Judge to consider what to do if witnesses refuse to answer questions about Stephen Port murder investigations
- Credit: Archant
A judge is to consider what to do if witnesses refuse to answer questions about investigations into murders committed by a Barking serial killer.
Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro was asked at the Old Bailey on Friday, July 10 to look into the matter after some officers refused to answer questions during a probe by watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into the Met’s handling of Stephen Port’s murders.
Port, 45, was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey in November 2016 for the murders of Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Anthony Walgate and Jack Taylor.
All four were drugged with GHB and raped by Port before being dumped near his home in Cooke Street.
The original inquests into the deaths of Mr Kovari, 22, from Slovakia, and Mr Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, were quashed following Port’s murder conviction.
The deaths of Mr Walgate, 23, from Hull, and Mr Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, were originally treated as non-suspicious.
Judge Munro is due to preside over a fresh inquest into all four deaths which is scheduled for January 2021.
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Dr Anton van Dellen, who represents Mr Whitworth’s former partner Ricky Waumsley, said in court that a number of officers provided statements, but declined to answer certain questions posed by the IOPC.
“What I am attempting to do is ensure that that isn’t repeated during the currency of an inquest,” he added.
He explained it would be best to flush out beforehand whether any witnesses were inclined to exercise their right not to answer, in a bid to prevent bringing the hearings to “a crashing halt”.
“The prospect of that is deeply unattractive,” he said.
Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel to the inquests, said it potentially presented a “very serious matter” which could have a “serious” impact.
Judge Munro said she would consider the matter.
In addition, Mr O’Connor told the court evidence linked to the separate investigation into the death of Mr Taylor, who was the last to be killed by Port, should be heard because it could highlight failings in the earlier investigations.
Peter Skelton QC, representing the Met, said: “There may be evidence in the Taylor investigation which may prove useful.”
Judge Munro, who is acting as assistant coroner for east London, suggested the next pre-inquest review to decide on the scope of the inquest could be held in September.