London’s Metropolitan Police Service is facing accusations of homophobia after an inquest found officers failed to properly investigate the deaths of four gay men by serial killer Stephen Port.
The 46-year-old killer will die in prison for murdering Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor in east London.
Port lured the four men, all in their early 20s, through gay apps. He killed them at his home between June 2014 and September 2015.
He murdered the men by injecting them with overdoses of “date rape” drug GHB.
In 2016, a judge handed the “wicked and monstrous” Port a life sentence. Port was sentenced for not only the murders but also a string of sexual assaults against other young men.
Last week, an inquest found east London police officers missed or ignored repeated opportunities to catch Port after Walgate’s death.
Those failures “probably” contributed to the deaths of Port’s other victims, the inquest ruled.
Police failed to carry out basic checks and send evidence for forensic examination, the inquest found.
They also failed to exercise professional curiosity during Port’s killing spree.
Officers also ignored concerns and information from family members, partners and friends of the victims, the inquest ruled.
Police accused of homophobia in ‘incompetent’ investigation
The victims’ grieving families have called the Stephen Port case “one of the most widespread institutional failings in modern history”.
“Had four, white, heterosexual girls been found dead in the same manner as Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack, then the police’s actions, and the likely outcomes, would have been different,” they said in a statement.
The families’ lawyer Neil Hudgell said, “Our firmly held belief is that the Metropolitan Police’s actions were, in part, driven by homophobia.
“We are incensed by the police’s successful attempts to prevent the [inquest] from examining whether [homophobic] prejudice played any part in the police’s action.
“Had the police done their job properly in the first place, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack would not have been killed.
“And [Port] would not have drugged and raped other young men.”
Officers denied the accusations of prejudice and homophobia in the investigations. They blamed the officers’ mistakes on understaffing and a lack of resources.
But John Pape, a friend of Gabriel Kovari, told the inquest he tried to give police information linking two of the deaths. However officers dismissed him and others, he said.
“When grieving families, boyfriends and friends are getting close to the truth and trying to raise the alarm 10 months before the Met are even willing to acknowledge the deaths are suspicious, it can’t be a funding issue,” he said.
“The only thing that makes sense about how disturbingly incompetent this investigation was is prejudice – conscious and unconscious.”
Met Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball offered “my own and the Met’s heartfelt apologies” to the family and friends.
She said she and Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick have also offered to meet with them to hear concerns.
“We completely accept people’s trust in us has been damaged by a number of recent events,” she said.
Metropolitan Police investigation after Stephen Port inquest
After the inquest concluded, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan ordered an independent review into the Metropolitan Police.
“My thoughts are with the families and friends of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor,” he said.
“The evidence given to this inquest was deeply upsetting.
“The quality of the investigation carried out by the Metropolitan Police Service [has] raised a number of concerns.
“The impact this has had on the victims’ families and friends – on top of the devastating trauma of the murder of their loved ones – is profoundly distressing.
“[It] has damaged the confidence of the LGBTQ+ community in the police.
Khan acknowledged the Met Police’s apology for the failing and changes made since the murders. But he ordered the independent probe into the standards of Met Police investigations to ensure “a clear plan of action.”
He explained it will look at the Met’s culture, processes and standards to address issues of “misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia”.
“It is vital that London’s LGBTQ+ community has confidence in our police,” he said.
“These young men and their families deserved so much better.
“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the failings that contributed to the deaths of these innocent young men are never repeated.”
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