Stephen Port case inquests ‘key step’ in families’ quest for answers

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The long-awaited inquests into the deaths of the victims of serial killer Stephen Port will mark a key step in their families’ “quest for accountability”, their lawyer has said.

Inquests into the deaths of four young gay men are due to begin on Tuesday at Barking Town Hall – just yards from where they were given fatal overdoses of GHB by Port.

It comes six years after Port’s 16-month killing spree was brought to an end, following the death of the final victim, 25-year-old Jack Taylor.

In 2016, 46-year-old Port, from Barking, was found guilty of the murders of Mr Taylor, Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, between June 2014 and September 2015.

Since then, the victims’ families have continued to campaign for answers as to why Port was not stopped sooner.

On Monday, their lawyer Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “It has been seven years and three months since Anthony Walgate was murdered; seven years and one month since Gabriel Kovari was murdered; just over seven years since Daniel Whitworth was murdered; and just over six years since Jack Taylor was murdered.

Stephen Port murders
Coroner Sarah Munro QC warned jurors to focus on the evidence in court (Philip McCarthy Photography/HM Coroner)

“Their families have felt every single day of their absence.

“They have waited with great patience and conducted themselves with real dignity.

“Yet, they’ve always wondered about whether there would have been a different outcome if the police had investigated Port properly and taken their concerns seriously, and if their boys hadn’t been gay.

“For them, the inquests mark a key step in their quest for accountability.”

A senior Metropolitan Police officer offered an apology to the victims’ families and highlighted changes the force had made since the Port case.

They include a written protocol for minimum standards of investigation for unexplained deaths and extra training for officers on how drugs can be used as a weapon by offenders to facilitate rape and sexual assault, as well as on issues that impact on the confidence of our LGBT+ communities.

Commander Jon Savell said: “Our thoughts are firstly with the family and friends of those murdered by Stephen Port. We know this will be a painful and difficult time for them, hearing details once more of what happened to their loved ones.”

He said the Met was offering “every assistance” to the coroner and welcomed a “full examination of all the facts surrounding the tragic deaths”.

He said: “At the time of Port’s conviction, we apologised to the victims’ families and Daniel Whitworth’s partner for how we initially responded to the deaths, and I would like to apologise again.

“Since Port’s offences came to light we have worked hard within the Met to improve both our processes and our wider knowledge across the organisation of a range of issues associated with the murders.

“We will not prejudge the findings of the inquests but we will review any more improvements the jury and coroner identify that we need to make.

“It is extremely important to us that members of the LGBT+ communities trust the police and feel confident they are being provided with the best possible service. We welcome the help and support of our independent advisors and a whole range of community partners to help us achieve this.”

On Friday, Sarah Munro, assistant coroner for the East London area, told jurors to focus on the evidence in court as they were sworn in to hear the inquests.

She told them: “On Tuesday … we will commence hearing inquests into the deaths of four young men who were murdered by a man called Stephen Port in 2014 and 2015.

“They were killed by him with overdoses of a date rape drug called GHB and their bodies were discarded by him yards from where we are sitting now.”

The inquests, which were postponed due to the pandemic, are expected to go on for up to 10 weeks.

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