20 October 2021

Murder team’s refusal to take on Stephen Port probe ‘not the answer we wanted’

20 October 2021

A senior police officer involved in the investigation into serial killer Stephen Port’s first victim has signalled his disappointment that the Metropolitan Police’s murder investigation team (MIT) turned down a request to take over the “complex” case.

Temporary Superintendent Mike Hamer was so suspicious of Port’s potential involvement in the unexplained death of 23-year-old Anthony Walgate that he emailed colleagues a week into the inquiry, stating it might be a case of “if and when” Port was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Unbeknown to police at the time, 6ft 5in Port arranged to meet fashion student Mr Walgate for sex at his flat in Barking, east London, on June 17 2014, where he plied him with a fatal amount of drugs before dumping his body outside two days later and calling police, pretending to be a passer-by.

Bus depot chef Port was only charged with murder the following year when police eventually linked the case of Mr Walgate with the deaths of three other young, gay men, who were found dead in public areas near Port’s flat, all with vast quantities of the drug GHB in their systems.

Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor, Anthony Walgate and Gabriel Kovari were killed by Stephen Port (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

Jurors at the inquest into their deaths are being asked to assess whether the victims’ lives could have been saved had police acted differently.

Mr Hamer was asked four times by Beatrice Collier, counsel to the inquest, whether he was satisfied that the borough’s request to have the investigation taken over by the more experienced MIT was refused.

Mr Hamer, giving evidence at Barking Town Hall on Wednesday, eventually replied: “It’s not the answer we wanted.”

Murder detectives turned down the case because evidence was not deemed strong enough to suggest the case was a homicide and so it continued to be treated as an unexplained death, the inquest heard.

Mr Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, were all murdered during a 16-month period between June 2014 and September 2015.

The location outside Stephen Port’s former flat in Cooke Street, Barking, east London, where the body of his first victim, fashion student Anthony Walgate, was found (Emily Pennink/PA) (PA Wire)

Port, now 46, was handed a whole life prison term in 2016 upon conviction.

Police giving evidence to the inquest have previously apologised for a series of failings, including not sharing intelligence with colleagues about a previous allegation against the suspect, not instructing a search on the police national database about him, and not sending his laptop off for scrutiny until nearly a year after he first struck.

The inquest continues.

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