Stephen Port inquests: Dog walker recalls finding victims in churchyard

A large maple tree in a corner of the walled cemetery in St Margaret's churchyard in Barking, east L

A large maple tree in a corner of the walled cemetery in St Margaret's churchyard in Barking, where the bodies of Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, were found dead by the same dog walker three weeks apart in 2014. - Credit: PA

A dog walker has described the discovery of two victims of Barking serial killer Stephen Port, three weeks apart, as  “peculiar” and "overwhelming".

Two of Port’s four victims - Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21 - were left in a secluded corner of St Margaret’s churchyard in Barking, propped against a stone wall beneath an old maple tree.

They were both found by dog walker Barbara Denham, who alerted the police.

Stephen Port took the lives of clockwise from top left: Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylo

Stephen Port took the lives of clockwise from top left: Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor and Anthony Walgate. Picture credit: Met Police. - Credit: Archant

Giving evidence at an inquest into the deaths, Mrs Denham said she found the experience “overwhelming".

On August 28, 2014, Mrs Denham was taking her usual route through the churchyard with her own border collie and two chocolate Labradors when she saw the body.

She told jurors: “He looked like he was asleep. Someone who had a rough night – drugs or drink – and was sleeping it off. 

“I never got a good look at his face. I never removed his glasses. The glasses were skew-whiff.” 

Mrs Denham said he had a large black trolley bag and a smaller black bag with him, which she thought was “strange”.

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She said unless someone was in a deep sleep, they would normally react to the dogs passing by. 

“His position, the way he was, I felt strongly there should have been some kind of movement. 

“I just was not sure, it just did not look right to me.

“I said ‘yoo-hoo’ to try to see if I could wake him up - at that time of the morning he should be waking up anyway. But he didn’t.”

Mrs Denham, who is retired, said she touched Mr Kovari before deciding to call police. 

“I thought, I cannot leave him there, he needs help of some kind.

“There is a possibility he is dead.” 

On September 20 that year, Mrs Denham found the body of Mr Whitworth when she was out with her border collie.

She said: “I have seen another young man sitting in the same position, almost in the same spot.

“He again was sitting up in an L-shape. He actually looked like he sat down. 

“His chest was open and he had a plastic envelope or bag tucked inside the shirt or jacket."

Mrs Denham, who lived in the area, said she put her finger on his stomach before calling the police once more.

She told jurors: “This time I phoned up and said: ‘I am the same woman that found the other body a few weeks ago.’

“And I said: ‘I have found another young boy.’

“They all came flying over there. There was lots that day.” 

Mrs Denham said it struck her as “very peculiar” at the time.

Stephen Port was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for the murders of the four men.

Stephen Port was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for the murders of four men. - Credit: Met Police

The court heard Pc Thomas Faulkner, who attended the scene, searched Mr Kovari’s belongings and interviewed his friend, John Pape, over the phone.

In his statement, Mr Pape said: “He (Gabriel) said his mother is a pharmacist and he said to me he had lots of pharmaceutical drugs, I presumed painkillers, if I needed any.

"He would drink socially but I do not think he was a heavy drinker.”

Pc Faulkner said he probably did not think to ask about recreational drugs. 

Jurors heard that Mr Pape had claimed he had linked the death with that of Anthony Walgate a few months earlier. 

But Pc Faulkner said: “I cannot remember whether or not he mentioned that to me.

"If he had mentioned something along those lines I would have thought I would have brought that to the attention of a supervisor.”

Previously, the inquest heard police now believe 6ft 5in Port wrapped his victims’ bodies in bedsheets and carried them to the sites where they were found.

The discovery of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth followed the death of Mr Walgate, 23, who was left outside Port’s flat in Cooke Street, Barking, on June 19, 2014.

Port's fourth victim, Jack Taylor, 25, was found dead on the other side of the graveyard wall by a parks worker on September 14, 2015.

Inquests at Barking Town Hall are examining whether any of the deaths could have been avoided if police had acted differently.

The inquests continue. 

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