with dead bodies.”

London Ambulance Service had received a call from Port at 4.05am on June 19 2014 and arrived in Cooke Street nine minutes later.

In the 999 call, which was played to the jury, Port, who did not give his name, denied seeing what happened to the collapsed man, saying he did not know if he was awake or breathing.

He told the operator: “Looks like he’s collapsed or had a seizure or something, just drunk.

The location outside Stephen Port’s former flat in Cooke Street, Barking, east London, where his first victim, fashion student Anthony Walgate’s body was found. (PA Wire)
The location outside Stephen Port’s former flat in Cooke Street, Barking, east London, where his first victim, fashion student Anthony Walgate’s body was found. (PA Wire)

“I was just driving in my car and just saw him lying on the floor, just got out, had a look at him.”

Ambulance worker Antony Neil told jurors he regarded it as an “unexplained suspicious death”.

He said: “When I got to the body it was positioned cross-legged in an unnatural position from what the call was given as a possible seizure.

“My first impression was I could see the patient was deceased but if he had a seizure he would not be positioned as he was.”

Mr Walgate had some blood around his mouth and had been “dead for quite some time,” Mr Neil said.

Asked why he thought it was suspicious, he added: “The way it was positioned, it did not add up to the call I was given and because it was a young male, that’s why it appeared suspicious to me.

“If someone had a seizure they would not be sat upright with their legs crossed. I have never seen that in my career.”

Port was convicted of lying about the death of Mr Walgate, after police discovered he knew the victim and had arranged to meet him.

But Port was not identified as the killer until much later, after he had gone on to kill three more men.

Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth 21, were found dead in a Barking churchyard by the same dog walker three weeks apart in 2014 beneath a large maple tree in a corner of the walled cemetery.

The final victim, aspiring police officer Jack Taylor, 25, was found by a parks worker on the other side of the stone wall at 1.10pm on September 14 2015.

The inquests, which are looking at whether any of the deaths could have been prevented, continue.

Read More

Medic ruled death of Port’s first victim ‘probably non-suspicious’, inquest told

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