Powered by RedCircle
On the cool cloudy morning of Saturday 20th September 2014, Barbara Denham was taking her border collie, Max, on his daily walk in Barking, East London. They walked through a gate and into the grounds of St Margaret’s Church, as they would usually do but it was then that Barbara noticed a slim young man sitting, sort of propped up, against the churchyard wall. As she got closer, she could barely believe it; the young man was dead.
On the cool cloudy morning of Saturday 20th September 2014, Barbara Denham was taking her border collie, Max, on his daily walk in Barking, East London. They walked through a gate and into the grounds of St Margaret’s Church, as they would usually do but it was then that Barbara noticed a slim young man sitting, sort of propped up, against the churchyard wall. As she got closer, she could barely believe it; the young man was dead.
Now, this would be shocking enough for anyone to stumble across, but just 23 days earlier Barbara, whilst walking her dog Max in the same churchyard had discovered another body of another slim young man, leaning against the same part of the wall in almost the exact same position.
To Barbara, finding these bodies in almost the exact same location and position just weeks apart was very suspicious. But it wasn’t at all suspicious to the police; both deaths had been neatly explained in a note they had found in a plastic wallet that was in the second dead man’s hand. The note said that he, the second man, had intentionally overdosed because he couldn’t continue living with the guilt of having killed the first young man who Barbara had discovered dead in the churchyard.
When the discovery of the second body was reported in the news, a very worried alive man called police and asked if the three men found dead in Barking had been murdered. Police assured him that they hadn’t. The man on the phone hadn’t made a mistake – Barbara hadn’t found the first and second dead young men in Barking, she had found the second and third. The police had made a number of mistakes; all three men had been murdered; by the same man. The first dead young man had been found a five minute walk away from St Margaret’s Church just 3 months earlier He was found right in front of the apartment of the man who had killed him, and this man had even been charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with the death, but police wouldn’t even start to investigate any of the first three men’s deaths as suspicious until the body of a fourth young man was found Barking, right by St Margaret’s church.
Welcome to Turned Up Dead. I’m Fiona. The true crime story I’m going to tell you today is of the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor. Thought there are no details and there’s nothing graphic, this episode does mention rape and suicide. I started in the middle, so let’s go back to the early hours of Thursday June 19th, 2014.
At 4:18am, a man who doesn’t identify himself calls emergency services and informs them of a man collapsed on the ground in front of some flats in Cooke Street, Barking.
Paramedics are the first to arrive at the scene and there they find a young man slumped against a wall in the communal entrance of flats 59-70. It was clear they were too late. A paramedic later reported that the man’s body had felt quote, ‘extremely cold to the touch,’ end quote. He laid a blanket over the man’s body, and reported the death to police as suspicious.
Police at the scene, looking to speak with the man who had dialed 999, first find and speak with his housemate, who was standing outside. Police then enter flat number 62 to find the caller, 41 year-old Stephen Port, asleep in bed.
The deceased man outside his flat was Anthony Walgate, a 23 year-old student who lived in North West London. Anthony was found with the zip of his jeans undone and his underwear inside out and back to front. He was wearing a t-shirt far too big for him and his clothing was pushed up exposing his midriff. Anthony’s phone was missing but there was a black holdall beside him and in that police found a small brown bottle containing a small amount of liquid. This was later tested to be GHB.
GHB is used legally to treat narcolepsy – the chronic sleep disorder that causes extreme tiredness and makes sufferers suddenly fall asleep. However, because of its ability to make users feel euphoric, and reduce people’s inhibitions, it’s often used illegally as a club drug and during sex. But it’s very easy to overdose on GHB which can lead to unconscious – hence it’s darker known use as a date rape drug. Overdosing on GHB can also cause coma, and death.
In the UK, illegal drugs are categorised into three classes, apparently this according to how dangerous a drug is to the user and the impact it can have on society. Class A drugs are supposedly the most dangerous and most harmful drugs, class B drugs are in the middle, and class C drugs are supposedly the least dangerous and least harmful illegal drugs to society in the UK.
In the UK, GHB is currently classed as a class C drug, this does mean it’s illegal to possess or sell but it is on the lowest tier, which may well cause people to believe it’s safer than it really is, I mean, it can kill you, that’s pretty dangerous. Personal possession of GHB could get you up to 2 years in prison, or an unlimited fine or both. Dealing GHB, can get you up to 14 years in prison, or an unlimited fine or both.
Marijuana, however, is classified a class B drug.Which makes no sense to me. Too much weed alone isn’t going to put you in a coma or kill you, and I’ve never heard of it being used to sexually assault people on a regular basis. If, like me, you think these UK drug classes make no sense, and you’ve not heard of a man named Professor David Nutt, please look him, and his research, up.
Back to the story.
