How did police miss Barking serial killer Stephen Port? – BBC News

Stephen Port has been found guilty of murdering four young gay men and perpetrating a number of drug rapes. But did police miss chances to stop him in his ways?

At the end of summertime 2014, three weeks apart, the authorities of two young men were found in the same east London churchyard by the same woman walking her dog.

Both men were of a similar construct. Both in their twenties. Both propped up in the same position in the graveyard.

Both humen were homosexual. Both died from drug overdoses. Neither received from Barking, the area in which they had been found.

Police deemed the deaths of “the mens” found in the churchyard, Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth, to be non-suspicious.

An apparent suicide note observed with Whitworth’s body appeared to explain what had happened. Kovari had died after taking drugs during sexuality, the note told, and a guilt-stricken Whitworth had taken narcotics in order to end their own lives, it suggested.

But a year later – in September 2015 – another body was detected, propped up on the other side of the churchyard wall. Again it was a young homosexual human – Jack Taylor – who had died of a drug overdose.

How could this be coincidence? Three men found dead within a few feet of each other.

But the key to the case was another man, Anthony Walgate, who had died nearby before any of the others.

He had been found only a few hundred yards from the church, outside the flat of a human named Stephen Port.

The truth was that Port had killed all four men and then fooled the authorities with a cover-up that, while elaborate, “shouldve been” easily uncovered.

Media captionTracking Stephen Port’s motions from his flat to where he dumped his victims’ bodies

Anthony Walgate wanted to be a fashion designer. Born and raised in Hull, he had come to London and was examining at the University of Middlesex.

At 04:18 on Thursday 19 June 2014 the ambulance service received a call to report an incident on Cooke Street, Barking.

“There’s a young boy, looks like he’s collapsed outside, ” the caller said.

He could have “had a seizure or something, or merely drunk”.

Image caption Anthony Walgate

Paramedics and police officer procured a young man, a black holdall suitcase resting next to him, sitting against a wall. He was dead.

There were no signs of conflict or injury, but police “ve noticed that” the man’s top was pulled up, uncovering his midriff, as if he had been dragged.

His bag held a dark brown bottle containing a small amount of liquid, but his mobile phone was missing.

Media caption1 9 June 2014: Stephen Port’s 999 call

The nearest CCTV camera, on a roundabout, was found to be faulty.

The 999 call had been make use of Stephen Port. After gratifying his flatmate outside, police entered 62 Cooke Street to discover Port asleep in bed.

In a witness statement, Port told police he had come home at 04:00 after a nightshift to find a human lying in front of his doorway and “tried to rouse him by slapping his face”.

He said the man made a “gurgling” noise. Propping the man against a wall, he called an ambulance before going indoors and falling asleep.

Port was lying.

Officers soon find Walgate had been hired as an bodyguard by Port.

The student had been occasionally escorting since 2012.

Taking his usual precautions, he had told friends about a undertaking in Barking and depicted them a picture of “the mens” he was going to meet.

Image caption Stephen Port

When policemen discovered “the mens” was Port, they arrested him on 26 June 2014 on distrust of debasing the course of justice. As well as the lies in his statement, he was suspected of taking Walgate’s phone.

Interviewed over two days, Port initially stuck to his original account. Subsequently he asked sleuths: “Can I just say for the scenario – if it was an accident, and if he did have a fit in my place, is that still my fault? ”

Port eventually changed his tale and said he had contacted Walgate on an escort site.

At the flat, according to Port, Walgate had taken drugs that he had brought.

After twice having sexuality, Port said, Walgate became suddenly tired when getting ready to leave and had gone to bed wearing his clothes and shoes.

The next day, after leaving Walgate snoring when he went to work, Port said he had returned late at night to determine him still in a deep sleep.

Port told policemen he had got into bed himself but panicked after waking about 03:00 to discover Walgate rigid.

He carried Walgate outside before fetching his bag. He worried “they’re gonna think I murdered him or something”.

Port denied knowing what had happened to his mobile phone.

Police searched Port’s flat and seized a laptop computer. They also later took samples of his DNA.

But despite police trying early advice from a homicide evaluation team, the case was never treated as a murder.

