Stephen Port inquests: Senior police officer apologises to victims' families over missed opportunities to arrest serial killer

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One of England's most senior police officers has apologised to the families of Stephen Port's victims - saying he was "deeply sorry" officers missed a number of opportunities to arrest the drug-rape serial killer.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy led the review of the investigations into the deaths of four young gay men in Barking, east London.

Mr Cundy, who was not in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) during Port's 16-month killing spree between 2014 and 2015, highlighted five issues raised over the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.

Giving evidence on Friday at inquests examining whether the victims could have been saved if police had acted differently, Mr Cundy said to the victims' families: "Every single one of you absolutely had a right to expect a professional investigation to the standards all of us expected.

"It's fair to say those standards weren't met."

Mr Cundy's review highlighted concerns over the quality of the initial investigations and the "professional curiosity" of those involved, as well as over police leadership, direction and support to officers, the inquests heard.

He also raised concerns around the understanding of the GHB drug which Port fatally dosed his victims with before dumping their bodies, interactions between local policing and specialist crime investigators, and a lack of engagement with the LGBT+ community.

Addressing the victims' loved ones, Mr Cundy said: "I can't imagine putting myself in your shoes.

"I am deeply sorry - personally and on behalf of the MPS - that we didn't conduct the initial investigations to the standard you expected and the standard you deserved."

He said it was "a matter of personal disappointment" that things were not done as they should have been.

Mr Cundy added: "Please accept my sincerest apologies."

Police ignored intelligence, including from the victims' family members and friends, that led to Port to be responsible for the murders, the inquests had previously heard.

The Metropolitan Police murder squad also turned down requests from the borough officers to take over the investigations, and there were substantial delays in analysing evidence on Port's laptop, seized after he was initially arrested over Mr Walgate's death.

There was also evidence that the local policing team was overworked as a result of cuts following the 2010 government spending review and did not have the specialist officers to investigate homicides.

On Thursday, a senior detective denied that his colleagues were "lazy" in failing to link the deaths of the four men to Port.

Detective Inspector Tony Kirk, who was the head of local policing in Barking, east London, said borough officers were having to deal with "hundreds of crimes every day", meaning long-term investigations had to "take a back seat".

Port, now 46, a former escort and bus depot chef, will die behind bars after being given a whole-life jail sentence for murdering Mr Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21, and Mr Taylor, 25.

The inquests continue.

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