London: More than a year after he was first charged, a judge on Friday sentenced London serial killer Stephen Port to for 4 murders and a host of poisoning and sexual offences, calling him “wicked and monstrous”. Port was convicted of the murders on Wednesday.
Chef Port, 41, was first charged on 18 October last year and made his first court appearance the following day. He initially faced 4 counts of murder and as many of “administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm”. Two days later, a provisional trial date was set in April but the serial killer did not end up entering his pleas of not guilty until 25 July.
Delays were caused by post-charge investigations. By then Port was also facing the remaining charges; 6 more of administering a poison, 7 of rape, and 4 of. These charges involved 8 additional [alleged] victims. The poisoning charges were changed to “administering a substance with intent to stupefy / overpower to allow sexual activity” by the time of the trial.
The case revolved around allegations Port drugged, raped, and murdered men at his London flat. The prosecution told jurors Port’s modus operandi was to arrange to meet gay men via and other gay dating sites, then administer sometimes-lethal overdoses of recreational drug .
Three of the deaths occurred in 2014. Anthony Patrick Walgate, 23, was found dead on 19 June 2014 in Cooke Street. Port lived in Cooke Street. The other 3 victims were found in the vicinity of St Margaret’s Church on North Street. Gabriel Kovari, 22, was discovered dead on 28 August 2014. Daniel Whitworth, 21, was found dead the following month on 20 September 2014. Fourth victim Jack Taylor, 25, was found a year later on 14 September 2015.
The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concerning what police called “potential vulnerabilities in [our response] to the four deaths.” Police only linked the deaths less than a week before Port’s arrest.
Detectives released security footage of Taylor’s movements, with an officer telling the press “the man captured onmay well be the last person to talk to Jack.” Shortly after Port was charged police again appealed for anybody with knowledge of him “no matter how insignificant” to come forward in what local press called a “highly unusual” move.
The 10 male jurors and 2 women were warned at the opening of the trial to face potentially graphic evidence in “a cool, dispassionate and analytical manner” by Jonathan Rees QC, prosecuting. He told the court Port satisfied his “appetite for penetrating drugged young men”. The case was tried before Mr Justice Openshaw, who sentenced Port on Friday, at the Old Bailey, a famous London courthouse. The serial killer was represented by David Etherington QC.
CCTV of Port and Taylor at Barking Train Station featured in the trial. After exchanging Grindr messages the duo agreed a meet for 13 September 2014; the day prior to Taylor’s body being found. The meeting was set for 3:00 at the station; Port is seen walking to the scene while Taylor arrives in a taxi. By 7:20 Port had blocked Taylor’s Grindr account and later that day deleted his own account.
Port contacted Walgate on website Sleepyboys. Walgate worked as a prostitute and had notified a friend of the planned night “in case I get killed”. Port left the corpse outside his flat before phoning. Initially, he denied knowing Walgate but later told police Walgate took drugs voluntarily while alone in the flat. Port, who said he “panicked” after returning from work to find Walgate dying, was imprisoned for 8 months and released on licence after 3 in 2015 for lying in the investigation.
The prosecution told the jurors that Walgate was too cautious to consume drugs and it must have been Port who slipped him GHB, which led to death. Port’s 999 call was played to jurors; he hangs up early after saying he has to go to his parked car and the operator calls back to ask further questions. In the call Port says the man has apparently collapsed, is possibly drunk, and is a stranger to him.
Port was to tell police he slapped the man’s face and heard a “gurgling noise” in response, but a statement from the first paramedic on scene stated the body was already cold when help arrived. After being alerted to the death by the ambulance service police tracked down Port. Pathologist Olaf Biedrzycki testified at the trial that Walgate’s death was due to GHB overdose, his underwear was both inside out and back to front, his fly was down, and there were fourteen injuries to the body.
The bodies of both Kovari and Whitworth were found in the same spot as each other in St Margaret’s churchyard, about 500(1,600 ) from Port’s home, within a month of each other. Both were found by Barbara Denham who testified she walked her dog at least once a day through the area. Like Walgate, both men were found sitting. Like Walgate, a bottle of GHB was with Whitworth’s body. Both of their clothing had again ridden up suggesting dragging. Whitworth was on a blue sheet; Port’s semen was on the sheet, which had come from his flat.
Whitworth’s body bore an apparent suicide note in which he seemed to blame himself for Kovari’s death, saying he had injected Kovari with GHB. The note said he could not confess to police for fear of his family seeing him going to prison. The note said “please do not blame the guy I was with last night, we only had sex and then I left, he knows nothing of what I have done.”
