Stephen Port: Police admit missing chances to catch ‘voracious’ Barking serial killer
- Credit: PA
Seventeen police officers face investigation for possible misconduct over the catalogue of failures in catching serial killer Stephen Port – as the Met admitted there may more victims out there.
Scotland Yard bosses admitted “potential opportunities” were missed and investigators failed to see “striking similarities” between the deaths of four men had patchy knowledge of drug use in gay sex.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating whether homophobia contributed to errors and the Met’s advisers from the gay community have called on the force to deal with “any systemic or cultural issues” that may have come into play.
Some of the victims’ loved ones, members of the Met’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) independent advisory group and journalists from the Post and website Pink News raised concerns a serial killer was at large and were all told there was no link between the deaths.
The original investigations into how the four men died were dealt with by officers based in Barking and Dagenham who failed to spot foul play.
The force is now re-examining 58 unexplained deaths involving the drug GHB from a four-year period across London to make sure foul play wasn’t missed in other cases.
In the case of the first victim, Anthony Walgate, and the third, Daniel Whitworth, local officers called out specialist homicide investigators for advice, who also missed signs something suspicious had happened.
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Commander Stuart Cundy, who leads the Met’s Specialist Crime and Operations Command, admitted “potential opportunities” were missed to arrest and charge Port earlier, but stopped short of apologising to the families of the men affected.
The family of Jack Taylor, the fourth man to die at Port’s hands, plan to sue Scotland Yard and say Port would not have been stopped if they had not fought for a full investigation.
Mr Cundy said: “In terms of an apology for any victim or the family of those who have died at the hands of Stephen Port, my heart goes out to them.
“The surviving victims were exceptionally brave giving evidence at trial, but the trauma of what they have suffered will stick with them.
“It’s not appropriate to pre-empt what the IPCC may or may not find from their investigation at this point in time but, rest assured, we’re not sitting here waiting for those findings to come through. We’ve already taken action in areas where we know we could have done better.
“I can’t sit here and say categorically that lives could have been saved or other victims protected. All I can say is from the evidence we’ve heard at trial there were potential opportunities that were missed.”
He insisted work was being done to improve officers’ understanding of “chemsex” – when gay men take drugs before sex – and to ensure frontline police can spot suspicious deaths.
Scotland Yard’s LGBT Independent Advisory Group (IAG) said: “The IPCC report may take some time to be delivered and it is right it will deal with matters of individual conduct. We welcome the admission by the police that opportunities were missed.
“The police must demonstrate without delay a commitment to addressing any systemic or cultural issues that may have contributed to these sad events.”
Investigators appealed for any other men who may have been sexually assaulted or raped by Port to come forward.
Detective Chief Inspector Tim Duffield, who led the successful Port homicide investigation and has been an officer for 28 years, said: “Stephen Port is probably one of the most dangerous individuals I’ve encountered.
“He’s a voracious sexual predator who appears to have been fixated, nay obsessed, with surreptitiously drugging young, often vulnerable men for the exclusive purpose of rape.
“From what we’ve seen as an investigation team, this is a highly devious, manipulative and self-obsessed individual.
“He has never once shown a shred of remorse for his victims or indeed their families.”