Stephen Port inquests: Police accused of making stereotype 'assumption'

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Undated handout photo issued by East London Inquests of Anthony Walgate, one

Anthony Walgate, one of the victims of Barking serial killer Stephen Port, with his friend China Dunning. - Credit: PA

Friends of one of Stephen Port’s victims believe police wrongly assumed he had overdosed because he was a gay sex worker, an inquest has heard.

Port, who has been sentenced to life, took the lives of Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, Jack Taylor, 25, and Anthony Walgate, 23, between 2014 and 2015 by drugging them with fatal doses of drug GHB.

Long-awaited inquests into his victims have opened at Barking Town Hall and are being led by Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC.

The inquests are examining whether any of them could have been saved had police acted differently.

China Dunning, who was friends with Mr Walgate - Port's first victim - told the inquest they had discussed the drug GHB in the past and would never have risked taking it.

Fashion student Mr Walgate, 23, was found dead in Barking on June 19, 2014.

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

Giving evidence via videolink from Hong Kong where she lives, Miss Dunning said: “I was convinced that Anthony’s death was suspicious.

“I… just knew that he hadn’t taken drugs himself and overdosed.

“I was convinced that it was the actions of Stephen Port.” 

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Kiera Brennan, who was part of the same circle of friends, also told the court that she “felt strongly” that Port had caused Mr Walgate harm.

Mr Walgate sporadically worked as an escort and had arranged to meet Port, who was using the false name Joe Dean, at his flat in Barking on June 17, 2014.

Miss Dunning reported Mr Walgate missing two days later, along with the name, address and date of birth that Port had provided and a physical description of him.

In September 2014, Miss Dunning told police that if toxicology reports found GHB in his body, she did not believe he would have taken it of his own accord.

When asked about how the police responded to her concerns, Miss Dunning said they “received the information professionally” but she thought they “might have come to the assumption” that as he was young, gay and a sex worker, he would be willing to do drugs.

“I wanted to convince them that they shouldn’t have that stereotype,” she said.

The court was read parts of an earlier statement in which Miss Brennan said the police saw Mr Walgate as “a young boy shagging people for money” and that “when they found out he was an escort, they wrote him off”.

She told the inquest jury today (Wednesday, October 13): “I don’t think it was actively against gay people.

“But I do think there was an unconscious bias and assumptions made because of Anthony’s sexuality, because of the job that Anthony was doing. 

“I definitely think that had an impact on how things were conducted or not conducted.”

Port initially pretended not to know Mr Walgate when questioned by police and was jailed for perverting the course of justice in 2015 for the lies he told relating to the 22-year-old's death.

When Miss Dunning attended court for his sentencing, she, Miss Brennan and Mr Walgate’s stepfather Sammy Sak urged an officer present to examine Port’s laptop, but were told that the procedure was expensive.

Miss Brennan told the court: “We were saying things like there is obviously correspondence between devices, Port must have a laptop, a mobile phone. You must go and get that.

“Why would you not go get that?”

On Monday, October 11, a senior police officer denied "unconscious bias" in the handling of the investigation into Mr Walgate's death.

The inquest continues.