Published: 10:34, 16 April 2021
| Updated: 11:11, 16 April 2021
A murder victim's inquest has been delayed by almost a year due to pandemic restrictions forcing the judge presiding over the hearings to postpone.
Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, was a victim of so-called 'Grindr Killer' Stephen Port who drugged, raped and murdered four young men after meeting them via the dating app.
The inquest had been due to be heard in January in London but due to meeting restrictions caused by the third national lockdown it was adjourned.
Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC, who will be the coroner for the inquests, has set a new date of October 4 for the start of the hearings at Barking Town Hall.
The inquest had been due to take place on January 7 meaning the victims' families are facing a 10-month delay for proceedings to start.
A pre-inquest review held last July at the Old Bailey had told families there would be no delay and the hearings would press ahead earlier this year.
Judge Munro said it was with "great regret" she felt the need to adjourn the hearings, which are expected to last several weeks, but said there was no alternative under the Covid guidelines.
Daniel's body was found in a churchyard in Essex in September 2014.
The 21-year-old was a chef and former pupil at Dartford Grammar School.
Daniel and Port's three other victims – Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, and 25-year-old Jack Taylor – were killed after the serial killer spiked their drinks with the drug GHB having lured them to his home, raped and killed them before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has since announced the drug Port used GHB – gamma-hydroxybutyric acid – will be reclassified from class C to class B substance.
Ms Patel said the change was being made after the drug had been used in some of the most "truly sickening crimes" following advice from the independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
The council previously published a report finding evidence of a “concerning increase” in the harm GHB causes.
The Home Office says the increase to class B status for GHB – putting it into the same group as speed and cannabis – will bring tougher sentencing for those found in illegal possession.
The department also said victims would be better protected from their use by criminals.
Port, 45, was given a whole life sentence in prison in November 2016 following a trial at the Old Bailey.