Stephen Port: Chief coroner appoints judge to lead inquests into Barking serial killer’s victims
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 October 2018
A judge will conduct inquests into the deaths of Barking serial killer Stephen Port’s victims, the chief coroner has confirmed.
Mark Lucraft QC, head of the coroner system in England and Wales, approved the request by assistant coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe following a campaign by the four victims’ families.
The local authority, Waltham Forest, will appoint a judge to lead the investigation. A planned pre-inquest review held at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court next month has been postponed with an inquest date yet to be set.
“We’re very grateful to the coroner for her intervention,” said Andrew Petherbridge of Hudgell Solicitors, who are representing the families.
“There is real public interest in these inquests and in particular into the actions of the Metropolitan Police. The long fight for justice continues for the families but they are reassured by the decision to appoint a judge to lead these inquests.”
Port, now 43, raped and murdered four men at his flat in Cooke Street, between August 2014 and September 2015.
Last year the High Court quashed inquests into two of the deaths after Port was jailed for life for the murders.
Initial inquests in June 2015 recorded an open verdict for the deaths of Gabriel Kovari, 22, from Lewisham, and 21-year-old Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, Kent, though conclusions were reached before the Met had connected them to the other two murders.
The families hope the new inquest will expose the catalogue of failings by Scotland Yard that allowed Port to keep killing.
Port was jailed for lying about the first murder – that of 23-year-old Anthony Walgate, originally from Hull – only for officers to leave him free to strike again.
While on bail before sentencing, Port murdered twice more, then once again after his release from prison.
His final victim was 25-year-old Jack Taylor from Dagenham.
Lawyers acting for the families expect a “damning” report into the police’s initial response to the four deaths.
In a note to solicitors, Dr Radcliffe confirmed that officers are reviewing the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog’s completed report to let them redact details of ‘sensitive operational matters’.
It will be released to the families afterwards, they said.