Met Police face legal action over 'mindblowing' failings during Stephen Port investigation

10 December 2021, 15:52 | Updated: 10 December 2021, 23:34

The family of Stephen Port's victims have called for Cressida Dick to resign
The family of Stephen Port's victims have called for Cressida Dick to resign. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Metropolitan Police is facing legal action over its "mindblowing" failings during the investigations into the deaths of Stephen Port's victims.

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A group of London MPs are also calling for a public inquiry into claims of institutional homophobia in the Metropolitan Police after an inquest concluded that failures by officers investigating the victims of serial killer Stephen Port probably cost lives.

Dame Margaret Hodge said she and 17 other signatories had written to Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick "to demand a public inquiry considers whether the Met is institutionally homophobic".

It comes after Dame Margaret, Labour MP for Barking, was told by the Met that an inquiry into the issue was not being proposed, according to the letter.

The letter says: "The police have admitted their mistakes, instituted new protocols, and emphasised that a lack of resources was to blame.

"However, resourcing alone does not explain the sheer number of failures by the police in this matter.

"The key question everyone is asking is yet to be answered - whether institutional homophobia in the Met played a role in these investigations."

The letter concludes that it is "imperative that a public inquiry takes place urgently to consider if institutional homophobia played a role in this case".

Serial killer Port murdered Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor after he plied them with fatal doses of the "date rape" drug GHB.

Despite the striking similarities in their deaths, with the bodies of three victims found at the same graveyard, police initially failed to link the deaths between June 2014 and September 2015.

The "Grindr killer" also went on to sexually assault more than a dozen other men and the victims families have since accused the Met of "institutional homophobia".

During an inquest today, jurors ruled that "omissions and failures" in the Specialist Crime and Operations teams "cannot be overlooked" as they allowed for missed opportunities and enabled Port to continue his offending.

They said the Murder Investigation Team missed the opportunity to take over the case, which "may have led to the earlier capture of the male responsible".

It was revealed that seventeen officers were investigated by watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), and nine were found to have performance failings.

None of the nine were disciplined or lost their jobs, and five have since been promoted.

In a statement, IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: "We are examining if anything was said by the officers who gave evidence during the inquests which could alter our findings and give grounds to reopen our investigation."

The inquest findings left loved ones of the victims accusing the Metropolitan Police of homophobia over the bungled investigations into their murders.

Mr Walgate's mother Sarah Sak said confirmation that police mistakes likely contributed to the later deaths was a "massive victory".

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."

Ms Sak also said the evidence put before the jury exposed "complete and utter chaos in the police force".

"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."

John Pape, a friend of the second victim Gabriel Kovari, blamed "institutional homophobia" for police failings rather than the force simply being over-stretched.

He told the inquests: "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."

The partner of one victim also called for Cressida Dick to resign.

Helen Ball, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "(The jury) have also found the deaths of three of those young men (Mr Kovari, Mr Whitworth and Mr Taylor) could probably have been prevented had the initial police responses and investigations been better.

"It is a devastating finding.

"We are deeply sorry there were failings in the police investigations, and the responses to their murders.

"I give my own and the Met's heartfelt apologies.

Ms Ball said she and Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick have offered to meet personally with the victims' loved ones to hear the concerns.

She added: "We have been working to rebuild trust in the Met for some time - we completely accept people's trust in us has been damaged by a number of recent events.

"What has happened in connection with each of the deaths of these four young men is part of that damage, and we know has a particular impact in communities local to Barking and LGBT+ communities across London.

"It is very important now to show that we are trustworthy, that we care, that we have changed, and that we are learning."

Civil claims have been lodged by relatives against the force, but no further details have yet been made available.