He was bailed and the Crown Prosecution Service was asked to decide whether he should be charged with perverting the course of justice.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Anthony Walgate dreamed of being a fashion designer

Blood and urine samples eventually indicated high levels of the narcotic GHB associated with fatal overdoses.

But police did not examine the computer confiscated from Stephen Port, despite inspiring from those close to Walgate.

If they had, they would have found alarming evidence.

On 13 June 2014, Port first accessed Walgate’s escort profile. Within minutes he had conducted a series of searches on Google and pornography websites.

A few of the search terms he utilized that day were: “sleeping boy”, “unconscious boys”, “drugged and raped”, “taking date rape drug”, “gay teen knocked out raped” and “guy raped and tortured young nude boy”.

Walgate’s university friends pressed the police to do more.

“We had to badger them and nearly feed them notions, ” says China Dunning. “I’d be like, ‘have you appeared[ through] his laptop’ … and they’d is just like ‘it’s a really expensive procedure to do that’.”

Kiera Brennan says the same: ‘They fobbed us off constantly They kept saying ‘we’re going to, we’re going to’ and then didn’t. And every time we phoned the police officer at the time who was dealing with us he was either not there or someone would take a message and he’d never call us back.”

Image caption Port worked as a chef at a bus garage

Stephen Port was bear in 1975 in Southend, Essex. At a year old, his family moved to Dagenham in east London, where his parents still live.

His father , now retired, ran as a cleanser for the local council and his mother as a supermarket cashier.

Aged 16, Stephen went to art college, but it proved too expensive for his parents and he spent two years developing as a chef instead.

He determined kitchen work at local business, events and bridals, before eventually settling at West Ham bus depot where he cooked for drivers and staff.

He came out as lesbian in his mid-twenties. Port left home in 2006 for a small flat in Barking, close to where he had grown up.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stephen Port’s flat in Barking

The flat brought new liberties – there were parties, and partners were able to stay over.

But friends noticed a strange, childlike quality. He would sit watching cartoons and visit children’s shops alone to buy himself toys, some of which were placed overlooking his bed.

Port’s behaviour grew increasingly selfish and hedonistic – cheating on partners, taking drugs, working as a male escort and eventually acting as a pimp to others.

He became a habitual user of GHB, which can be taken as a powder but is usually dissolved in water, and a colourless liquid called GBL, that can be drunk or injected, and which converts into GHB in the body.

The narcotics can lead to feelings of euphoria in small doses but in only slightly larger amounts can cause unconsciousness and death.

Image copyright Rex Features

The rise of social media, which coincided with Port’s move to Barking, assured him go out less often and instead retreat into the online world.

Port joined, left, and rejoined various social networks, sometimes utilizing different names alongside his own picture or even making solely fictitious identities.

He employed dating sites to seek out sexual encounters, particularly with youthful seeming men, typically in their teens and early twenties, known as “twinks”.

Image caption Stephen Port’s bedroom

Some boyfriends, who were highly vulnerable young men, became prostitutes while in volatile relationships with Port.

They were advertised on escort sites with Port’s phone number as the contact. Some of the photographs included in one bodyguard profile depicted one of the men naked and either asleep or unconscious on a bed.

Port regularly searched the internet for “drug rape” pornography.

Image copyright Rex Features

At least one of the online porn videos he accessed featured a storyline about drugs being slipped into someone’s drink.

It was a tale that Port brought to life.

In early 2012 a student in his late teens expended a night with Port after they met on the lesbian dating app Grindr.

His first impressions after being collected at Barking station was that Port “was quite polite, friendly , nothing that would ring any alarm bells to me”, the man later told Port’s trial.

At the flat, Port put on an animated film in the lounge and offered a small glass of red wine that “tasted bitter, which I attributed to it being cheap”.

After drinking the wine, the student “noticed a sludge in the bottom of the glass”. He rapidly felt “very dizzy and tired”. Port suggested he go to lie down in the bedroom, which he did alone and immediately fell asleep.

When he awoke, Port was raping him. After being awake for about a minute he fell unconscious again.

He woke in the morning impression “disorientated”.

Port drove him to the station and spoke “as if nothing had happened”. The man was too scared to say anything about the previous night.

