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POLICE mistakes “probably” contributed to the deaths of serial killer Stephen Port’s victims, an inquest jury found today, with the victims’ loved ones accusing the Met of “institutional homophobia.”
Officers in Barking, east London, missed repeated opportunities to catch the sexual predator after he plied first victim Anthony Walgate with a fatal dose of date-rape drug GHB and dumped his body.
Port struck three more times before he was caught, killing each of his young, gay, male victims in near-identical circumstances.
But police failed to link him to the deaths despite detective work carried out by the victims’ family and friends that would lead them to the culprit.
Jurors at the inquests into the deaths of Mr Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21 and 25-year-old Jack Taylor, concluded that police failings “probably” contributed to the deaths of his victims.
In written conclusions, the jury acknowledged officers’ “heavy workload” but said there were failures that “cannot be overlooked.”
Acknowledging the root-and-branch nature of the mistakes, which originated from the Walgate investigation, the jury said: “We believe there were fundamental failures in these investigations, which were at a basic level.”
However, the jurors were told they could not consider prejudice on legal grounds.
The coroner, Sarah Munro QC, said she would write a prevention of future deaths report, to be published in the new year, adding: “These inquests, on any view, have raised a number of serious concerns.”
It followed weeks of hearings at Barking Town Hall in which police admitted failing to carry out basic checks, send evidence to be forensically examined, or exercise professional curiosity during the 16-month killing spree, from June 2014 to September 2015.
John Pape, a friend of the second victim Gabriel Kovari, blamed “institutional homophobia” for police failings rather than the force simply being overstretched.
Sarah Sak, Mr Walgate’s mother, said: “If Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack had been girls found in such close proximity there would have been an outcry.
“There would have been a lot more investigation – and there just wasn’t.
“I genuinely do believe part of that was homophobia.”
Met Police assistant commissioner Helen Ball described the findings as “devastating” and apologised for the failings, but said: “I don’t think the Met is institutionally homophobic.
“I do think we had failings in our investigations.”
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