- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The family of the youngest victim of serial killer Stephen Port have criticised the “shoddy” investigation into his death.
Kent chef Daniel Whitworth, 21, was the third young man to be given a fatal dose of date rape drug GHB by sexual predator Port during a 16-month killing spree.
His body was found in a churchyard near Port’s flat in Barking, east London, metres from where Gabriel Kovari had been found dead a few weeks before.
A fake suicide note Port planted on Mr Whitworth’s body appeared to take responsibility for Mr Kovari’s death, an inquest at Barking Town Hall has heard.
An earlier inquest into Mr Whitworth’s death led to an open conclusion but police refused to reopen the investigation, jurors heard.
Giving evidence on Thursday, Mr Whitworth’s father Adam and stepmother Amanda denied telling police the suicide note was written by him.
The couple told jurors they were unhappy that police did not follow up more leads despite their concerns.
Mrs Whitworth said: “I just feel this was just shoddy and I feel like they took advantage of our nice personalities. We were easy to deal with, I think too easy, and as time has gone on I’m actually quite bitter about that.”
She told jurors her stepson was in a “good place” before his death, looking forward to a new job closer to his grandmother.
“We were very adamant this was not making any sense. He was a lovely guy with all his priorities in the right place,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe he had taken the life of somebody else and it hadn’t shown.”
She told jurors she felt “someone unsavoury” must have been involved and told the family liaison officer Detective Constable Paul Slaymaker.
She said: “He was going along the lines, ‘you will have some of the answers, you will not have all the answers, and there will be some things we may never know’.”
On a visit to the spot where her stepson was found, she said: “The thing in my mind was that he wasn’t a religious boy and I couldn’t work out why he was in Barking, I couldn’t work out why he would choose a spot like that and nowhere near home.
“I remember having a conversation with Paul Slaymaker. I touched a number of things, like how did he get here, where has he been.”
On the fake suicide note, she told jurors: “They (police) said that they would check it out and – maybe I watch too much Columbo, I don’t know – I thought they would check it out properly, it would go through some sort of examination.”
Mrs Whitworth said she was “not happy at all” after the original inquest, and words were exchanged with the police.
“I used the word murder. I said, ‘You have got to find who this person was, not as murder, probably, but as an assistant’.
“I could not go there – Daniel did not have any enemies. I could not believe someone would knock him unconscious, rape him, kill him, leave him somewhere.
“It was beginning to look very sinister. I was holding my breath and I could not really believe it.
“I asked if we could carry on with lines of investigation and they said, ‘No, even though it’s an open verdict that does not mean we can carry on with it’.
“I locked myself in the loo and sobbed like a baby.”
Mr Whitworth told jurors his first reaction on learning about the suicide note was that police “could have got the wrong person”.
“They said, ‘No, we have got documents. He’s been identified’,” he told jurors.
Detective Constable Yinka Adeyemo-Phillips has previously given evidence to say Mr Whitworth confirmed the handwriting was Daniel’s.
But Mr Whitworth said: “I definitely did not say it was.
“She said, ‘Is this Daniel’s handwriting?’, and I said… ‘I cannot confirm it is Daniel’s handwriting, I don’t know’.”
He told jurors he tried to find out more information from the Barking and Dagenham Post and raised his concerns with police.
Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel for the coroner, asked: “Were you concerned that there was more to this?”
Mr Whitworth replied: “Yes, definitely,” adding that Det Con Slaymaker “would push aside our concerns”.
On examining the full note, Mr Whitworth said: “I was not there myself as a handwriting expert, I saw this note for five or 10 minutes.
“I was desperate to see that note. I was there to read through it and see what it is all about, checking the handwriting was not my top priority.”
Mr Whitworth said he felt under “pressure” to confirm it was genuine but he assumed it would be examined by a handwriting expert.
He said he pointed out there was nothing in the note that identified it as his son’s – no words or phrases he would use or personal information.
After the earlier inquest, the victim’s grandmother Barbara Whitworth voiced concern there must have been a “third party” involved and partner Ricky Waumsley was “very angry” and thought the police had not done their job properly, jurors heard.
Giving evidence, Det Con Slaymaker denied telling the Whitworths that a handwriting expert would determine the authenticity, saying he felt the victim’s father had already confirmed it.
He recalled thinking the note was “not very personal”, but did not look into it in much depth, jurors heard.
He told jurors he did not remember the Whitworths saying the death did not “seem right”.
Det Con Slaymaker also rejected criticism levelled at him earlier by the parents Port’s first victim Anthony Walgate.
He denied making a connection between the three victims travelling to Barking and being poisoned with GHB, despite his central role in the investigations.
The officer admitted making an “error” in wrongly stating – partly based on Port’s lies – that the victims went to sex and drugs parties.
Challenged about the families criticisms, he apologised, saying: “I tried my hardest to support them the best way I could.”
In 2016, Port, now aged 46, was found guilty of murdering Mr Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21, and final victim Jack Taylor, 25, between June 2014 and September 2015.