Another man, a Muslim in his early twenties, who had never devoured alcohol or drugs, met Port on the Fitlads website in early summer 2014 and went to his flat on five occasions.

The first four visits were unremarkable but on the fifth, Port plied him with drugs.

Port dedicated “the mens” poppers, a legal recreational drug, which he utilized. After got a couple of minutes the young man fell asleep.

When he woke Port gave him a glass of clear liquid, saying it was water.

“As soon as I drank it, I went unconscious, ” the young man said. “The next thing I remember I was on the floor screaming and scream. It was like I was running mad.”

The man’s underwear had been removed. Panic set in. He had to get home.

Port helped him to Barking station. “He was kind of dragging me along and holding me up.”

The man recollects “screaming and shouting” during the course of its journey. British Transport Police attended and an ambulance was called.

But the young man did not want to involve the police for dread of his parents – who knew nothing of his sexuality – detecting what had happened.

Port was “worried and jittery”, according to police at the scene. He claimed the young man had arrived at his flat in that nation and he was merely taking him home.

As there were no allegations of an offence, both men were allowed to leave.

Two weeks later Port met Anthony Walgate.

Image caption St Margaret’s Church seen from the nearby green

The church of St Margaret of Antioch is an island of calm in the urban bustle of Barking, on the eastern side of London.

Sitting inside a pleasant park, and bordered on the north by a ruined abbey, it’s a sudden scenic contrast from the busy surrounding roads and the high street leading away to the train station.

On the morning of 28 August 2014, while walking her dog, Barbara Denham discovered the body of a young man in an upright position in the south-west corner of St Margaret’s graveyard.

It was the body of 22 -year-old Gabriel Kovari.

Image caption At the spot in St Margaret’s graveyard where Daniel and Gabriel’s bodies were found

Just over three weeks later, on 20 September 2014, Denham was again walking her dog, and found another body on the same spot.

It was Daniel Whitworth, 21.

While on bail for perverting the course of justice, Stephen Port had killed both men.

Media captionBarbara Denham: Discovering two dead bodies in the same place

Kovari, also known as Gabriel Kline, was a Slovakian who had come to London in spring 2014 from Spain, where he had been living with his boyfriend, Thierry Amodio.

He struggled to find a stable place to live until he fulfilled John Pape, who invited him to stay in the spare room of his south London flat.

Image caption Gabriel Kovari

After several weeks with Pape, Kovari announced he had procured a room to rent in Barking. Pape insisted he could stay longer, but Kovari wanted to move on.

On 23 August 2014, Kovari moved out. Three weeks later Pape texted Kovari: “Hey, hows it going in Barking? ” but got no response.

On the day he moved out, Kovari had messaged another friend with a Google map pinpointing the location of his new home – Cooke Street, Barking.

Find out more

John Pape is also interviewed in the BBC Three documentary Grindr Killer. Watch it on iPlayer

Two days later the friend received a message from Kovari saying “I’m fine” and then a smiley face emoticon.

It was the last message he received from Kovari’s phone.

Ryan Edwards was a neighbour and friend of Port, although as Port get ever more into drugs they had assured one another less.

On 24 August 2014 Port sent a message inviting Edwards to satisfies his “new Slovakian twink flatmate”.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Gabriel Kovari

That night Edwards briefly satisfied Kovari.

The next day Kovari messaged Edwards and used to say “Stephen is not a nice person”. Something had happened to induce him unhappy in his new home.

In the afternoon of the following day Port sent a text message to Edwards who replied by asking: “How is Gabriel? “

Port said he had “gone to stay with another local guy some soldier guy he had been chatting to online”.

When Kovari’s body was found on 28 August, he was wearing sunglasses. Two purses placed next to him contained his possessions. His dres was pulled up to expose his midriff, just as Anthony Walgate’s had been.

John Pape was one of the first to be informed.

“Four police turned up at my doorway and they asked me ‘do you know Gabriel Kovari? ‘ and they said he’d died in a cemetery.

Image caption St Margaret’s Church, Barking at night

“I felt a need to find out more. I aimed up Googling research reports of Gabriel’s death.”

Another unexplained death in June came up.