Stephen Port was interviewed that day but only as a significant witness. In his witness statement, Port explained how he had got home from his night shift around 4am and found the man collapsed on the floor, blocking his way into his flat. He said that he had slapped the man’s face and the man had “made a gurgling noise” but didn’t wake up. So Port said he sat the man up and moved him out of the way into the position in which he was found, dialed 999, and went inside to bed.
By midday, the leading investigator on the case, Superintendent Mike Hamer of Barking & Dagenham police had made a public statement. He said, quote, “At this early stage we are keeping an open mind with regards to this death that is being treated as unexplained and any information the public can provide will assist us.” End quote.
At this stage, police believed they knew Anthony’s identity, but they hadn’t been able to contact his family.
A post mortem was performed on June 20 which concluded the death as inconclusive and wasn’t able to give an exact time of death. The toxicology results weren’t yet available.
At 8:30 on that same evening, Stephen Port appeared on UK Celebrity Masterchef alongside a TV soap actress and a member of a r&b group. The popular TV show involved a challenge during which the celebrity contestants helped prepare and serve meals to bus drivers at a bus garage in East London. This was where Port worked as a chef.
Anthony Walgate’s mother, Sarah, was on holiday in Turkey at the time of his death so it wasn’t until the evening of Sunday June 22nd that she was informed of her son’s death. She flew back to the UK immediately. In the BBC Documentary about the killings, she described the flight as a blur.
Once back in the UK, Sarah told Barking & Dagenham police that her son’s death was suspicious. She told her local newspaper, ‘Straight away I told police that I was 150 per cent sure it will not have been drink or drugs. He wouldn’t touch beer. He would drink cocktails or wine. That was his thing.’ She asked the police to track Anthony’s phone which Sarah said they didn’t do because it was too expensive.
When Anthony’s toxicology results came in, they identified the cause of death to be GHB intoxication.
A week after Anthony Walgate’s body was found, a close friend of his called police. He told them that Anthony occasionally worked as an escort. London is an expensive place to be a student and like many young people, Anthony wasn’t great at managing his money, which may have been why he had started escorting while studying in London. His friend said he had arranged to meet a man named Joe Dean in Barking before his death. Joe Dean was really Stephen Port.
Police arrest Port that day and take his DNA. They also take his computer. During his police interview, Port first tried to make out that he knew an Anthony, but not Anthony Walgate. Faced with evidence of him being in contact with Anthony, Port eventually tells police that he had met Anthony on a male escort website named Sleepyboy.com and had agreed to pay Anthony 800 pounds, about $1000 US dollars, for an overnight on June 17. Port claimed that once at his flat, Anthony had taken his own drugs. He said that Anthony had felt sleepy so he allowed him to stay in his bed while he went to work – this would have been to his night shift on June 18th. Port claimed that when he returned home from work, Anthony was dead. Rather than call police, Port said he had panicked, and moved his body outside.
So, Barking and Dagenham police accept Stephen Port’s story and charge him with perverting the course of justice – really just a fancy way of saying lying to police.
Despite requests from Anthony’s university friends to look at his computer, neither Anthony’s nor Port’s computers were looked at during this investigation, despite them being in police possession.. By June 30, Port had been released on bail.
When Anthony Walgate’s body was found in June, Port had a flat mate – police spoke with them outside Port’s flat – I didn’t see any other mention of them but if a someone person turned up dead outside my door and my flat mate was acting super shady about it, I certainly wouldn’t be hanging around long.
Less than two months later, in August, Stephen Port sent his neighbour and friend, Ryan, a message saying, ‘Come meet my new Slovakian twink flatmate.’
‘Twink’ is a word that’s used by some gay men to describe a young gay man with a slim physique.
The following day, Ryan took up Port’s invitation and went to meet his new house mate. He didn’t have far to walk – Ryan could see Port’s flat from his own they lived that close. Port wasn’t home but he did get to meet his new house mate, Gabriel, who Ryan described to the BBC as “a really nice, articulate chap.”
22-year-old Gabriel Kovari had moved to the UK in June in search of a better, freer life. He had stayed with a man named John Pape for six weeks and then moved to Cooke Street to stay with Stephen Port. According to Gabriel’s friends, Port had let him stay for free because he had just wanted to “fill the place”. This was August 23rd.
On August 24th, Ryan received a message from Gabriel which said, “Stephen is not a nice person.”
On August 25th Ryan noticed that he hadn’t seen Gabriel in or around the flat, he had only seen Port. So he asked Port about Gabriel, Port said that he had “gone to stay with another local guy… some soldier guy he had been chatting to online”.
At some point that day, Port changed his phone number.
Ryan didn’t see Gabriel on August 26th and no one had heard from him. The last his friends had heard from him was a message on the 25th which just said, “I’m fine” followed by a smiley face.
