Stephen Port murders: Police failings similar to rapist John Worboys, says minister

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge has called for an inquiry into “institutional homophobia” in the police service.

Failure to link “seemingly obvious patterns of behaviour” in the Stephen Port murder cases was comparable to the case of black cab rapist John Worboys, a minister has admitted.

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Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers did not link or treat the deaths as suspicious until after the fourth murder, despite three bodies being found in the same spot and victims’ families urging them to investigate further.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, December 13, policing minister Kit Malthouse told MPs there had been similar problems in previous cases.

“I have to say this has often been a problem not just for the Met Police but for other police forces where seemingly obvious patterns of behaviour have failed to be linked together in other types of crimes,” he said.

“We did see it earlier in the Met in the case of John Worboys, a serial rapist whose pattern of offending was never pieced together.”

But he said the Met were making changes, including introducing better coordination between officers to analyse cases for any links to other crimes early in the investigative process.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge has called for an inquiry into “institutional homophobia” in the police service.

The Labour MP, who has announced her intention to stand down at the next general election, said: “The premature deaths of four young, gay men who were robbed of their lives is an unspeakable tragedy especially because six years after it happened it has now been publicly conceded that the deaths of three of them could have been avoided if the police had properly investigated the killing of the first victim.

“The litany of police errors is simply horrific.

“From refusal to check the murderer’s laptop because it was too expensive, failure to engage appropriately with the partners and families, failure check the authenticity of a fake suicide note, failure to check CCTV, and the incomprehensible failure to link the deaths when three of the bodies were found in or close to St Margaret’s church in my constituency.

Dame Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking. Photo: Parliament TV

“Does the minister agree with the friends, partners and families that the Metropolitan Police are prejudiced and institutionally homophobic?

“Does he at the very least agree that, given the facts of the cases, homophobia must have been a factor that influenced the actions and inactions of the police?

"In these circumstances will he please order a full public inquiry to examine whether there is institutional homophobia in the police service?"

While shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added: “All our hearts will be with the family and friends of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.

“These were vile murders by a man who targeted young gay men.

“It is incomprehensible that the dots were not joined.

“The families need answers, which they haven’t got right now, on how far homophobia, prejudice or unconscious bias affected this investigation.”

The Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford added: “The Home Office response is too weak given the seriousness of this.

“The policing minister and the home secretary have a responsibility to be relentless in pursuit of the truth.”

Chairwoman Yvette Cooper said it was ‘truly shocking’ how few people have received the compensation they are due (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Mr Malthouse, Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, told the House the inquest had concluded policing standards were not met and the Met had “serious questions to answer”.

He said the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the deputy mayor for policing were responsible for holding the Met Police to account.

He said the force “has assured us they are putting in place significant improvements” and that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) had been commissioned by the deputy mayor to investigate.

“I do agree that this was an unspeakable tragedy,” he said.

“It’s not, I have to say, my experience that the Met Police is institutionally homophobic. There is a job of work to be done to rebuild trust.

"For the avoidance of doubt, these were very obviously horrific gay murders targeted against men because they were gay and driven by who knows what?

"Homophobia, some depraved sexual practice, I do not know - but some monster perpetrated these awful acts against these poor gay men and I am happy to say it without reservation."

He confirmed the government would keep the situation under review but would like to see how the existing reviews conclude.