“It sounded so similar. Another young man – 22, 23 – who’d died in unexplained circumstances. Then I can remember appearing how close St Margaret’s Church was to Cooke Street where this first demise had occurred. That set off alarm bells.”

Within a few days Pape had contacted Gabriel’s former boyfriend Thierry Amodio on Facebook with his concerns. “I was advising that he bring that to the attention of the police and the coroner.”

Amodio was conducting his own research and, on 10 September, he messaged someone called Jon Luck after noticing he had started following Kovari on Facebook.

In his reply, Jon Luck expressed surprise on hearing Kovari had died and said they had spent two nights together around 22 August.

He told Kovari had been collected from his home by an older Irish man called Tony who drove a green Toyota.

Jon Luck asked Amodio: “Will police want to speak to me as my DNA would be on him? “

Over the following days, Amodio kept asking for information about Tony in the green Toyota.

Then on 19 September 2014, Jon Luck said he had determined Tony 😛 TAGEND I text him and asked what happene to Gab and he told h leave behind a young guy about his age named Dan and they was heading to a party/ revelry in Barking Dan is tall, light brown hair he said, loks similar to Gab simply a little bit taller, very slim, when I told him Gab is dead, he said he don’t want got anything to do with it, leave him alone .

Jon Luck described the parties as places where older humen “get young guys so high that they then only rape them”.

Two days later, Amodio messaged Jon Luck to say that the police had called to tell him of Dan’s death.

Jon Luck replied:

Please don’t let them apprehend me, i will try find a much info as i can to help you please let me know if you have any more info from the police, names etc .

Amodio asked him to call police and provided the number of a Barking and Dagenham detective, but Jon Luck said he was “scared” and induced excuses.

The following morning Jon Luck made a telling suggestion:

maybe Dan knew “whats happened to” Gab and could not life with the guilt or something like that .

That afternoon, the sleuth whose number had been given to Jon Luck responded to emails sent by Amodio the previous evening.

He had a link to Jon Luck’s Facebook profile. He had also sent the sleuth a tale from the Barking and Dagenham Post about the death of Anthony Walgate and asked: “Can this be related to Gabriel and Daniel? “

The detective replied that: “The news on the Barking and Dagenham post is nothing about Gabriel or Daniel.

“Have you contacted Jon Luck? Get Jon Luck to contact me.”

Amodio emailed again four days later: “Any update regarding Gabriel? did Jon Luck call you? “

It took three days for a response: “I have not received any telephone call or text messages or email from Jon Luck. I would appreciate it if you could get him to contact me.”

Jon Luck never contacted detectives , nor they him. Had they traced the person behind the Jon Luck Facebook account they would have found Stephen Port.

The “Dan” whose demise is connected to Gabriel Kovari was 21 -year-old Daniel Whitworth from Gravesend, Kent.

Image caption Daniel Whitworth

Whitworth’s body was found on the same place as Kovari’s on the morning of 20 September 2014, only hours after Jon Luck had first mentioned “Dan”.

He was sitting against the graveyard wall on top of a blue bedsheet.

The clothing on the top half of his body uncovered his belly, again like he had been dragged.

His mobile phone was missing and later tests showed that a small brown bottle discovered with his body contained GHB.

His left hand contained an apparent suicide note. It claimed responsibility for the death of Gabriel 😛 TAGEND “I am sorry to everyone, mainly their own families, but I can’t go on anymore, I took the life of my friend Gabriel Kline, we was just having some fun at a mate’s place and I got carried away and devoted him another shot of G. I didn’t notice while we was having sex that he had stopped breathing. I tried everything to get him to breathe again but it was too late, it was an accident, but I blame myself for what happened and I didn’t tell their own families I went out. I know I would go to prison if I go to the police and I can’t do that to my family and at the least this route I can at least be with Gabriel again, I hope he will forgive me .

“BTW Please do not blame the guy I was with last night, we only had sex then I left, he knows nothing of what I have done. I have taken what g I have left with sleeping pills so if it does kill me it’s what I deserve. Feeling dizey now as took 10 min ago so hoping you understand my writing.

“I dropped my phone on way here so it should be in the grass somewhere. Sorry to everyone .

“Love always

“Daniel P W.”

