IOPC could reopen Met Police enquiry into serial killer Stephen Port after damning inquests

Officers who investigated the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor, who were murdered by Port in 2014 and 2015, were assessed by the forces’ complaints body in 2018 with some found to be below the standard required.

Murder enquiries into the deaths of Stephen Port’s four victims could be reinvestigated by the police watchdog.

Officers who investigated the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor, who were murdered by Port in 2014 and 2015, were assessed by the forces’ complaints body in 2018 with some found to be below the standard required.

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Jurors concluded police failings “probably” contributed to the deaths of Port’s second, third and fourth victim, following an inquest held at Barking Town Hall, yards from where their bodies were found.

Following the conclusions last week, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said it is “assessing whether to reopen” its examination of the original investigations done by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), which saw officers fail to link the men’s deaths.

Graham Beesley, regional director, said: “Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.

“We recognise how distressing it will have been to revisit the deaths of their loved ones over the past few months.

“As the inquest has progressed, we have been assessing whether to reopen - either in full or in part - our investigation into the way the MPS handled inquiries into their deaths, and that process is on-going.

“We can reopen an investigation where there are compelling reasons to do so.

“Those reasons could arise if new information has a real possibility of affecting our decisions and findings and is in the public interest.”

  • The investigation, which concluded in August 2018, found no gross misconduct.
  • Seventeen officers were investigated, and found nine were “below the standard required”.
  • Two officers underwent formal unsatisfactory performance procedures, while seven received feedback from their managers.
  • The remaining eight had no case to answer for misconduct - and just one underwent informal learning to improve their police work.
  • All but one officer refused to comment during their interviews with the watchdog, and provided written responses instead.

Mr Beesley said: “We are examining if anything was said by the officers who gave evidence during the inquests which could alter our findings and give grounds to re-open our investigation.

“In line with our our policy on re-opening investigations, and given the significant impact any decision may have on all of those involved, we will be seeking representations from all affected parties.

“Our investigation report and a separate report focusing on organisational learning recommendations will be published at the conclusion of all proceedings.”

Speaking after the inquest conclusions on Friday, December 10, lawyer Neil Hudgell, on behalf of the victims’ families said: “The jury has been unanimous in identifying fundamental failings and basic errors in the investigation into Anthony’s death which meant that Port was not stopped, and was allowed to carry on with his terrible acts.

“We continue to believe that had the police done their jobs properly in the first place, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack would not have been killed and other young men would not have been drugged and raped by him.”

“Based on the treatment we received, our firmly held belief is that the Metropolitan Police’s actions were, in part, driven by homophobia.

“Had four, white, heterosexual girls been found dead in the same manner as Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack, then the police’s actions, and the likely outcomes, would have been different.”

And Met assistant commissioner Helen Ball said: “After hearing seven weeks of detailed evidence, an inquest jury has determined that Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor were unlawfully killed.

“They have also found that the deaths of three of those young men – Gabriel, Daniel and Jack – could probably have been prevented had the initial police responses and investigations been better.

“It is a devastating finding. Our thoughts are with everybody who loved these young men.

“We are so sorry for their loss. And we’re also deeply sorry that there were failings in the police response to the murders. I give my own and the Met’s heartfelt apologies.”

She added: “We want to give the families, and Daniel’s partner, the opportunity to talk to us so we can listen to their views and concerns. The Commissioner has offered to meet them personally, as have I, and we will take this forward according to their wishes.

“The whole of the Met is committed to improving our investigations, our relationships and the trust people have in us.

“As a direct result of Port’s offences we have a much clearer step by step policy on how we investigate unexplained deaths to ensure we are doing all we should and a far greater understanding of the drug GHB and its use as a weapon to sexually assault.”