Met Police accused of 'institutional homophobia' in Stephen Port case

Under fire Scotland Yard is accused of ‘institutional homophobia’ after officers failed to link murders of four gay men by serial killer Stephen Port

  • Scotland Yard has been accused of ‘institutional homophobia’ at inquests
  • Serial killer Stephen Port murdered four young gay men in Barking, east London
  • John Pape said he had a ‘whirlwind friendship’ with Gabriel Kovari in 2014 
  • He said the Met Police dismissing fears that the murders could be linked
  • Port, 46, was given life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of murder 
  • His victims were Anthony Walgate, Mr Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor   

Scotland Yard has today been accused of ‘institutional homophobia’ for allegedly repeatedly dismissing fears that the murders of four young gay men by serial killer Stephen Port could be linked. 

John Pape, who said he had a ‘whirlwind friendship’ with Slovakian Gabriel Kovari in summer 2014, said he provided the Metropolitan Police with information he thought might link the deaths in Barking, east London.

By September of that year, depraved killer Port had murdered Anthony Walgate, Mr Kovari and Daniel Whitworth by plying them with fatal doses of the drug GHB and dumping their bodies near his home.

At the inquests into the deaths at Barking Town Hall, Mr Pape said he tracked down Mr Kovari’s former boyfriend, Thierry Amodio, who was told by another man – later established to be Port, seeking to distance himself from the investigation – that the men were drugged at orgies involving older men.

But Mr Pape said police seemed to ignore his attempts to provide them with information. It came as the detective appointed to speak with Mr Kovari’s family admitted having never done so, saying she was ‘busy’. 

The allegations are likely to cause a headache for Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, whose tenure has been marked by controversy.

Last week, she was told she could carry the can for Metropolitan Police officers who took pictures of the dead bodies of murder victims Bibaa Henry, 46, and Nicole Smallman, 27, by their grieving mother. 

She has also come calls to quit following the murder of Sarah Everard by depraved cop Wayne Couzens and for thwarting the Daniel Morgan inquiry team’s attempts to access sensitive documents.  

Serial killer Stephen Port (pictured) planted a fake suicide note on his third victim, framing him for the drug-related death of his second victim, an inquest today heard

Two of Port’s four victims were Jack Taylor (left), 25, and Daniel Whitworth (right), 21

Anthony Walgate (left) and Gabriel Kovari (right) were also victims of Port

June 4, 2014: Police find Stephen Port at Barking station in East London with a young man he had drugged who has collapsed. Port admits they had taken illegal drugs but is not arrested.

June 19: Anthony Walgate, 23, given drug overdose and raped by Port who dumps body outside his flat and calls 999, claiming he has found an unconscious man.

June 26: Port suspected of lying to police and charged with perverting the course of justice. Released on bail. He is not accused of murdering Mr Walgate.

August 28: Gabriel Kovari, 22, given an overdose and raped by Port who dumps the body against a graveyard wall.

September 20: Daniel Whitworth, 21, given a drug overdose and raped. Port dumps his body against the same graveyard wall. Mr Whitworth is wearing Mr Kovari’s top and is in a bed-sheet which has Port’s DNA on it.

October 1: Detective Chief Inspector Tony Kirk tells local paper the three deaths within a mile of each other are not being treated as suspicious.

March 23, 2015: Port jailed for perverting the course of justice by lying over Mr Walgate’s death. Released on licence in June with an electronic tag.

June 2015: Inquests into the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth were held, which were later set aside at the High Court in the wake of the murder trial. 

September 13: Jack Taylor, 25, given a drug overdose and raped by Port. Body found next to the same graveyard.

October 15: Port arrested on suspicion of four murders and charged. Later charged with attacks on eight other men.

November 23, 2016: Port is convicted of 22 offences against 11 men, including four murders, four rapes, four assaults by penetration and 10 of administering a substance. He was cleared on three counts of rape. 

November 25: Port is handed a whole-life sentence for the four murders.

Mr Pape told the inquests: ‘I think it’s been said here that the police were underfunded and under emotional strain.

‘But I think, when grieving families, boyfriend and friends are getting close to the truth and trying to raise the alarm 10 months before the Met are even willing to acknowledge the deaths are suspicious, it can’t be a funding issue.

‘What resources did the families and friends have? What emotional strain were we under at that time?

‘The only thing that makes sense about how disturbingly incompetent this investigation was is prejudice.

‘If the lives and deaths of young gay and bi men aren’t treated with significance and respect, I think that amounts to institutional homophobia.’

He said he was told by police at the original inquests for Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth that there was no evidence which suggested the two men knew each other, despite a ‘suicide note’ found on Mr Whitworth’s body taking responsibility for killing Mr Kovari.

It was later established that the note was written by Port and planted on Mr Whitworth’s body to mislead the police.

Mr Pape said he contacted gay charities, the gay press and campaigner Peter Tatchell to explain his concerns, adding: ‘I didn’t trust the police to link it properly.

‘I was concerned about young, gay men in Barking.’

Mr Pape wept as he described hearing that Port had been arrested.

He said: ‘I think I felt a mix of emotions, certainly a kind of anger because it felt like I had these concerns… that an older man might be preying on younger men… and I felt like I hadn’t been listened to.

‘I wish I could go back and tell myself to push it more.’

Peter Skelton QC, counsel for the Metropolitan Police, said officers involved in the case had apologised for the police response, but suggested to Mr Pape that ‘incompetence does not always equate to prejudice’.

Mr Pape replied: ‘I would agree that what happened here was incompetence… But behind that incompetence there has to be a reason why so many people were making such shocking mistakes.’

Detective Constable Jackie Baxter, who was appointed as family liaison officer (FLO) to the Kovaris, admitted she failed to contact them.

She told the inquest jury: ‘I can only put that down to the workload I was working on. That’s no excuse, I know.’

Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel to the inquests, said: ‘You were appointed as the FLO for the Kovari family … the clue is in the name.’

Ms Baxter replied: ‘The problem we had was we had an awful lot of work.

‘I’d not done my job properly by not contacting the Kovari family.’

The inquest also heard that she erroneously referred to Mr Kovari as being from Lithuania, rather than Slovakia, in an email for the coroner. 

She denied Mr O’Connor’s suggestion that she decided she was ‘not going to bother’ to do her job as the FLO due to Mr Kovari being gay, a foreign national, or because his death was linked to drugs.

The 46-year-old, who will spend the rest of his life behind bars for murdering four men and sexually assaulting several others, began taking GHB in late 2013 

She said: ‘I was busy and I know I didn’t do what I was asked to do.’

A Met Police spokesman said: ‘Since Stephen Port’s offences came to light we have worked hard within the Met to improve both our processes and our wider knowledge across the organisation of a range of issues associated with the murders. 

‘We will not prejudge the findings of the inquests but we will review any more improvements the jury and coroner identify that we need to make.

‘It is extremely important to us that members of the LGBT+ communities trust the police and feel confident they are being provided with the best possible service. We welcome the help and support of our independent advisors and a whole range of community partners to help us achieve this.

‘In order not to pre-empt any findings or be seen to influence the inquest in any way the MPS will not be making any further comment until the proceedings have concluded.’

Port, now 46, was given a whole life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of murdering Mr Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21, and final victim Jack Taylor, 25, between June 2014 and September 2015.

The inquests continue.

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