The next day, August 27, Port’s sister, Sharon, called to find her brother in a very stressed state. When she asked why he was stressed, he told her that there was a body in his flat and that it had been there for a day and a night. Port had gone to work as usual while the body was in his flat.
During Port’s trial, she told the court that Port had told her that a man had stayed the night with him and when he, Port, had woken up, the man wasn’t breathing. She said, quote, ‘They had taken drugs, but I didn’t know what’ end quote. During this call she did tell him to go to the police but didn’t contact them herself. Port later tried to explain away this call to his sister by claiming that he was referring to finding Anthony Walgate dead back in June.
The day after this call, August 28th, Barbara Denham, whilst walking her dog, finds Gabriel’s body in St Margaret’s Church. At first she thinks he’s sleeping but as she gets closer she notices his sunglasses aren’t sitting on his face properly and his clothes were pushed up on his chest. Barbara touched a bare bit of skin which was cold. In the documentary she explains how she thought that, looking at his clothes, he couldn’t have dressed himself that way and must have been placed there.She said, “It didn’t look right,”
Yet police treat Gabriel’s death as non suspicious.
Police visit John Pape, who Gabriel had stayed with prior to moving to Cooke Street, and tell him that Gabriel had been found dead in a cemetery in Barking.
Unlike police, John Pape wanted to understand what had happened, so he typed “unexplained deaths in Barking” into Google. The top result was, and still is, a Barking and Dagenham Post news article titled, ‘Man dies in ‘unexplained’ circumstances in Barking.’ This article was a couple of months old, from June that year, and it was about Anthony Walgate, not John’s friend Gabriel. John read the article and then typed ‘Cooke Street, Barking’ into Google Maps. Upon seeing Cooke Street so close to where Gabriel had been found, just a 5min walk away, John thought the circumstances were far too similar.
But, despite investigating both deaths, Barking and Dagenham police didn’t see a connection.
On September 10th, Gabriel’s boyfriend Thierry noticed a man named Jon Luck had started to follow Gabriel on Facebook. Curious, he contacts Jon Luck and asks if he knew Gabriel. Jon Luck is really Stephen Port.
Posing as Californian ex-gay-porn star Jon Luck, Port told Thierry that he had slept with Gabriel and that, after spending two nights together at his place, an older Irish man named Tony had picked Gabriel up in a green Toyota. Jon Luck acted surprised to hear of Gabriel’s death and asked, quote, “Will police want to speak to me as my DNA would be on him?” end quote.
A few weeks later, in September 2014, Port, using one of many of his online profiles, met 21-year-old Daniel Whitworth on a website named Fitlads. They arrange to meet on the 18th and Port suggests they first go for a drink before heading back to his flat. In a message he sent to Daniel, Port said this was, quote ‘so you know I’m not some psycho,’ end quote.
Daniel lived with his boyfriend, a man named Ricky, who he messaged on the afternoon of September 18 saying that he’d be home late due to work. However, Daniel left work early and headed to Barking to meet Stephen Port. Despite recent suspicions that Daniel might have met other men, Ricky was concerned when Daniel didn’t return home that night.
When Daniel’s boss told him the following morning that Daniel hadn’t arrived at work, Ricky reported Daniel as missing to Kent police. Meanwhile, Stephen Port deleted his Fitlads account.
On September 19th, while posing as Jon Luck, Port mentioned a man named Dan to Thierry. He said Irish Tony had told him that Gabriel had attended a drug-fuled sex party with a man his age named Dan. According to Jon Luck, during these parties older men, quote, “get young guys so high that they then just rape them,” end quote.
It’s the day after this, Saturday 20th September 2014 at around 11:20am, that Barbara finds Daniel Whitworth’s body in the churchyard. Speaking to the BBC she said, “When I looked and saw another young boy sitting in exactly the same position in exactly the same place, it was a bit like deja vu. I thought I don’t believe it.”
Daniel was sitting on a blue sheet. A small bottle, the type that’s often used to hold GHB, was found with him. His phone was missing but clutched in his hand, was an apparent suicide note.
Daniel’s family are informed of his death. Police tell them that it looked like he’d taken his own life by overdosing on drugs. His family are devastated, and quite confused. His biological mother had taken her own life only a few months before Daniel’s death. Daniel had come to believe suicide to be a selfish act. Because of this strong belief Daniel had, his family found his apparent suicide very hard to accept. But the police had told them there was a note, a handwritten note at that.
Police did ask Daniel’s family if they can identify the handwriting but when his family looked at it, they weren’t sure if it was his writing or not. This was 2014; most 21-year-olds weren’t hand writing letters to their families, and so the only recent sample they could find of Daniel’s handwriting was in a birthday card he had sent.
The police had also only shown Daniel’s family the very end of the suicide note, so they only had two very small samples of handwriting to compare. Had Police shown his family the whole letter, they would have raised concerns about it sounding nothing like their son. But police didn’t show them the whole letter.
