Inquest findings deemed ‘massive victory’ by mother of Port’s first victim
The mother of serial killer Stephen Port’s first victim has claimed a “massive victory” as an inquest found police mistakes “probably” cost lives.
The body of fashion student Anthony Walgate, 23, was dumped outside Port’s flat in Barking in June 2014.
Port spun a web of lies to police, whose failure to properly investigate allowed him to carry on attacking young gay men for 16 months.
He killed Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, before being caught and convicted of the murders.
Mr Walgate’s mother Sarah Sak said confirmation that police mistakes likely contributed to the later deaths was “massive”.
She told the PA news agency: “For them, the jury, to come back and say how they messed up Anthony’s investigation and had they have done it right it would have saved the other three boys, I think that will be for us a massive victory. It will prove we were right all this time.”
Early on, police wrongly decided that her son was a “druggie student”, Mrs Sak claimed.
She said: “It did not matter what his family, his friends, anybody said, I think right from the very beginning they made their minds up and that was it.”
The investigation was “shut down” quickly without proper checks on Port’s background or attempts to verify his fake account.
There was an overall lack of “basic policing”, she said: “Had that been done, three lads would not have died. Plain and simple as that.”
Recalling her feelings at the time, she said: “I found it incredibly frustrating and upsetting.
“I kept speaking to the liaison officer saying ‘have you looked at his laptop, have you looked for his phone – he’s a young lad, he would not go anywhere without his phone. Have you spoken to his friends?’
“I literally got shut down every single time with ‘it’s not suspicious, it’s unexplained’.
“I just felt like screaming because nobody would listen.
“What really scares me more than anything is if I had not been so vocal – and the Taylor family – he would just have gone on and on.
“He was literally playing Russian roulette with these young gay lads. Some died and some did not and he would have carried on and on.”
The evidence before the jury exposed “complete and utter chaos in the police force”, she said.
“It’s like you cannot just say it was that failing, or that was not done, there is so much of it.”
She also criticised the leadership, saying: “It was just like everybody doing their own little bit but not doing enough, not joining the dots, and not speaking to each other.”
Mrs Sak said she was “disappointed” when the coroner ruled out underlying prejudice.
Even though officers denied they were biased, Mrs Sak insisted: “I think it was the fact he was a young gay lad.
“If Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack had been girls found in such close proximity there would have been an outcry. There would have been a lot more investigation – and there just wasn’t.
“I genuinely do believe part of that was homophobia.”
She called for the police watchdog to reopen its investigation.
Some officers deserved to be sacked for “mindblowing” failings, such as not contacting Mr Kovari’s bereaved family, she said.
By contrast, the team who eventually brought Port to justice was the “gold standard”.
Even though Mr Walgate was the first to be murdered, Mrs Sak believes his death could have been avoided if others came forward to report abuse earlier.
More needs to be done to engage with the LGBT community and make it easier for male victims to report attacks, she said.
She added: “I still think there are some of his (Port’s) rape victims out there that have not come forward. He really, literally, thought he was invincible.”
Throughout the inquest, the victims’ families supported each other, sometimes with a simple squeeze of the hand.
Mrs Sak revealed they would also switch seats in Barking Town Hall so they could be seen on the video screens as particular officers gave evidence.
Even though the inquest was delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis, it was worth waiting to have a jury of “everyday normal people” to hear the case, she said.
Summing up her experience of the inquest, Mrs Sak said: “At some points it made me quite angry and at other points it was quite upsetting and it still does not change the fact that he was my son and that’s who he was.”
She wants him to be remembered as the “young crazy fashion designer that he always thought he was going be”.
Mrs Sak said: “He always said he would get his name up in lights, he would be famous.
“Every time he wanted to borrow money he used to say ‘I’ll pay you back when I’m famous, don’t worry, when I’m there everybody will know my name’.
“The thing is they do now – but for the wrong reasons.”
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