Published: 12:21, 14 August 2018
An internal police report into the serial killings of four gay men by Stephen Port will be shown to the families within six weeks, an inquest heard today.
Police faced huge criticism after they failed initially to link the murders after four bodies were found dumped near Port's Barking home.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct told Walthamstow Coroners Court that their 380-page report, already seen by the Met Police and the Coroner, will be made available to the families.
And fresh inquests into the deaths may have to be held outside of east London after complaints from victims' families, a coroner will decide.
Port was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2016 for the rape and murders of four young men at his flat in Barking between 2014 and 2015.
Anthony Walgate, 23, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25 and Gabriel Kovari, 22, were all drugged and raped by Port, before their bodies were dumped.
Jack's parents and two sisters attended the pre-inquest review at Walthamstow Coroner's Court.
But it was said that a decision would need to be made as to whether the inquests will be held in a different jurisdiction as the victim's families are concerned 'not enough questions were asked' as open verdicts were recorded at the original inquests for two of the victims.
The High Court quashed the inquests into the deaths of Mr Whitworth and Mr Kovari last year.
Barristers hope the new hearing will look into the adequacy of those original inquests.
The pre-inquest review heard presiding senior coroner Nadia Persaud technically oversees the work of the assistant coroner in the Eastern area of Greater London, Dr Shirley Radcliffe.
Legal representatives argued that although coroners are technically independent holders of public office, the structure could give the appearance that new proceedings presided over by Dr Radcliffe could be biased.
This could undermine the public’s and family’s confidence in the proceedings, it was argued.
Paul Clark, representing the four families, said: "The family's concerns are whether certain discrepancies around the circumstances of the second set of deaths were impacted by how they were dealt with.
"The question is whether the well informed observer would have concerns.
“The submission is based on the question of whether enough questions were asked at the previous inquest. One example is that there was a series of questions about a fake suicide note.”
Rachel Dobbin, representing individual police officers from the Met Police, said: "There were inquests into two of the deaths that the new inquests will consider.
"There were missed opportunities in that distinct independent investigation.
"Public confidence and the family confidence in these new inquests will be very important."
Anton Van Dellen representing Daniel Whitworth’s former partner Ricky Waumsley said: “You (Dr Radcliffe) have referred to the perception that the senior coroner is an overseer of an area of an assistant coroner. We all know they are independent judicial officer holders but it’s about the appearance of bias.
“In terms of the adequacy of the investigation process, that does fall within the scope of an inquest.
"The coroners investigation is discrete and separate from the police investigation. So that would fall into the scope and that leads back into the issue with the appearance of bias.”
Dr Radcliffe said: “I think that we shouldn’t take any matters further until a definitive decision on this matter is considered. I think I may have to give it some thought and make a written decision on this.“
Assistant coroner Shirley Radcliffe also ruled that an Independent Office for Police Conduct report into the murder investigations, which runs to 380 pages, should be disclosed to the families within six weeks.
Neil Moloney, representing the IOPC said: "The report itself is something like 380 pages long. That's gone to you and also the Metropolitan Police Service for them to consider before its onwardly disclosed."
The families can then consider redactions about any of their personal information contained within the report, the coroner ruled.
Dr Radcliffe said: “I think everything will be much easier when the report had been disclosed and everyone had had the opportunity to consider its contents.”
The coroner also ruled that the new inquests would be heard by a jury.
The inquest was adjourned until a pre-inquest review on November 21.
Dr Radcliffe said she will provide written judgment regarding a transfer to another coroner’s jurisdiction on September 17.