During Daniel’s autopsy a pathologist noted that he observed bruising under both arms that quote, “May have resulted from manual handling prior to death,” end quote. But despite this, the police settled for the story given in the suicide note. The note said, quote
I am sorry to everyone, mainly my family, but I can’t go on anymore, I took the life of my friend Gabriel Kline, we was just having some fun at a mate’s place and I got carried away and gave him another shot of G [GHB].
I didn’t notice while we was having sex that he had stopped breathing.
I tried everything to get him to breathe again but it was too late, it was an accident, but I blame myself for what happened and I didn’t tell my family I went out.
I know I would go to prison if I go to the police and I can’t do that to my family and at least this way I can at least be with Gabriel again, I hope he will forgive me.
BTW Please do not blame the guy I was with last night, we only had sex then I left, he knows nothing of what I have done. I have taken what g I have left with sleeping pills so if it does kill me it’s what I deserve. Feeling dizey [sic] now as took 10 min ago so hoping you understand my writing.
I dropped my phone on way here so it should be in the grass somewhere. Sorry to everyone.
Daniel P W
It was when he heard about Daniel Whitworth’s death that John Pape called the police & asked them if the three men had been murdered. The police sait that they hadn’t. Because John Pape wasn’t family or next of kin, police weren’t able to tell him much about Gabriel’s death so he had contacted Thierry, Gabriel’s Spanish partner.
Thierry informs John Pape about his interactions with Jon Luck, which further raises John’s concerns.
So, he gets back on the phone to Barking & Dagenham police to inform them of Jon Luck’s story of sex parties, but there is no one there to speak with him at the time and no one responded to the message he left.
John Pape didn’t stop there. He contacts a UK based LGBT+ magazine called Pink News & Galop, a LGBT+ anti-violence charity. Both organisations contacted the police only for them to be told that Anthony’s death wasn’t linked to the others.
Police had seemingly settled on believing the apparent confession-sucide note and weren’t investigating any other possibilities as on September 23rd the Barking and Dagenham Post reported, quote, ‘Police are investigating a possible link between two ‘unexplained’ deaths at St Margaret’s churchyard,’ end quote, but it also says, quote, ‘Police are not currently looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths,’ end quote.
On the same day this article was published, Jon Luck sent the following message to Thierry, quote, “maybe Dan knew what happened to Gab and could not life with the guilt or something like that,” end quote. The news the Daniel was found with a suicide note hadn’t yet been made public.
The next day, a detective responds to an email Thierry sent him that had contained a news article about Anthony Walgate’s death. The detective said that it had nothing to do with Gabriel or Daniel’s deaths. He then asked Thierry to get Jon Luck to contact him. Thierry had already given the detective information about Jon Luck and a link to his Facebook profile. Throughout these cases, the victims’ families and friends seemed to do more police work than the police whose job it was.
By September 29th, Jon Luck of course hadn’t called the detective. At 6pm, the Barking and Dagenham Post published an article with some very interesting quotes from Det Ch Insp Tony Kirk, the lead detective on Gabriel and Daniel’s cases. I don’t know if this was the detective Thierry had been in contact with but it is a possibility. Det Ch Insp Tony Kirk said, quote, “It is unusual and slightly confusing because they aren’t local. If they were local, I could understand a bit more so we need to see if there’s a clear connection with the borough regarding the two of them,” end quote. DCI Kirk again, quote, “If we were to take them on their own right, there would be nothing unusual. We do get sudden deaths on a very regular basis. The issue with this was that they weren’t at an age where we would normally expect it. They also weren’t in a location where we would normally expect it,” but then he says, quote, “But on the same note there’s nothing, at the moment, suspicious about any of them,” end quote.
No detective working on the case ever tried contacting Jon Luck themselves. Had they done so, they might have discovered who he really was and prevented Stephen Port from getting away with murder yet again.
In March 2015, Stephen Port pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice regarding Anthony Walgate’s death. For this offence he was given 8 months, but served just four before being released with an electronic tag.
In June 2015, an inquest was held into the deaths of Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Walgate. In the UK, a death inquest is held to investigate deaths that are unknown, violent, unnatural, or if a person died while in prison or police custody.
During the inquest, Daniel Whitworth’s family learned that no handwriting expert had been asked to examine the suicide note; police said that they had had a look at it themselves. The family also learned that police had said that they, Daniel’s family, had identified the handwriting on the suicide note as being Daniel’s. His family didn’t say this – they said they couldn’t be sure. To give police the benefit of the doubt, this could have been reported accidentally. Daniel’s relatives also hear for the first time of the bruising on Daniels’ body and they learn that the blue sheet hadn’t been tested for DNA. The reason police gave for this was that they felt there was no need for DNA testing as they considered there to be no other involvement in Daniel’s death.
