'Not a matter of shifting blame': Port victim's family receives another apology from detectives on case

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

Another detective who worked on the investigation into the death of Stephen Port's first murder victim has apologised to family members during the inquest into his death.

Acting Det Insp Eugene McCarthy said he wanted to "genuinely apologise" for failings in the probe into 23-year-old Anthony Walgate's death, which meant Port was able to go on to kill three more young men.

Mr McCarthy headed a team of officers looking into the death of the fashion student, who worked sporadically as a sex worker and arranged to meet Port, now aged 46, in June 2014.

The inquest heard Mr McCarthy met with the Metropolitan Police murder investigation team (MIT) days after Mr Walgate's body was found to ask them to take the lead on the case but his request was declined.

Murder detectives turned down the case because evidence was not deemed strong enough to suggest the death was a homicide and so it continued to be treated as unexplained, the inquest heard.

The MIT made a number of recommendations which Mr McCarthy delegated to his junior, Det Sgt Martin O'Donnell, in a handover but did not have any more meetings about the investigation, he told an inquest jury.

It later transpired neither intelligence checks or a full examination of Port's laptop were carried out, the latter of which later revealed internet searches for drug-rape pornography involving young men and boys while arranging to meet escort Mr Walgate.

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Counsel for the family of Mr Walgate asked Mr McCarthy if he was "shifting blame" for the failings, whether he thought the investigation had been "disjointed", and if he accepted criticism about his leadership.

He said: "Was it disjointed at the end of June? I disagree. I accept after that there was no review from an inspector, i.e. myself, I put my hands up, all I can say in that respect... unexplained deaths were investigated by a detective sergeant.

"Could I have done more? If I look now I wish I did step back in. Had I been told no computer had been examined I would have done something about it but it was not raised to me.

"I accept that is very little consolation for the family. I apologise for coming across a bit cold, I don't want to do that."

He added: "It's not a matter of shifting blame, I will be open, honest, and accept any criticism and have tried to answer to that.

"Could I be more proactive about that action? I accept my responsibility there and I would genuinely apologise to the family. But what I would say: I've got to temper that with the referral to the MIT team."

Mr O'Donnell, who worked under Mr McCarthy, previously told jurors he regretted not sharing intelligence with colleagues about a previous allegation that Port plied a young man with drugs before raping him, nor did he instruct a search on the police national database about Port or send a laptop for examination for 10 months.

Port murdered Mr Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, in Barking during a 16-month period between June 2014 and September 2015.

He was found guilty at the Old Bailey in 2016 of the four murders and sentenced to a whole life order.