Seventeen officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are being formally investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for their handling of a murder case which turned out to be the work of a serial killer.
Stephen Port: drugged victims
News of the inquiry emerged as Stephen Port, a bus garage chef obsessed with having sex with unconscious, younger men, was found guilty at the Old Bailey of four counts of murder.
Port, 41, was accused of luring young men to his flat in Barking, east London after meeting them on a number of gay dating websites including Grindr.
Port murdered Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, Jack Taylor, 25 and Anthony Walgate, 23, all of whom died of fatal overdoses of date-rape drug GHB. P
ort dumped the bodies of his victims in or near a graveyard within 500 metres of his flat in Barking, east London.
Crippled by shyness, Port began wearing a blonde wig to increase his confidence and lied about his age to attract young men online. He was obsessed with drug-rape pornography, searching the web for phrases such as 'gay teen knocked out' and making his own disturbing movies in which he used sexual partners 'like a rag dolls’.
When he could not find a willing partner, Port slipped drugs to his victims in drinks or injected GHB into their backsides.
Port had first come to the attention of police in June 2014 when he was seen with a young man who had collapsed at Barking Station. Despite admitting they had both taken illegal drugs, no complaint was made and Port was allowed to leave.
Two weeks later, Port made a 999 call to report a man - Anthony Walgate - outside his block of flats, who he claimed, had collapsed.
Following an investigation, Port admitted he had taken Mr Walgate back to his flat as an escort and they had sex. He was convicted of perverting the course of justice and jailed.
Before he went to prison however, two more young men, Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth, were found dead in nearby St Margaret's Church in August and September 2014, 400 yards from Port's home, but the deaths were not investigated as possible murders.
Port had left a fake suicide note in Mr Whitworth's hand, framing him for involvement in Mr Kovari's death and saying he had killed himself because he couldn't live with the guilt. Port also used social media to suggest links between Mr Whitworth and Mr Kovari, although the pair may have never met.
The fourth murder came three months after Port was released from prison, when Jack Taylor was found propped up against the wall of Abbey Green, close to Port's flat and St Margaret's Church. Following his murder, Port disposed of Mr Taylor's mobile phone and deleted their communication on the dating app.
Despite the similarities to the three other deaths in the area over the preceding 15 months, it was treated as non-suspicious because there were no signs of wounds or drug use on his body.
Members of Mr Taylor’s family say they were forced to investigate the crimes themselves and it was they who spotted the similarities between the deaths. They have called for officers to be held accountable.
Following Port's arrest, the MPS announced it had referred itself to the IPCC in relation to its handling of the case. MPS Commander Stuart Cundy has refused to comment fully until the IPCC investigation is concluded, but says it appears 'opportunities were missed' in bringing Port to justice.
Port was also found guilty of sex attacks on six other victims. He showed no emotion in the dock at the Old Bailey as he was convicted of three counts of murder, seven counts of administering a poison, three rapes and three counts of assault by penetration.
He is believed to have had other sex attack victims, who they are urging to come forward. They are also reviewing 58 other deaths in the capital linked to the drug GHB. Port will be sentenced on Friday.