The coroner ruled an open verdict; a 3rd party couldn’t be ruled out. Given that the police had barely investigated either death as suspicious, I would imagine that there wasn’t enough evidence for her to have ruled that a 3rd party had been involved.
If more investigation had been done, perhaps the following events wouldn’t have happened.
On the night of Saturday 12 September, 25-year-old Jack Taylor was out with friends at the Trades Club in Dagenham. He had enjoyed a few drinks but he wasn’t drunk. Jack went home and opened Grindr. Shortly before 2am, Stephen Port sent him a message. After chatting for a while, Jack decided to go and meet him. By this time it was the early hours of Sunday morning, so although Jack lived with his family, they didn’t notice that he had come home, let alone notice him go back out. Jack’s friends and family weren’t aware that he had been seeing men, so it’s unlikely that he would have told any of his friends that he was going to meet a man.
At 3am Jack is captured on CCTV walking from Barking station with Port towards his flat. Just a few hours later, slightly before 7:30am, Port blocked Jack’s account on Grindr. Port also messaged his flatmate and tried to prevent him from coming home and then later deleted his own Grindr account.
Jack’s family aren’t concerned when he doesn’t return home on Sunday, because as far as they knew, he had been out with his friends, and it wasn’t unusual for him to stay at a friend’s place after a night out.
On Sunday night, Stephen Port moves Jack’s body to St Margaret’s churchyard.
By Monday September 14th, Jack’s family were now feeling quite concerned so they reported him missing.
That same morning Jack’s body was discovered by an unnamed person. He was leaning against the same wall that Gabriel and Daniel had been left against, but on the other side, just inside the grounds of the old abbey rather than in the churchyard. His shirt was pushed up above his stomach. In one pocket there was a small brown bottle and in another there was an unused syringe. His phone was missing.
Whilst Jack’s mother is talking on the phone with his sister Donna, police arrive at her house. They ask her if she’s Jack’s mother. When she says she is, they simply tell her, ‘Your son’s dead.’ When she heard her mother scream, Donna said she slid down the refrigerator onto the floor and sat there in tears.
Jack had two younger sisters, Donna and Jenny. If it weren’t for them, Stephen Port would have gotten away with not only Jack’s, but Anthony’s, Gabriel’s, and Daniel’s murders, and he could easily have, and in my opinion, would have gone on to kill again and destroy even more lives.
When toxicology results came back they showed a mixed drug and alcohol overdose to be the cause of Jack’s death. To police, this aligned with the drug paraphernalia found with Jack’s body and with no obvious marks or wounds to his body, police treated Jack’s death as non-suspicious.
Jack’s sisters knew that there was more to their brother’s death than a self-administered overdose. Their brother didn’t use drugs, and that it was extremely unlikely that he would ever use drugs because he was very strongly anti-drugs, so they started investigating, and just like John Pape had done previously, Donna and Jenny come across news articles about the other young men found dead around St Margaret’s churchyard and notice the obvious similarities. So they call Barking and Dagenham police and raise their concerns. The police tell them that there’s no connection between Jack’s death and the deaths of the other men.
Two weeks after Jack’s body is found, around September 28th, Jack’s family learn that the police have CCTV footage of Jack, captured in the early hours of the morning of his death, which shows Jack walking with an unknown man around Barking station. When they ask police who the man is, the police tell them that they don’t know. Police go on to explain that in some CCTV footage taken from later that morning, Jack is seen walking alone, so there was no need for them to identify the man.
Donna and Jenny press police to release the footage so the man can be identified. But because police don’t find Jack’s death suspicious, they don’t release the video.
Less than a fortnight after this, the police realise that Jack wasn’t ever seen alone on the cameras, the person seen walking alone had been someone else. Jack and the unknown man, who we know to be Stephen Port, had been together all along.
On Tuesday 13th October, police finally release the CCTV footage and ask for the public’s help in identifying the man.
On the morning of Thursday 15th October, Stephen Port is identified as being the man seen with Jack on CCTV. The person who identified him was actually a Barking and Dagenham police officer.
By that afternoon, Port had finally been arrested on suspicion of causing the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor.
The case was then passed from Barking and Dagenham police to London’s main Metropolitan Police homicide and major crime command.
That evening, Port begins four days of police interviews.
In the first interview, Port denies having any involvement in the death of Gabriel Kovari. When the interviewing officer asks, “Were you involved in administering any drugs or poisons or noxious substances to him?” Port doesn’t directly deny it, and instead replies, “No I don’t administer drugs to anyone,” and then, without further questioning says that someone else does that – Daniel.
Port then tries to make out that he’s not sure if it’s even the same Daniel but he does say that the name Whitworth rang a bell.
Some of these interviews are on YouTube so you can see them for yourself – I found the video of what I’m going to tell you about quite disturbing.
