Stephen Port: Victims' inquests delayed until autumn by Covid
- Credit: MPS
The inquests into the deaths of four men who were murdered by Barking serial killer Stephen Port have been delayed until October.
The hearings were due to start on January 7 but the coroner, Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC, has pushed the date back to the autumn because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Neil Hudgell, who represents the men's relatives, said: "The families have already endured a long wait for these inquests.
"Understandably, they’re very disappointed by a further 10-month delay but they know that public health concerns are paramount.
"They will of course be ready to assist the coroner when the inquests start in October."
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Port, who is now 45, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison 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.
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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.
A focus of the inquest is expected to be on possible police failings as to why Port was not stopped sooner.
In a written ruling dated January 5, Judge Munro expressed "great regret" at having to adjourn the inquests, but pointed to the high level of positive Covid cases in the borough, London and south-east at the time.
The judge also explained how the chances of the inquests reaching a conclusion would be "minimal" because of the "high" likelihood members of the jury would need to self-isolate.
The difficulty of guaranteeing people's safety while travelling to and from Barking, where the inquests are due to take place, and the highly transmissible strain of the virus were also among the reasons to postpone.
Judge Munro said in the statement: "Having considered all the circumstances with care, I concluded that, due to the current situation with the Covid pandemic, there was no safe nor satisfactory alternative to me adjourning".
The inquests are due to start at Barking Town Hall on October 4.