Stephen Port victims' inquests: Families pay tribute to loved ones
- Credit: Met Police
The families of four men killed by Barking serial killer Stephen Port have paid tribute to their loved ones.
Stephen Port, who is now aged 46, took the lives of Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor and Anthony Walgate between 2014 and 2015.
All four were drugged with fatal doses of GHB and raped by Port, before he dumped them near his home in Cooke Street. He was sentenced to a whole life sentence in November 2016.
Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC is leading inquests into the deaths at Barking Town Hall.
Part of the probe is to examine whether there were shortcomings made by the police in identifying Port as the killer.
Mr Walgate, who was from Hull and studying fashion in London, was found outside Port's flat in June, 2014.
Port had called 999 pretending to have discovered the 23-year-old's body as he arrived home from work.
Police later discovered Port met Mr Walgate online under an assumed name. He was charged with perverting the course of justice, jailed in March 2015 and released three months later.
Mr Walgate's mother, Sarah Sak, paid tribute to a shy boy who grew in confidence as he got older, moving to London to study fashion despite her begging him to stay in Hull.
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"The longer Anthony was in London, I could see a cygnet becoming a swan. He seemed to blossom and find who he really was," she said.
The body of Mr Kovari, who was from Slovakia, was found in August 2014 in the grounds of St Margaret's Church just 300 metres from Port's flat.
He was pronounced dead at the scene. His death was then classed as unexplained but not suspicious by police.
In a statement read in court, Mr Kovari's brother Adam described him as a "smart, talented, kind" person who had a passion for drawing and languages.
On the 22-year-old's death, the statement read: "He trusted people too much - that cost him his life. Losing Gabriel was the single hardest thing for our family.
"I had lost my father two years before losing my brother and it was hard but I knew my father had lived a full life. My brother never had this chance and it was so much harder to lose him because of that."
Mr Whitworth's body was found in the same graveyard, wrapped in a blue bed sheet in September 2014.
Judge Munro read a suicide note which had been forged by Port and left on the body of Mr Whitworth, who was 21 and from Gravesend.
Jurors heard officers showed Mr Whitworth's next of kin the handwriting, but the family disputes a police claim that they confirmed it as their son's.
In a statement on behalf of his father Adam, Mr Whitworth's stepmother Mandy Pearson paid tribute to a hardworking young man whose priorities were in the right place.
His grandmother Barbara Whitworth described Mr Whitworth as an ambitious, loving person with his whole life ahead of him.
A statement by Daniel's boyfriend Ricky Waumsley explained how the couple were planning to buy a property and thinking about marriage.
"He was literally my world. He was my first boyfriend and my first love," Mr Waumsley's statement said.
Mr Taylor's body was found in September 2015 near St Margaret's Church.
CCTV footage showed Mr Taylor, 25, getting dropped off by taxi at Barking Station and meeting a man later identified as Port.
Jurors heard it was a meeting between two officers involved in investigations into Mr Walgate's and Mr Taylor's deaths that led them to link Port to the murders.
Donna Taylor described her brother as a caring, hardworking and vibrant family man.
"Everyone that knew Jack absolutely adored him. He was the heart and soul of our family," she said.
Donna added it was ironic that before his death, Mr Taylor hoped to become a police officer.
Jenny Taylor described how her brother had saved the life of a man he came across in Chadwell Heath who was threatening to kill himself.
"That was our Jack," she said. "There's no amount of words to explain how much he is missed or to describe the pain we go through on a daily basis."
"We will never stop fighting for our Jack," Donna added.
The inquests are scheduled to last from eight to 10 weeks.
Original inquests into the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth resulted in open verdicts, but these were quashed following Port's conviction for murder.