One of England’s most senior police officers has apologised to the families of Stephen Port’s victims, saying he was “deeply sorry” there were a number of opportunities missed to arrest the drug-rape predator.
Failure to protect
Deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy was not in the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) during Port’s 16-month killing spree in 2014 and 2015 but led the review of the investigations into the deaths of four young gay men in Barking, East London. He highlighted five issues raised over the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor.
Giving evidence on 19 November at inquests examining whether the victims could have been saved if police had acted differently, Cundy said:
Every single one of you absolutely had a right to expect a professional investigation to the standards all of us expected.
It’s fair to say those standards weren’t met.
Inquest jurors heard Cundy’s review highlighted concerns over the quality of the initial investigations and the “professional curiosity” of those involved, as well as over police leadership, direction, and support to officers. He also raised concerns over the interactions between local policing and specialist crime investigators, the understanding of the use of the GHB drug – which Port fatally plied to his victims before dumping their bodies – and a lack of engagement with the LGBTQI+ community.
Addressing the victims’ loved ones, Cundy said:
I can’t imagine putting myself in your shoes.
I am deeply sorry – personally and on behalf of the MPS – that we didn’t conduct the initial investigations to the standard you expected and the standard you deserved.
He said it was “a matter of personal disappointment” that things were not done as they should have been. Cundy added: “Please accept my sincerest apologies.”
Evidence went unheeded
The inquests previously heard accusations that police ignored intelligence, including from the victims’ family members and friends, that led to Port, and that the Metropolitan Police murder squad turned down requests from the borough officers to take over the investigations. There were substantial delays in analysing evidence on Port’s laptop, seized after he was initially arrested over Walgate’s death.
There was also evidence that the local policing team was overworked as a result of cuts following the 2010 government spending review and did not have the specialist officers to investigate homicides.
Port, now 46, a former escort and bus depot chef, will die behind bars after being given a whole-life jail sentence for murdering Walgate, 23, Kovari, 22, Whitworth, 21, and Taylor, 25.
The inquests continue.
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