Image caption The fake suicide note left beside Daniel Whitworth’s body

Whitworth was an ambitious young cook who was constructing a promising career. He lived in Kent with his long-term boyfriend Ricky Waumsley.

When apart they stayed in constant touch, and it was Waumsley who raised the alarm after his boyfriend did not return home.

Those who knew Whitworth were appalled at the suggestion he had killed someone. And they did not believe he had been suicidal.

But Barking and Dagenham Police, despite again trying advice from a homicide evaluation squad, deemed the demise non-suspicious and accepted the note at face value.

The prosecution told Port’s eventual trial that detectives neither fully investigated Whitworth’s motions in the hours before his death nor tried to find the person or persons referred to in the note as “the guy I was with last night”.

Had they done so it would have led them to Stephen Port.

Port’s DNA was on the blue bedsheet, on Whitworth’s body and on his clothes. It was also on a sleeve that the note was may be in. The police already had his Dna on their database.

Port had fulfilled Whitworth on the Fitlads website in August that year.

They exchanged messages. On 3 September, Port asked if they could go for a drink before dinner at his Barking flat: “Just so you can get to know me a little bit so you know I’m not some psycho.”

Whitworth was last ensure by a colleague leaving work in Canary Wharf on 18 September. He mentioned he was going to meet friends in Barking.

Like both Walgate and Kovari, Whitworth was found to have died from an overdose of GHB. Exams depicted he had also taken sleeping tablet, which was consistent with the “suicide note”.

But the pathologist noted that “there was bruising below both limbs in the armpit regions which is unlikely to have been caused accidentally and may have resulted from manual handling of the deceased, most likely prior to death”.

Senior Barking and Dagenham detective, DCI Tony Kirk, told a local paper the deaths of Kovari and Whitworth were “unusual and somewhat confusing” but not suspicious.

John Pape sought to raise concerns: “I felt like I had a moral responsibility to try and put pressure on the police investigation because I felt like I had made a brick wall with them.”

He spoke to Galop, an LGBT anti-violence charity, which passed on his concerns to police and were told that one death was a result of a self-administered overdose and the other was a suicide on the same place in response to the first death.

Pape also wrote to campaigner Peter Tatchell. He carried alarm and advised him to contact lesbian newspaper PinkNews, which has said it decided not to run a narrative after police insisted the deaths were not suspicious.

In January 2015, Port was charged with perverting the course of justice for lying about the circumstances of Anthony Walgate’s death.

He pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court in February and appeared for sentencing at the same court a month later.

The prosecutor told: “There is no suggestion that Mr Port bore any criminal responsibility for the death of the young man.”

Walgate’s friends, China Dunning and Kiera Brennan, were in tribunal to see Port convicted.

“We spoke to the police after, ” tells Dunning. “We were like ‘look this isn’t enough, this isn’t right’ and they basically said to us that there’s merely two people who know what happened that night: one of them’s dead, one of them isn’t going to say.

Image caption Anthony Walgate’s friend, China Dunning, felt his death had not been properly analyse

“The cop got a bit of an attitude with me and he told ‘look China we’ve done all we can do’ – a bit like just shut up and put it down now.”

Dunning was convinced that Port had hurt other people and would again.

Port was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment.

He was released in June 2015, after serving little more than two months, simply weeks before inquests into the deaths of Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth.

Media captionFollowing the road between Port’s flat and St Margaret’s Church

The inquests returned open verdicts, with coroner Nadia Persaud telling she had “some concerns surrounding Daniel’s death which have not been answered by the police investigation”.

The coroner used to say “most concerning are the findings by the pathologist of manual handling prior to his death” and noted that “the bed sheet that he was observed wrap in was not forensically analysed, and the bottle of GBL which was procured near him was also not tested for fingerprints or DNA”.

She asked a detective why the bed sheet had not been tested.

He replied: “It is a consideration, but the circumstances at the time indicated towards no other external parties being involved at the time. The potential outcome of having the blanket analysed, the bed sheet analysed, could have been to identify maybe where “hes having” been the night before, who had linked with him. But it wasn’t submitted.”

Even after this exchange , no exams were done.

There had been multiple opportunities to stop Port in his tracks.