The interviewer shows Stephen Port a photograph of Jack Talyor and asks if he recognizes him. Port slides the photograph closer to himself and looks at it closely for almost 20 seconds before finally answering, “I don’t recognize him.” He briefly leans away before getting closer again. The then moves back and says, “I don’t pay full attention to guys’ faces at parties,” he then pushes the photo away a little but pulls it back toward himself again and continues, “But I don’t recognize his face.”
He takes nearly a minute to say this and the whole time Port is just staring at the photo. It’s quite creepy.
In his interview the following day, Port is shown a map which shows his flat, St Margaret’s Church, and the abbey behind it. When asked if he’d been in the grounds behind the church, where the old walls are, Port replied, quote “Oh no no. Looks… No. Looks spooky, so I wouldn’t go there.”
The police officer asked “You’ve never been there.” he asked. “In all the 8 years that you’ve lived across the road from there?”
Port not only denied ever being there, but he acted unaware of the bodies being found there.
Port also went on to deny writing the suicide letter found in Daniel Whitworth’s hand, despite it being in his own handwriting.
A handwriting expert later matched Port’s writing to the suicide note and the paper it was written on had come from his flat. In light of this evidence, Port changed this part of his story and claimed that Daniel had dictated it to him.
Port denied any involvement in the deaths and that he had told the truth.
At some time in October, Barking and Dagenham police refer themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The IPCC was a public body established in 2004 to investigate any possible shortcomings made by police. The IPCC started an investigation into the actions of 17, mostly Barking and Degenham police officers. 16 of these 17 officers answer ‘no comment,’ when they are questioned.
Stephen Port’s six-week trial was held at the Old Bailey in November 2016. During the trial, Port maintained his innocence and repeated the version of events he gave in his interview upon arrest for murder. He avoided looking at any of the victim’s families throughout.
On 23rd of November 2016, the jury returned a verdict of ‘guilty’ to all four murders by a majority of 11 to one.
On the 25th November, Stephen Port was sentenced to a whole life sentence for the murders of Anthongy Walgate, Gabriel Kline, Danile Whitworth, and Jack Taylor. In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Openshaw said, quote, “I have no doubt that the seriousness of the offending is so exceptionally high that the whole life order is justified; indeed it is required.
The sentence therefore upon the counts of murder is a sentence of life imprisonment; I decline to set a minimum term; the result is a whole life sentence and the defendant will die in prison,” end quote.
When news of Port’s arrest became public, other men came forward and bravely told their stories of being drugged and raped by Port, so in addition to the murder, Port was being tried for attacks on eight other men.
In the UK the maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment and this is what Port was handed. Mr Justice Openshaw noted that life imprisonment, quote “is the only appropriate sentence to mark the gravity and depravity of these offences,” end quote.
The maximum sentence for administering a substance with intent is 10 years and Port got that too.
In total Port was found guilty of 22 offences that included murder, rape, and administering a substance with intent. He was acquitted of all charges regarding an additional man.
Upon Port’s murder convictions, the ‘open verdict’ that was given the previous year after the inquest into Gabriel and Daniel’s deaths was quashed by High Court and a new inquest, into all four deaths was ordered. Unlike the previous inquests, this inquest would have a jury who will be asked to consider if there were any police failings and whether police prejudice, namely homophobia, played a part in Stephen Port not being stopped much sooner.
In January 2018, the Independent Police Complaints Commission became the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The IOPC concluded the investigation into the 17 officers who worked the initial “unexplained death” cases. No police penalties were called for and no police officers were disciplined. In a statement to the BBC the IOPC said, quote, “While we agreed none of the officers involved in these investigations may have breached professional standards justifying disciplinary proceedings, we will be making a number of recommendations to the Metropolitan Police to address some of the systemic failings our investigation identified,” end quote. The IOPC noted, quote, “They will now be required to improve their performance,” end quote.
After Port’s trial, Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, told reporters, quote, “The evidence we have heard at the trial of Stephen Port does identify that there were potentially missed opportunities,” end quote.
On her experiences with Barking and Dagenham police, Sarah Sak said, “It was so hard to get any information and they just refused to investigate it. They were appalling,” end quote. She also said, quote, “We were told time and time again ‘nothing to investigate,” end quote.
Sarah’s son Anthony was 23 years old when he was killed. He was from Hull but was living in London while he studied fashion at the University of Middlesex. He loved to make people laugh. A friend described him as a friend like no other. His mum said he had a zest for life and she has no doubts that he would have succeeded as a designer.
John Pape believes police prejudice played a part in the deaths not being fully investigated. He told the BBC, quote, “If they’d questioned as a detective should do, if they’d empathised with the victims, then they would have connected them, and Stephen Port would not have been allowed to kill Jack Taylor,” end quote.
Gabriel Kovari was 22-years-old when he was killed. Not so much is known about him as he had only been living in the UK for just a few months. But by 22 he had already graduated university and left his home country Slovakia in hope of a better future, so it seems to me that he was following his dreams and would have gone on to be successful in life.
