Home   Gravesend   News   Article

Partner of Stephen Port's youngest victim Daniel Whitworth calls for Met chief to resign after inquest rules police failings 'probably' contributed to deaths


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

The partner of the youngest victim of serial killer Stephen Port has called on Met chief Cressida Dick to resign after an inquest found police failings "probably" contributed to his boyfriend's death.

A jury found officers in Barking, east London, missed repeated opportunities to catch sexual predator Port who used the date-rape drug GHB to murder Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, and three other young, gay men.

Delayed inquests heard evidence of a series of failings by the Metropolitan Police during their investigations into the deaths between 2014 and 2015.

Port, known as the "Grindr Killer" for his use of the gay dating app to scout young men, plied first victim Anthony Walgate, 23, with a fatal dose of GHB and dumped his body.

The 46-year-old struck three more times before he was caught, killing Gabriel Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21 and final victim Jack Taylor in near-identical circumstances near Port's Barking home during a 16 month killing spree.

Today, an inquest jury found that police failings in the investigation into the death of Mr Walgate, Port's first victim, "probably" contributed to the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth.

During the hearings, which took place over several weeks, the victims’ loved ones claimed failings stemmed from prejudice, because the victims were gay and their deaths were drug-related.

Port’s victims, left to right, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor, Anthony Walgate and Gabriel Kovari. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA
Port’s victims, left to right, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor, Anthony Walgate and Gabriel Kovari. Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA

Officers had denied it, instead blaming mistakes on being understaffed and lacking resources, and coroner Sarah Munro QC barred jurors from deciding on the issue of homophobia for legal reasons.

Jurors deliberated for a week before returning their conclusions, after hearing that none of the victims were from the area, and was either anti-drugs or had no known use of GHB.

In written conclusions, they acknowledged officers’ “heavy workload” but said there were failures that “cannot be overlooked”.

Following the outcome, Ricky Waumsley, said he continues to believe police prejudice contributed to the death of his partner, Mr Whitworth.

Former Dartford Grammar student, Daniel, was the third young man to be given a fatal dose of the date rape drug by Port.

Mr Waumsley said: "I believe it’s a mixture of everything – so, a bit of laziness, incompetence, lack of training.

Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, was the third victim of Port.
Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, was the third victim of Port.

“But I absolutely stand by that they were being homophobic towards these four victims and making general assumptions that they’re all young, gay men who take drugs.”

He had told the inquest he felt excluded by investigators because he was gay and was not allowed to see an apparent suicide note left by the young chef from Gravesend until the year after he was found dead.

It later transpired Port had forged the note falsely claiming Mr Whitworth had taken his own life and accidentally killed another man, Gabriel Kovari – who was in fact another of Port’s victims.

Mr Waumsley was also critical of the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IPOC).

The actions of 17 officers were investigated but the IOPC investigation, which concluded in 2018, found no individual officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct. Although it did decide the performance of nine officers fell below the standard required.

But the mother of first victim, Mr Walgate, Sarah Sak has called for the police watchdog to reopen its investigation and for some police officers to be sacked.

She siid the jurors’ conclusion was a “massive victory” but she is “disappointed” they were not allowed to consider prejudice.

The former home of serial killer Stephen Port in Cooke Street, Barking, east London. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA)
The former home of serial killer Stephen Port in Cooke Street, Barking, east London. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA)

Mrs Sak said: “If Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack had been girls found in such close proximity there would have been an outcry. There would have been a lot more investigation – and there just wasn’t.”

Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball apologised on behalf of the Met but denied the force was homophobic.

She said: “We don’t see institutional homophobia. We don’t see homophobia on the part of our officers. We do see all sorts of errors in the investigation, which came together in a truly dreadful way."

Port’s killing spree began when he hired fashion student Mr Walgate, from Hull, as an escort.

Instead, Port killed him, dragged his body outside and called 999 anonymously, claiming to have found him collapsed as he was passing.