Instead, he went on to kill a fourth human.

Image caption Jack Taylor

Jack Taylor was a 25 -year-old from Dagenham who worked as forklift truck driver.

He had two older sisters, Donna and Jenny, and was living with his parents at the time he died.

Donna Taylor says he was a “true inspiration”. Jenny Taylor says he was “always smiling, always laughing” but was also “very loving and caring”.

Their brother had had several girlfriends and was not openly gay, but utilized the dating app Grindr as a route of gratifying men.

In the early hours of Saturday 13 September 2015 he left a local social club after a night of drinking and went home.

He spent some time browsing the internet and just before 02:00 was contacted on Grindr by Stephen Port.

They decided to meet at Barking station at 03:00.

Within 36 hours he was found dead.

His body was propped against the other side of the graveyard wall from the spot where Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth were found.

Image caption The wall where Jack’s body was determined

His shirt was pulled up over his belly. No mobile phone was present. A syringe was in one pocket and a small brown bottle in another.

Police did not regard the demise as suspicious and seemingly treated it as a self-inflicted overdose.

The Taylor family did not accept the conclusion.

They say they were then not contacted by police for nearly two weeks. “I think it was more there’s another young boy – a druggie – I truly don’t think they cared at all, ” Donna Taylor recalls.

The family began their own investigation.

Image caption Jack Taylor was not a drug user

“We went through where Jack had been all weekend, who was the last people he was with, the area in which he was seen, ” says Donna Taylor. “We were told it was known for narcotics.

“So at the time we went on the internet and searched the area and that’s how we came up with the other boys.

“We already knew that Jack wouldn’t have gone and sat there and done that himself.”

Taylor was not a drug user, so his family were outraged by the suggestion that he had taken an overdose.

“We literally went through where the boys were from, went back to their local papers of their region, what the press had wrote about them, ” says Donna Taylor. “We wrote down similarities, key points, and then compared them to Jack. Spoke to the police about that and at first plainly it get disposed. They were just having none of it.”

Jenny Taylor recalls the police posture: “Everything “were in” asking and everything we put to them they was telling us no. There was no chance that it was anything to do with the same situation. So the sons weren’t linked to what had happened to Jack.”

While at the police station they were told CCTV existed of Jack walking down the street with a human in the hours before his death.

Jenny Taylor recalls that: “We asked for that to be put in the newspaper. To see if anyone knew him.”

“It was said that it could be seen as a potential, but it was unlikely because they didn’t feel that Jack’s death was suspicious, ” according to Donna Taylor.

“I think they kind of felt they had to do something rather than be seen to do absolutely nothing.”

On 13 October 2015 the Met issued a CCTV image of Jack Taylor walking near Barking station with a tall, blond man.

Police received several bellows, but it was actually a Barking and Dagenham officer who realised “the mens” in the video was person they already knew – Stephen Port.

On the morning of 15 October 2015 Port was arrested at his flat on mistrust of causing the deaths of the four young men by administering poison.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Stephen Port’s flat in Barking

The same day the case was passed from police in Barking and Dagenham to a team of sleuths led by DCI Tim Duffield from the Met’s main Homicide and Major Crime Command.

Port was interviewed over the following four days.

His story about the death of Anthony Walgate was broadly repeated. He denied knowing the other dead men, or ever using GHB.

But he did spin a curious fiction about fulfilling Whitworth at sexuality parties held by an east London drug dealer.

Port denied any further knowledge of Whitworth and the “suicide note”.

Image caption Inside Port’s flat at Cooke Street

On 18 October 2015, Port was charged with four counts of murder.

Media coverage of his arrest brought eight humen forward who described being narcotic, raped and sexually assaulted at Port’s flat after fulfilling him online.

The men’s accounts were all similar – Port spiked their drinks or injected them with a small syringe, of the different types used to give infants medicine.

At his eventual trial Port was convicted of a string of sexual offences against seven members of “the mens”, including four countings of rape, but acquitted of one charge of rape. He was also acquitted of all charges involving an eighth human.

A handwriting expert compared the “suicide note” with a sample of Daniel Whitworth’s writing and confirmed he was not the author. The writing was Port’s.