In her victim impact statement Amanda Pearson, Daniel Whitworth’s step-mum said, quote, “We had a rich and fulfilling life ahead of us with Daniel, of that much I am sure, and it has been stolen from us. I cannot possibly describe the hole this has left us.” Daniel Whitworth was just 21 years old when his life was taken. His father, who raised him alone, was left childless and his Grandmother, who he was so close to, lost her only grandchild. Daniel loved his job as a chef in Canary Wharf and looking at photos and comments from those close to his, I think it’s clear that Daniel would have gone far in life. Daniel was a great friend, and was very much loved by his family.
Jack’s sisters believe the deaths would have been taken more seriously had they been young women, not men. They said, quote, ‘We felt from the beginning, it was just “another one” and nothing was taken seriously. Donna told the BBC quote, “It’s awful because if they had done what they were supposed to and looked into things slightly different before, then Jack would still be here and maybe even possibly some of the other boys,” end quote.
Jack Taylor was 25 years old when he was killed. He loved his job as a forklift-truck driver and lived in Dagenham with his parents and older sisters. More than 300 people attended Jack’s funeral and it’s clear from the footage of his family that they were incredibly close.
January 2021 Inquest – delayed due to pandemic
I personally believe the police did fail these four men and at the very least are guilty of making a succession of errors.
I want to share some thoughts I had about the 999 emergency phone call Steven Port made to report Anthony’s death. If you want to hear the full call, I’ve included a link in the sources which you can find at turnedupdead.com.
The call starts with the operator saying, quote ‘Emergency ambulance what’s the address of the emergency?’ End quote. Steven Port answers, quote ‘Cooke Street, there’s a young boy, looks like he’s collapsed outside, I don’t know.’ End quote.
Port gives the street name freely enough, however he later gives the wrong flat numbers, which I would find suspicious once I knew it was actually outside of his own flat – if he has nothing to hide, why give the wrong address?
He kind of contradicts himself in the call as well – he first says it ‘looks like he’s collapsed’ and follows it with ‘I don’t know’ but then moments later he says, quote, ‘Looks like he’s collapsed or had a seizure or something or he’s just drunk.’ end quote. That’s a lot of ideas for someone who doesn’t know. I also find it interesting that he didn’t offer drug use as a potential cause; I think I would have thought of that way before thinking that a seizure might be the reason for a 23 year-old to have collapsed.
When asked to give the phone number he was calling from, Port replied, quote ‘I’m just going to get in my car. I’ve got to get to my car, the parking,’ end quote. This is very uncooperative. I can’t think of too many reasons an innocent person wouldn’t give their number – perhaps if they were in the country illegally or worried about another crime. When asked again what number he’s calling from, Port hung up,’ which was extremely uncooperative.
So of course they called back. When asked to confirm the location, Port replied that he had driven away. The emergency call operator continued to ask about the location and specifically what door number. Port said he didn’t know the door number to which the operator responds, ‘You said 47 before.’ Port agrees with this. To me, Port seems really evasive in this call – it’s like he was ready to give his story – someone’s collapsed, maybe from a seizure or from drinking, but he doesn’t know any more than that – he doesn’t seem prepared when he’s questioned further.
The end of the phone call goes as follows:
Operator How old did he look roughly sir?
Operator Twenty. Do you know if he was awake?
Operator Do you know if he was breathing?
Port No, I don’t know.
Operator Did you see anything happen at all?
Operator No, you just think he’s possibly had a seizure, he was lying there on the floor?
(When Anthony was found)
So, at this stage I wouldn’t have too many suspicions about Port’s story. It shows he’s an arsehole but this is London, so I find moving a collapsed person from your doorway and then going inside to bed a realistic enough sounding story.
re: gurgling noise claimed by port but body cold – Mike Hamer “treated as unexplained”
I wasn’t able to find the time Superintendent Mike Hamer made his public statement (He said, quote, “At this early stage we are keeping an open mind with regards to this death that is being treated as unexplained and any information the public can provide will assist us.” ) so I can’t say if he was already aware of what Port claimed in his witness statement. If he was unaware of it, I would agree with him treating the death as unexplained rather than suspicious; I’m sure the London Met police have encountered many dead bodies in more suspicious-looking circumstances who turned out to have died via their own actions either intentionally or accidentally. Anthony Walgate dying via his own actions would therefore seem plausible.
Though I do believe that once leading investigators were aware of the story Stephen Port had given his witness statement, there was good reason to consider Anthony’s death as suspicious, rather than unexplained.
In his witness statement, Port claimed that the man had made a gurgling noise. But do you remember what the paramedic said? He said Anthony’s body was “extremely cold to the touch.” I don’t know what time paramedics arrived, but I find it hard to believe it would have been long enough for a person to go from being alive, making gurgling noises to being dead and ‘extremely cold to the touch’.
