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Met Police officers were guilty of “institutional homophobia” when they dismissed evidence in the investigation of gay serial killer Stephen Port, an inquest heard.
The damning accusation came from John Pape, a friend of Gabriel Kovari, Port’s second victim. Pape said he provided detectives with information he thought might link the deaths, but they were “unwilling to engage” with him.
Pape said he managed to track down Kovari’s former boyfriend, who was told by a man on Facebook – later established to be Port, seeking to distance himself from the investigation – that the men were drugged at orgies involving older men.
“My concerns went beyond what happened to Gabriel and became: is there something happening in Barking that is dangerous to other young gay men?” Pape said, as reported by The Guardian.
However, detectives did not seem “curious” about the information he had and ignored his attempts to help them. Stephen Port went on to kill at least two more men, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, before police finally connected the deaths.
“I think it has been said here that the police were underfunded, and under emotional strain. But I think when grieving families and boyfriends and friends are getting close to the truth and trying to raise the alarm 10 months before the Met are even willing to acknowledge that the deaths are even suspicious, then it can’t be a funding issue,” Pape told jurors.
“The only thing that makes any sense of how disturbingly incompetent this investigation was is prejudice, conscious or unconscious. And in my opinion, if this means the lives and deaths of young gay and bi men aren’t treated with significance and respect, I think that amounts to institutional homophobia.”
He added that he wished there had been an LGBT+ liaison officer he could have contacted, “someone allied to the LGBT+ community, someone I felt that had some genuine insight into the issues surrounding this”.
The inquest also heard that the family liaison officer appointed to speak with Kovari’s family never did so as she was too busy.
Detective constable Jackie Baxter said: “I can only put that down to the workload I was working on. That’s no excuse, I know.”
She accepted she had failed to respond to emails from Pape, or to pass on or follow up on information he provided to her, describing them as “one gentleman’s thoughts”.
On Thursday (4 November) the jury was told that the police made a “discriminatory” assumption about the gay community and its relationship with the drug GHB, which Port used to kill his victims.
“I feel the victims were treated the way they were because of the circles they moved in,” said Daniel Whitworth’s stepmother Mandy Whitworth.
Sean Wilson, who was deputy borough commander for Barking at the time of the murders, has since apologised for the investigation and admitted it was “substandard”. The inquest continues.