The paper on which it was written – and the plastic sleeve in which it had been placed – were from Port’s flat.

Several key items were covered in Port’s DNA, including the blue sheet procured with Daniel Whitworth. It was from Port’s own bed.

When the inquiry looked for Jon Luck they rapidly determined Port. The IP address associated with the Jon Luck account matched one used by Port – two of Port’s laptops had been used to log in to it.

Police traced Tony, who Jon Luck had linked to Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth, but found that he had never satisfied Port nor any of the dead humen.

Port, masquerading as Jon Luck, had built contact online and picked up a few details which he had then tried to use to implicate him.

A mobile phone Port had once owned was found to contain 83 homemade sex videos including clips of him and others having sex with an unconscious man.

Image copyright Rex Features

At trial Port looked completely different from the toned blond escort of his online selfies.

The toupee he had worn for over a decade was gone. He was nearly bald.

Accompanied by three security guards, he would shuffle rapidly into the dock, pale-faced, soberly garmented and seeming older than his 41 years.

Some mornings he would wave keenly at his legal squad, breaking into a grin as he did so.

He never seemed across at the families of the dead men.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Court sketch of Port

In the witness box, he mumbled and was constantly asked to speak up, answered questions with evasive and unenlightening single word answers, and seemed blank and unaffected in the face of waves of distressing evidence.

When requested information about videos of him having sexuality with an unconscious man, Port said they simply showed “the end of quite a few hours of normal sex”.

Admitting lying to the police about the four deaths, he explained it by stating “the truth sounded like a lie, so I lied to make it sound like the truth”.

In court, Port told even more implausible lies in order to explain his links to the dead men.

He painted a picture of the victims utterly divorced from reality – on the evening of Kovari’s death he was said to have attended a sex party with Whitworth. Port admitted writing the “suicide note” but claimed Whitworth dictated it to him. He alleged that Taylor, a sexually discreet non-drug user, took numerous narcotics and indicated a two-hour sexuality session in the place where he was later found dead.

All this was nonsense. Port was, the prosecution said, a “habitual and compulsive liar.”

DCI Tim Duffield, who led the successful investigation into Port, describes him as “one of the most dangerous someones I’ve encountered”.

Image copyright MPS
Image caption Stephen Port: “Highly devious, manipulative and self-obsessed”

“He’s a voracious sex predator who appears to have been fixated, nay preoccupied, with surreptitiously drugging young, often vulnerable humen for the exclusive purpose of rape. This is a highly devious, manipulative and self-obsessed individual.” Port had never shown any remorse.

There will be an inquiry into the original investigations. Seventeen Met Police policemen are under formal investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Fifteen are understood to be from Barking and Dagenham.

Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command, acknowledges that Port could possibly have been stopped earlier: “The proof we have heard at the trial of Stephen Port does identify that there were potentially missed opportunities.”

John Pape guesses the failings in the investigation can only be explained by poor understanding of the lives of homosexual men, and even prejudice.

“That maybe they guessed: ‘Oh that’s what gay guys do’.

“I think if Barking and Dagenham Police had not taken the circumstances of those first three deaths at face value, if they’d questioned as a sleuth should do, if they’d empathised with the victims, then they would have connected them, and Stephen Port would not have been allowed to kill Jack Taylor.”

Donna Taylor agrees.

“It’s nasty because if they had done what they were supposed to and looked into things slightly different before, then Jack would still be here and maybe even possibly some of the other sons.

“It’s patently heart-wrenching for us as sisters, and obviously mum and dad, and plainly the other families. I don’t think that any point it was taken seriously. I really don’t. And it’s a life at the end of the day. Somebody’s life.”

Daniel Whitworth’s stepmother, Amanda Pearson, said in a victim impact statement: “We had a rich and fulfilling life ahead of us with Daniel, of that much I am sure, and it has been stolen from us. I cannot perhaps describe the hole this has left us.”

Anthony Walgate’s friends are left merely with memories.

“Anthony was a friend like no other, I doubt in this life I will ever meet anyone even a fraction like him, ” remembers Kiera Brennan.

None of the families of the four men will forget.

And now there will be an investigation into the actions of the police. They will have to explain why they missed so much.

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Read more: www.bbc.co.uk

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