Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Gabriel Kovari, Jack Taylor, and Daniel Whitworth (Met Police)
Metropolitan Police failings "probably" contributed to the deaths of Gabriel Kovari, Jack Taylor, and Daniel Whitworth at the hands of Stephen Port, an inquest jury has ruled.
The 46-year-old, known as the Grindr serial killer because of how he found his victims, is serving a whole-life sentence for the murders, as well as that of his first victim Anthony Walgate.
All four men were in their early 20s when they died of GHB overdoses administered by Port in his East London home between June 2014 and September 2015.
Police initially failed to join the dots after bodies of three of the victims were found in the same Barking graveyard, 500 feet from Port's flat.
Coroner Sarah Munro QC commented [as per the BBC]: "These inquests have, on any view, raised a number of serious concerns."
The jury said in its conclusions that Barking and Dagenham borough police "missed opportunities" in the first three investigations and that there were "fundamental failings in [the first two] investigations from the beginning."
Failings included family members' concerns being ignored and detectives turning down requests from borough officers to take over investigations.
After the jury's findings, Whitworth's partner Ricky Waumsley called on Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick to resign "with immediate effect", reports Sky News.
The publication adds that police seized Port's laptop after the first murder but took 10 months to send it for forensic analysis. They also missed that the device had been used to make repeated searches for drug rape videos.
A statement from the victims' families said they believed the officers' actions were "in part, driven by homophobia."
"Had four, white, heterosexual girls been found dead in the same manner as Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack, then the police's actions, and the likely outcomes, would have been different," the statement added.
Munro ruled out homophobia as an issue in the case, reportedly saying "prejudice or homophobia or discrimination on the part of the police [did not make] any contribution to the deaths."
A statement from Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball on behalf of the Met Police issued today in part reads: "Today, after hearing seven weeks of detailed evidence, an inquest jury has determined that Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor were unlawfully killed.
"They have also found that the deaths of three of those young men – Gabriel, Daniel and Jack – could probably have been prevented had the initial police responses and investigations been better.
"It is a devastating finding. Our thoughts are with everybody who loved these young men. We are so sorry for their loss.
"And we're also deeply sorry that there were failings in the police response to the murders. I give my own and the Met’s heartfelt apologies.
"All those who loved Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel, and Jack expected a professional and thorough police investigation into their deaths and it is a great sadness for me and everybody at the Met that this didn't happen.
"We want to give the families, and Daniel’s partner, the opportunity to talk to us so we can listen to their views and concerns. The Commissioner has offered to meet them personally, as have I, and we will take this forward according to their wishes.
"We've been working to rebuild trust in the Met for some time now and we completely accept that people's trust in us has been damaged by a number of recent events.
“What has happened in connection with the deaths of these four young men is part of that damage and we know it has a particular impact on communities local to Barking and LGBT+ communities across London.
“And so it's very important now that we show that we are trustworthy, that we care, that we have changed and that we are learning so that we can work with every person and every community to help protect them.
“We will examine the jury’s findings very carefully, as we will the recommendations the coroner makes in her report to prevent future deaths, and we will act on those findings and those recommendations.
“The whole of the Met is committed to improving our investigations, our relationships and the trust people have in us."