I believe the police were more ready to accept the Story that Port gave them once they know Anthony was working as an escort.
I personally think sex work should be legaised in the UK and think it’s pretty ridiculous to try to control who grown adults choose to have sex with and for what reason – it’s like they’re saying you can have sex for love, or lust, or to get your partner to wash the dishes, but not money. It’s dumb.
As we all know sex workers are often treated as ‘lesser’ by police not only in the UK, but around the world. And if you happen to be a gay, transgender, or ethnic minority sex worker, you’re sadly often seen as even less important.
In the BBC documentary Barbara Denham she explains how she thought that, looking at his clothes, he couldn’t have dressed himself that way and must have been placed there. “It didn’t look right,” Why didn’t trained police think the same?
Daniel’s suicide note – I find it absolutely astonishing that Barking and Dagenham police accepted it at face value.
The letter starts by apologising to his family and saying, ‘I can’t go on anymore’ – seems to show suicidal intention and making apologies is something I would expect to see in a lot of gueniune suicide letters. However, no family members are named, or even the words mum, dad, or grandma. Daniel was apparently very close with his grandmother so it might have seemed odd for her not to have been mentioned if his family had been shown the full note. When they were eventually shown the whole letter, they commented that it sounded cold.
The majority of the note, which comes next, is an explanation of Gabriel’s death. I don’t think this is too strange in itself, a lot of guilty people make deathbed confessions after all, though I do think that when compared to such little said to his own family, it’s a bit strange.
During this confession the note again mentions his family, quote, ‘I didn’t tell my family I went out.’ Isn’t he writing to his family? Why doesn’t it say, ‘I didn’t tell you I went out’? If the family had been shown the letter in full, they might have noticed this as suspicious. Daniel didn’t live with his family, he had left his family home years before and was living with his boyfriend at the time of his death. So if Daniel had written this, wouldn’t it have been more likely to say, ‘I didn’t tell my boyfriend I went out?’ But that would still be incorrect because he sent his boyfriend a message saying that he’d be back late.
The line, ‘I can at least be with Gabriel again’ would make you think him and Gabriel were close, and I imagine this is what police thought too. But the police were unable to find any connection between Daniel & Gabriel; they weren’t friends on social media and neither Daniel’s or Gabriel’s other friends had heard of the other man.
One line that really stood out was when he asked not to blame the man he was with last night, that being Port. In British English the word ‘dodgy’ is used to describe something that can’t be trusted or might be dangerous. I would describe the following sentence as dodgy.’ Quote, ‘BTW Please don’t blame the guy I was with last night, we only had sex then I left, he knows nothing of what I have done.’ I mean, it sounds like something from a really bad movie or play that was included to point towards the real killer. But I guess Barking and Dagenham police weren’t watching enough bad movies and plays because, this doesn’t seem to set off any alarm bells for them. When Daniel’s family eventually see the full letter, and read that Daniel was with a ‘guy’ the night before his death, they ask the police who this ‘guy’ was. Barking and Dagenham police tell them that they don’t know.
This is really frustrating because they could have found out. The blue sheet Daniel was found sitting on, and the plastic sleeve the note was in contained Stephen Port’s DNA, and if you remember, Port’s DNA was taken after Anthony Walgate’s death so it was on file – but the police didn’t test the blue sheet or the plastic sleeve for DNA.
The line about dropping his phone sounds odd to me too – if it had said he had lost his phone, I’d buy that.’ But it says ‘dropped’ not ‘lost. So why wouldn’t they have just picked it up when it was dropped? But whoever wrote this bothered to write an explanation of dropping the phone and they included an idea of where it should be. To me, this sounds like they want the phone to be found.
I can’t believe the police detective asked Thierry to get Jon Luck to contact him.
Police said they felt no need to run DNA tests on the blue sheet that had been found with Daniel’s body as they considered there to be no other involvement in Daniel’s death. Is that not the definition of having blinkers on? And, I don’t know I’m not a cop, but wouldn’t testing even if only to rule out other possibilities, even if you doubted, would have been a good thing to do?
After Port’s trial, Commander Stuart Cundy, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command comment that, quote, “there were potentially missed opportunities,” end quote was one hell of an understatement.
What struck me when I first saw photographs of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel, and Jack was how young they look. I don’t know how you can look at these young men, listen to what their friends and family are telling you, ignore evidence that was not only right in front of you but given to you by the victim’s friends and families, and then pretty much turn around and say, ‘nothing to investigate, job done.’
The outcome of the 2018 investigation into the officers on the original case to me sounded like, ‘Yeah there were failings, but nothing bad enough for any repercussions. We’ll tell them to do better next time.’ How badly would these police have to have done their jobs to warrant disciplinary proceedings according to the IOPC?