The failures of police officers Met Police contributed to the death of Stephen Port’s three final victims the jury of an inquest has decided.
Port 46 is serving a life sentence for murder. He was convicted of killing Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor in Barking for a period of 16 months.
The deaths were not considered suspicious until several weeks in the aftermath of the fifth murder.
The case was called “one of the most widely-publicized institutional failures in the history of our time” by the families of the men.
Neil Hudgell, a solicitor representing the victims, said: “Our firmly held belief is that the actions of the Metropolitan Police were in part motivated through homophobia.”
Port killed the four men, who were all aged in their early 20s, by giving them overdoses of the “date rape” drug gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) at his east London home between June 2014 and September 2015.
He was sentenced to life in the Old Bailey in 2016 for the murders, as well as a string of sexual assaults.
Police have refused to classify the wife with Daniel Whitworth, with whom the couple shared a home and bank account as a next of family.
Ricky Waumsley said he would be different if he had been an “straight female of white descent”.
The Coroner Sarah Munro QC said: “These inquiries have, from any perspective have raised a variety of grave concerns.”
She said she was working on a preventative of the possibility of future death report.
Already this year Met Chief of Police Madame Cressida Dick has had to issue a string of public apology statements in the wake of scandals: for the inadequate response of the Met to two black sisters who were missing and who were later found murdered by two police officers, for taking photos with the bodies of the deceased women in the case of corruption and cover-ups during investigation into the Daniel Morgan murder case; and following the time Met police officer Wayne Couzens was convicted of the murder of Sarah Everard.
This year also saw the Met being be accused of corruption in the institution as well as misogyny, racism, and, more recently homophobia within the institution. Official graphs of Londoners views of the Met illustrate every line indicating the performance of the force is heading in the direction of a downward spiral.
A survey by Ipsos Mori in the last week revealed that the percentage of people who trust the police had dropped from 76 percentage to 63% in the last two years.
There have been many “heartfelt apology” in the past, but sadness and regret on their own will not stop the decline in the image of the police force that established “professional police force”.
The nine-week inquests held on the docks at Barking Town Hall were told the police ignored numerous opportunities to discover the fact that Port was responsible for the murder of the first victim – Anthony Walgate, 23, in June 2014 – and the result that the subsequent deaths could have been prevented.
The jury determined that an investigation into murder was required to take over the initial investigation.
In a reference to the inquiries conducted by police officers of Barking and Dagenham regarding their deaths Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, the jury found “fundamental mistakes in these inquiries from when they began”.
This means that Port was at liberty to take out Jack Taylor, 25, an year later.
The inquest also determined that the failures were committed by officers from Barking and the Met’s homicide division.
In their written verdicts the jury acknowledged that the officers were faced with an “heavy task” however, they also acknowledged there were a few mistakes that “cannot be ignored”.
In the inquest, police acknowledged that a number of “terrible errors” were committed.
Mr. Hudgell addressed in a press conference: “We are incensed by the police’s success in trying to stop jurors from considering the possibility that prejudices based on homophobia was a factor in the police’s decision.”
He said “had the police performed their job correctly at the beginning, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack wouldn’t be dead and the other young men wouldn’t be raped and drugged from him”.
Met police Director Helen Ball offered “my own and the Met’s sincere apology” and added that she along with Met Commissioner Cressida Dick have agreed to visit those who loved the victims to address concerns.
She stated: “We completely accept people’s faith in us but that trust is being damaged by several recent incidents.
“What is happening in the wake death of the four young men is a part of the damage that we know that it has a special effect on local communities to Barking in addition to LGBT+ communities across London.
“It is vital now to prove that we’re trustworthy, that we care, have evolved and that we are taking our time.”
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) has stated that it is looking at reopening an investigation into the handling of the deaths.
While 17 officers were interrogated 16, 16 of them conducted “no comments” interviews, instead submitting writing statements in lieu.
None of them were charged with gross misconduct however nine officers “fell lower than the minimum standards”.
- The families pay tribute to the boys who were murdered by Port
- Port Case made assumptions about the gay community
- The police did not catch the killer.
IOPC Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “We are investigating if something was said by officers who testified during the inquests, which might alter our findings , and could give us reasons to restart the investigation.”
Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said some police officers “have been forced to take severe disciplinary actions”.
“Every gay person that voiced concerns about the young gay males was ignored, dismissed , and dismissed with contempt, even the spouse with one victim,” he said.
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