Stephen Merchant ‘shocked’ at police handling of case depicted in Four Lives

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Stephen Merchant has said it is “utterly shocking” how the police handled the serial killer investigation depicted in BBC drama Four Lives.

The actor, 47, portrays sex predator Stephen Port, who drugged and raped four men before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.

Port, known as the Grindr Killer, used the gay dating app to target young men.

The three-part factual drama is told from the point of view of the victims’ families, focusing on their fight to uncover the truth about what happened to their sons and brothers.

In December, inquest jurors found the shambolic inquiries probably contributed to the deaths of three of Port’s victims – Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.

Four Lives
Stephen Merchant, right, portrays serial killer Stephen Port, left (Met Police/Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Loved ones of the three men and those of the first victim, Anthony Walgate, raised concerns that something more sinister had happened after each of the deaths but were ignored by investigators.

Merchant, known for Extras, The Office and movie Fighting With My Family, said: “The idea that in 2014 and 2015, you’re still coming up against silence, you still can’t get through the door when you’re trying to help.

“You’re not even trying to obstruct, you’re trying to help.

“You’re saying, ‘Let me ask questions. Let me see the forged letter that was found on one of the victims,’ and the police go, ‘We don’t need your help.’

“I mean, that is what I found so utterly shocking… I felt it was an important piece of work.”

Port was found guilty of four murders following a trial at the Old Bailey and handed a whole life sentence in November 2016.

The police watchdog is looking at whether any charges of gross misconduct should be brought against officers involved in the initial inquiry which allowed Port to slip through the net.

Merchant added: “That’s the thing that seemed most devastating and heart-breaking, you think this is something that’s going to be set in the 1970s, with the reactions of the police and the sort of hum of homophobia that’s through it all, and instead, 2014.

Four Lives
Actress Sheridan Smith plays Sarah Sak in the new BBC drama Four Lives (ITV Studios/Ben Blackall)

“It’s shocking.”

The BBC drama is by Jeff Pope and Neil McKay, who were responsible for The Moorside and Appropriate Adult.

Sheridan Smith appears in the series as Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first victim Mr Walgate, while Jaime Winstone plays Donna Taylor, the sister of Mr Taylor.

Rufus Jones, who stars in Stan & Ollie, Bodyguard’s Stephanie Hyam, and Leanne Best from Line Of Duty also appear in the series.

Four Lives launches at 9pm on January 3 on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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