Stephen Port: Death of serial killer’s fourth victim judged ‘non-suspicious’ by Met despite pattern of bodies

·3-min read
 (Metropolitan Police)
(Metropolitan Police)

Police officers did not discuss a pattern of dead bodies turning up in a Barking churchyard before concluding the death of serial killer Stephen Port’s fourth victim was “non-suspicious”, an inquest has heard.

Sergeant Jason O’Donohue was in charge of the scene when 25-year-old Jack Taylor was found dead in the grounds of Barking Abbey ruins in September 2015.

The previous summer, two other men - Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Gabriel Kovari, 22 - who had also been murdered by Port were found by a dog walker in the nearby St Margaret’s Church graveyard.

But Sgt O’Donohue told the inquests into their death on Friday morning that he and two CID officers did not discuss the earlier deaths at all before concluding that Mr Taylor’s death did not appear to be suspicious.

The officer said at the time he knew about the earlier discovery of the bodies but not the results of the investigations, and was unaware the two detectives with him had actually attended the scenes of the deaths of Mr Whitworth and Mr Kovari.

Asked if they had “mentioned that at all”, Sgt Donohue said: “Not at all”, and said he was also kept in the dark about the fact all three victims were found without mobile phones on them.

“I wasn’t aware of that – that was never raised with me.”

The officer said he and a DS came to an agreed conclusion that Mr Taylor’s death was “non-suspicious”, but he conceded the detail of the missing phones from officers with “intimate detail” of the earlier deaths would likely have changed his assessment.

“I would think it would have had a big impact on it”, he said.

Sgt O’Donohue also told the inquest he only realised just how close the churchyard was to the spot in the Abbey ruins where Mr Taylor had been discovered when he was served documents related to the inquests.

“I was absolutely flabbergasted”, he said.

Port had murdered a first victim, Anthony Walgate, 23, in June 2014, and was jailed for lying about the circumstances of the death.

But it was not until after all four victims had died that police realised they were murders and they were dealing with a serial killer.

All four men died from deliberately administered overdoses of chemsex drug GHB. Port left a note with Mr Whitworth’s body, in which he claimed responsibility for Mr Kovari’s death, and police accepted the letter’s contents on face value, the inquest has heard.

During his evidence, Sgt O’Donohue also accepted blame for the way Mr Taylor’s family were treated by police, at a time that they were calling for greater scrutiny of the death and the coroner was also raising concerns about the possibility of linked deaths.

The officer said he went on leave after Mr Taylor’s body was discovered, and he failed to instruct one of his officers to contact the Taylor family.

He said he expected a colleague to “have enough experience” to know the police needed more background information on Jack and to seek it from his family.

“I accept responsibility, that didn’t happen”, he said. “I’m not trying to deflect here, that buck stops with me.”

The inquests continue.

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