Homophobia 'not an issue' for jury in Port victims' inquest, coroner rules
Homophobia, discrimination or prejudice on the part of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has been ruled out as an issue in the inquests for the victims of serial killer Stephen Port.
Over 16 months, Port gave four young gay men fatal doses of date rape drug GHB before dumping their bodies near his flat in Barking, East London.
In 2016, Port, now 46, was jailed for life for the murders of Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25.
An inquest at Barking Town Hall has been considering whether MPS failings in the wake of Mr Walgate’s killing contributed to the subsequent deaths.
On Thursday (December 2), coroner Sarah Munro QC ruled out homophobia as an issue for the jury to consider in its conclusions.
She told jurors: “I direct that you cannot find that prejudice or homophobia or discrimination on the part of the police made any contribution to the deaths. I have ruled as a matter of law those are matters on which you may not express any views.”
The coroner went on to outline a series of questions for the jury to answer.
Jurors were told to confirm basic facts dealing with who the victim was, when, where and how they died.
Ms Munro directed the jury to make a “short-form” conclusion of unlawful killing for each death.
Jurors will also look at the police investigations that followed the death of Port’s first victim, fashion student Mr Walgate, from Hull.
Ms Munro said: “You will need to consider whether or not in your view certain features of the three investigations that followed on the discovery of each of the bodies of Anthony, Gabriel and Daniel contributed to the deaths of Port’s subsequent victims.”
They included any “error, omission or circumstance” that either probably or may have contributed to deaths, Ms Munro said.
Potential issues in the Walgate investigation included intelligence checks on Port, who had a previous rape allegation against him, and the examination of his laptop.
The second and third victims, Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth, were found dead by the same dog walker in St Margaret’s graveyard within the space of a few weeks.
Potential failings in the investigations into their deaths included checks on a fake suicide note planted on Mr Whitworth’s body.
Jurors were also invited to look at the adequacy of the forensic examination of the scene, engagement with the LGBT community, and whether or not officers could have done more to consider links between the deaths.
Ms Munro warned against the dangers of “hindsight”, saying the jury should make every effort to be fair to the officers involved in the investigations.
Earlier in the inquest proceedings, the partner of Port’s youngest victim claimed he was “pushed out” by police investigating his boyfriend’s death because the pair were an unmarried gay couple.
Ricky Waumsley told the inquest into Daniel Whitworth’s death that he felt excluded by detectives and was not allowed to see an apparent suicide note left by the young chef until the year after he was found dead.
“If it was a straight couple I wouldn’t have been pushed out as much as I was at the time. They dismissed me in every single way. I believe, and I stand by it, it was because we were a gay unmarried couple.”
The MPS has apologied to the families of the victims for the poor quality of its initial investigation.