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Police failings in the investigation of Grindr serial killer Stephen Port revealed at a recent inquest helped the mother of one victim assuage her “guilt” that she “could have done more”.
Beginning on 3 January, and aired over three consecutive nights, the BBC series Four Lives will tell the stories of the families and friends of Port’s young victims – Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor – in their desperate attempts to push the police to uncover the truth.
Earlier this month, an inquest concluded assessing the competency of the Met Police in investigating the murders, which found there were “failures which cannot be overlooked” in the investigation and, had they been avoided, some of Port’s victims may still be alive.
Throughout the entire process of developing Four Lives, creators were in regular contact with the families of Stephen Port’s victims and writer Neil McKay, speaking to PinkNews, said he had “almost daily contact” with some family members during the 10-week inquest.
He said: “They would be staggered by what was revealed.”
McKay continued: “Sarah Sak, the mother of [Anthony Walgate], the first young man to be murdered, she always carried enormous guilt that she’d not done more, raised more of a fuss with the police, done even more than she did – and she did a lot, including going to her MP.
“She felt this guilt, because she thought maybe she could have stopped the other three dying.
“And she said to me, having sat through most of the inquest and giving evidence herself, [she and] all the families said, ‘We couldn’t have done anything.’ The police performance was so spectacularly bad.
“The communication between the left and the right hand, and all the other limbs of the Met, was so poor. And that was the one reassurance she got out of it.”
The involvement of the families of Stephen Port’s victims was vital in making Four Lives ‘honest and true’
Actor Jaime Winstone plays Donna Taylor, the sister of Stephen Port’s final victim Jack Taylor, said her role was “so dark and so real”, but that she was “honoured” to meet her real-life counterpart.
She said: “I got to sit at a table with her have a glass of wine, and I just sort of said, ‘Where do we start with this?’
“Within 20 minutes, we were both cuddling and crying in each other’s arms, because I was hearing the truth from the family’s point of view.”
Winstone also spoke with Jen Taylor, Jack Taylor’s other sister, and said that “their determination really jumped out of them and into me, that’s really the only way I can describe it… the stress and the anger on screen is fully legit”.
There were many challenging aspects to playing the role, Winstone said, from the sisters visiting the set and having to “deliver real footage of a woman I was playing, in front of her”, to navigating the fact that Taylor was the only one of Stephen Port’s victims who was not out at the time of his death.
She said: “When I sat down with the sisters, they said they hadn’t really had the chance in real life to accept it, or have that open conversation with their younger brother, before he was brutally taken away… The sad thing about it with the girls, is that they would have been just completely more in love with their brother.
“There’s a really strong bond between them all, and they are missing the glue to their family.”
She added: “He hadn’t even come out and it’s just so disheartening to know that his first gay experience ended in such tragedy… It’s sad that he didn’t go on to experience how wonderful love can be.”