Requests were rejected for a specialist homicide team to take over the case, which was instead left in the hands of borough officers.

Port was swiftly identified as the caller but in a police interview concocted another web of lies.

A basic check on the police national database would have flagged up Port as a suspected rapist and his involvement in a suspicious incident at Barking station days before.

A map showing the spots where Stephen Port dumped the bodies of his victims during his 16-month killing spree. Photo: Met Police/PA)
A map showing the spots where Stephen Port dumped the bodies of his victims during his 16-month killing spree. Photo: Met Police/PA)

Port’s laptop computer, which would have revealed his obsession with rape pornography, was not examined for many months.

He was later charged with perverting the course of justice and given bail.

It meant Port was free to lure Slovakian Mr Kovari to his flat on the false promise of a room to rent.

Port dumped his body in St Margaret’s churchyard, where a dog walker made the grim discovery in August 2014.

Three weeks later, the same dog walker found Kent chef Mr Whitworth in almost exactly the same spot.

Port planted a fake suicide note on his body suggesting Mr Whitworth had accidentally killed Mr Kovari.

Stephen Port faked a suicide note and left it on the body of his third victim Daniel Whitworth (Met Police/PA)
Stephen Port faked a suicide note and left it on the body of his third victim Daniel Whitworth (Met Police/PA)

Port was later jailed for perverting the course of justice, but was freed to kill Mr Taylor. Mr Taylor’s sisters launched their own investigation and pushed officers to do more.

At a press conference following the conclusions, the families’ lawyer Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors read out a statement on their behalf.

He said: “We welcome today’s conclusions. The jury has obviously taken great care and considerable time to return these clear failings.

"We feel thoroughly vindicated by their findings. The inadequate investigations by the Metropolitan Police into the deaths of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack should be on public record as one of the most widespread institutional failures in modern history.

"The jury has been unanimous in identifying fundamental failings and basic errors in the investigation into Anthony’s death which meant that Port was not stopped, and was allowed to carry on with his terrible acts.

However, the statement went on to criticise the lack of scrutiny into the role homophobia may have played into their failings.

Calls have been made for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign following the findings. Photo: Katie Chan
Calls have been made for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign following the findings. Photo: Katie Chan

"We are incensed by the police’s successful efforts to prevent the jury from examining whether prejudice played any part in the police’s actions," he added.

"The coroner did not rule that the police were not homophobic, and our position remains unchanged; based on the treatment we received, our firmly held belief is that the Metropolitan Police’s actions were, in part, driven by homophobia."

Following the conclusion of the inquest hearings Met Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball acknowledged people's trust in the force had been damaged by "recent events".

She offered to meet the families, and Daniel’s partner, to address their concerns.

The senior police officer said: "We've been working to rebuild trust in the Met for some time now and we completely accept that people's trust in us has been damaged by a number of recent events.

“What has happened in connection with the deaths of these four young men is part of that damage and we know it has a particular impact on communities local to Barking and LGBT+ communities across London.

“And so it's very important now that we show that we are trustworthy, that we care, that we have changed and that we are learning so that we can work with every person and every community to help protect them.

“We will examine the jury’s findings very carefully, as we will the recommendations the coroner makes in her report to prevent future deaths, and we will act on those findings and those recommendations."

However, she also added the Met Police force had not waited until now to act and had already made changes.

“As a direct result of Port’s offences we have a much clearer step by step policy on how we investigate unexplained deaths to ensure we are doing all we should and a far greater understanding of the drug GHB and its use as a weapon to sexually assault," she said.

“We have strong relationships with LGBT+ people both in our own organisation and across London via our network of advisers who volunteer within their own departments to improve local relationships with LGBT+ communities.

"We’re working to recruit more advisers and reviewing their role to make sure they are working in the best way possible for our communities."

Port will die in prison after he was found guilty and sentenced to a whole life sentence in November 2016 at the Old Bailey for the murders of all four men.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More