Four Lives: Mum of Stephen Port victim depicted by Sheridan Smith warns police failings ‘will keep happening’

Sarah Sak, whose 23-year-old son Anthony Walgate was the first victim of Grindr serial killer Stephen Port, spoke to LondonWorld as the BBC drama into the police investigation called Four Lives airs.

The mother of Anthony Walgate, the first victim of Grindr serial killer Stephen Port, has warned the police failings depicted in BBC drama Four Lives “will keep happening” without further inquiry.

Sarah Sak, whose 23-year-old son Anthony was the first of four young gay men to be drugged and murdered by Barking killer Port, has spoken out as the BBC drama depicting the police investigation into the deaths is broadcast.

Ms Sak is played by Sheridan Smith in the show, while Port, who is now serving a whole-life sentence, is depicted by Stephen Merchant.

Sarah Sak with her son Anthony as a child. Photo: Supplied

Port met his victims on gay and bisexual dating apps, and lured them to his flat where he drugged and raped them.

He gave them lethal doses of the date rape drug GHB, and dumped their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.

As well as Anthony, Port murdered Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, between 2014 and 2015.

An inquest last month found that police failed to link the deaths and fully assess crucial evidence, which contributed to three of the four murders.

Stephen Port’s victims (L-R): Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor. Credit: Met Police

Sarah, 55, of Hull, told LondonWorld she backed calls by MPs for a public inquiry into the scandal, which the Metropolitan Police have repeatedly been forced to apologise for.

She said: “I just think now the police have all just got away with it all. Quite a few of them have been promoted since all this.

“They have to be held accountable. They have to because it’ll just keep happening if not.”

And she added: “So much more came to light at the inquest. It needs looking at again.

“It can’t just be brushed under the carpet, when the show’s finished and it’s all died down and everybody forgets about it. Because it’ll just keep happening if not.”

Sarah Sak, pictured with the other families at the press conference following the inquest conclusions. Photo: LondonWorld

The stark warning came after MPs, including Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, wrote to the Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick demanding a public inquiry into whether the Met is institutionally homophobic" - a question the inquest jury were instructed not to consider.

Speaking to LondonWorld, Sarah said she believed the Met were institutionally homophobic during the investigations, and that there is a wider problem within the force.

“I’ve always said and I always will say, if them four had been girls it would have been totally different,” she said.

“It wasn’t just the families, there was John Pape, and the gay community, trying to get them to do something as well.

“I was quite upset about [the jury being told not to consider it].

“Why would the Met Police fight it so much, getting that question left out, if they had nothing to hide; if they didn’t think a jury of everyday people would think they were homophobic?”

Sheridan Smith, as Sarah Sak, in BBC drama Four Lives. Photo: BBC

Of the new BBC drama, Sarah, played by Gavin and Stacey star Sheridan Smith, said the families were asked for their input “all the way through” its creation.

“I’m very happy with it and I think they did a marvellous job,” she said.

“A few friends have watched it and got in touch to say they can’t believe it.

“I said: ‘it was a lot worse than all that’.

“Sheridan did a brilliant job. The first time I met her was for about two hours for a cup of tea and a chat. She got me down to a tee, even my swearing.

“It shows how our lives were while all this was going on.”

Stephen Merchant as killer Stephen Port in BBC drama Four Lives. Photo: BBC

A major frustration for Sarah during the investigation was the family liaison officer pronouncing Anthony’s name wrong.

She said: “It got to the point where I was practically screaming down the phone to them to at least have a bit of respect and get his name right.

“It makes me cringe when people do that. I don’t even know how many times I told him it’s Anth-ony, it’s not An-tony, and in the next breath he’d say it again.

“I just thought it was so disrespectful, and it showed their attitudes. They couldn’t care less - and couldn’t care less that it was upsetting me.”

Sheridan Smith, as Sarah Sak, in Four Lives. Photo: BBC

Another emotional moment was meeting young actor, Tim Preston, cast as Anthony, who Sarah said was “painfully shy” as a child who came into himself studying fashion in London.

“He was so shy when he was younger,” she said.

“He’d never even play outside.

“It wasn’t really until he went to London that he blossomed - he was finding himself.

“He was just a really funny lad, he liked to gossip, and was constantly on the phone to me to find out what was going on back in Hull.

Anthony Walgate had moved from Hull to London to study fashion

“Anthony was determined he was going to be a fashion designer and get his name up in lights and he probably would have been successful, he was that dedicated. He had his whole life ahead of him and could literally have been anything he wanted to be.”

Sarah continued: “When I met Tim, when I went to the filming of the fashion show, he came running up to me with his arms waving and gave me a hug and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

“He had his mannerisms and everything.

“It was literally what Anthony would have done, getting up on the stage.

“He was perfect, how he got him. It was very emotional meeting him.”

The inquest, which concluded last month in Barking Town Hall, close to where Port’s crimes took place, was a major milestone in the families’ fight for justice.

Sarah said: “I was absolutely over the moon with the verdict. It proved the officers just sat there and it showed what they all were.

“Most of them were lying and they were incompetent, and lazy. I actually felt like jumping up and shouting ‘yeah’ when the verdict came through.

“I said to Donna and Jenny, Jack Taylor’s sisters, that they shouldn’t be sitting there.

“By the time it had got to Jack, it was just a joke that they couldn’t put it all together.

“It has been a long, long seven and a half years to get to this point.”

The second episode of Four Lives is on BBC One at 9pm tonight, and the whole series is available on the BBC iPlayer.