Published: 12:04, 23 June 2022
| Updated: 13:25, 24 June 2022
A fresh investigation has been ordered into the way the Met Police initially handled the deaths of four men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port
The 46-year-old is currently serving a whole life sentence for the murders of four young men including Gravesend chef Daniel Whitworth.
Basic errors by a string of detectives left Port – who used the gay dating app Grindr to meet men – free to carry out a series of murders in Barking, East London, as well as drugging and sexually assaulting more than a dozen other men.
In December, an inquest jury found that “fundamental failures” by the police were likely to have contributed to three of the men’s deaths.
The deaths were not seen as suspicious until weeks after the final murder.
The jury’s findings have prompted The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to announce that it would consider reinvestigating the case.
Today the watchdog confirmed it will re-open its investigation into the way the Metropolitan Police investigated the deaths of the four men killed by Port.
The families had called for the IOPC to re-look into the police force's conduct after none of the 17 officers involved were disciplined, with seven even being promoted.
It is also their firm belief that police prejudice based on the men's sexuality played a role in their failings. An accusation the Met denied and which was not considered by the jury at their request.
Speaking on behalf of the families, Neil Hudgell said: “This was the only logical decision open to the IOPC following the weight of evidence heard at the inquests last year.
“The original IOPC report was hindered by a wall of silence, given that all but one of the 17 officers questioned gave ‘no comment’ interviews.
"Our hope now is that the IOPC will have a lot more to go on.
“There remains a big question mark over whether police prejudice played a part in the investigations.
“There remains a big question mark over whether police prejudice played a part in the investigations."
"During the inquests, the police attempted to brief the media that the coroner had found no evidence of homophobia, which is simply not true.
The coroner did not ask the inquest jury to make findings of prejudice at the request of the police.
“The families strongly held belief is that the police’s actions were, in part, driven by homophobia," the statement continued.
"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.
“The families were left traumatised by their treatment at the hands of the police.
The families claim the Met' s handling is one of the "most widespread institutional failures" and was worsened by a lack of "remorse, regret or sympathy" by the officers involved.
The statement said: “The inquests identified fundamental failings and basic errors in the investigation into Anthony’s death which meant that Port was free to go on to kill Gabriel, Daniel and Jack.
"Port was jailed for life, but the police have blood on their hands too. It is time for them to be held accountable.
“We expect the IOPC to investigate with renewed vigour. The families are ready to assist in any way they can, we hope the same can be said of the police."
Former Dartford Grammar student Daniel Whitworth was the third young man to be given a fatal dose of the date rape drug by Port.
His family paid tribute to their "pride and joy" and spoke of their pain over his death initially being treated as suicide.
After leaving school, Daniel attended Denton College in Gravesend, where he trained to become a chef.
Alongside his family, Daniel's partner Ricky Waumsley, has campaigned tirelessly for answers from the Met over its failings and called for the then police chief Cressida Dick's resignation at the end of last year.
The Met says it will offer "every support" to the new probe and extended its "heartfelt apologies" to the families.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball said: “The deaths of these four young men is a tragedy and we are deeply sorry there were failings in our police response. Again, I give my own and the Met’s heartfelt apologies.
“The whole of the Met is committed to improving our investigations, our relationships and the trust people have in us to keep them safe. Since the deaths of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack we have worked hard to ensure the service we provide is better while understanding we have more to do.
"Learning and recommendations from the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Her Majesty’s Coroner and our LGBT+ Independent Advisory Group of community members have enabled us to make a range of improvements.
“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services are with us now carrying out an inspection into how we respond to and investigate death.
"We look forward to their findings and any recommendations they may have. If the IOPC reinvestigation makes further recommendations for improvements we will of course consider those very seriously, in addition to any misconduct matters that may arise.”
The officers involved in this matter have been informed of the IOPC’s decision to reinvestigate.