Rees told jurors an expert in handwriting analysis had ruled out Whitworth as the author and found it to be written by Port in what Rees called a “wicked” bid to frame Whitworth. Rees also said Port’s DNA was on the bottle of drugs on Whitworth’s corpse. Police initially accepted the note as genuine and did not investigate further; no effort was made to find who “the guy I was with last night” might be. The note was written on paper traced to Port’s flat, and in a plastic sleeve also traced to the flat.
Rees said the man was Port, the two having met via Fitlads, and that “cruel and manipulative” Port deleted his Fitlads account shortly after the meet. Rees also said Kovari told friends he had found a flat in the Barking area of London five days before he was found dead, alleging this was Port’s flat. Port’s defence was Whitworth had dictated the note to him.
Whitworth’s boyfriend, Ricky Waumsley, told the court Whitworth’s behaviour was inconsistent with guilty or suicidal thoughts. Waumsley also testified Port had never to his knowledge taken recreational drugs aside from experimenting with cannabis during a holiday in Amsterdam.
Katie Impey, a friend of Whitworth, said the deceased’s mother committed suicide and thereafter Whitworth viewed taking one’s own life as “the most selfish thing anyone could ever do, and you should never do it, so I know he didn’t kill himself.” Impey also spoke of the final conversation she had with her friend in which he spoke of a new romantic interest called Gab. “He was really excited. He said ‘I’ve met someone, he’s really artsy, he’s really cute, I don’t know how I’m going to tell Ricky’.”
The trial featured five months of content from a Facebook account named Jon Luck. Port’s computer was used to access the account, and Port admitted he was the user. The account was used to exchange messages with Kovari’s boyfriend Thierry Amodio, with Port pretending to be a Californian student who knew Kovari.
Port, via the Jon Luck account, told Amodio he spent two days with Kovari and that Kovari attended a drugs-fueled orgy with a man named Dan. Amodio was seeking information on his partner’s death; Port wrote, “I hope he wasn’t murdered or anything like that as that would be awful.” After Amodio assured him this was unlikely Port replied, “Thanks god for that I would hate anyone who could hurt him”.
Around the time of Whitworth’s death, Port informed Amodio he had discovered Dan and Kovari had attended a party where young men were raped whilst drugged. Posing as Luck he said he had “been expecting [police] to come to my door any second cuss (because) of my DNA and my messages on [Kovari’s] phone.” When Amodio told Port he’d been visited by police probing Whitworth’s death Port replied, “OMG your joking[…] please don’t let them arrest me.”
Port would also press Amodio for information on police investigations and suggested Dan had accidentally killed Kovari with an overdose and then “did same to himself” because he “could not live with the guilt”, an apparent reference to Daniel Whitworth’s death. Amodio tried to get “Jon Luck” to contact police but this was never successful. Port told a neighbour Kovari died of some infection in Spain after travelling to join somebody Kovari had met online.
Kovari had in fact moved from Spain to London, having been living with his Spanish boyfriend Thierry Amodio. After initially failing to find a place to live Kovari met John Pape. Pape allowed Kovari to stay with him, which he did for several weeks before securing a rented room with Port in the Barking area of London. Turning down an offer to stay longer, Kovari moved in with Port on 23 August 2014.
The same day Kovari sent another friend a map showing Port’s Cooke St home as his new abode. The next day Port invited friend and neighbour Ryan Edwards to meet Kovari. On 25 August, Kovari texted Edwards “Stephen is not a nice person”. The same day Kovari messaged the friend he sent the map to, saying, “I’m fine.”
The first alleged victim to give evidence, a nineteen-year-old student when he encountered Port, told jurors he met Port via Grindr and accepted a glass of wine at Port’s flat. After noticing a bitter taste and sludge at the bottom of the glass, the complainant said he felt ill and upon sipping a second drink containing vodka he “felt so dizzy. I was ricocheting off the walls. The room was tilting.”
The man told the court he fell asleep and awoke naked on his front with Port raping him, describing himself as “half asleep, half aware of what was happening” before passing out again. He said he left the flat after coming round in the morning, still feeling the effects. The witness claimed that while he was considering having sex with Port when he arrived he did not at any stage consent.
The next alleged victim to give evidence, also a student, told the court he met Port via Fitlads. The witness said they met at Port’s flat on several occasions. He said he declined alcohol because he was Muslim but on his fourth visit he accepted a glass of coke. He said swallowing it caused an instant burning sensation like acid, but Port pled ignorance and they met a fifth time. On that occasion Port gave the man what he said was ‘ ‘, and a massage, according to the witness.
The witness said he fell asleep and on waking was given a glass of what Port claimed was water, which instantly knocked him out. “The next thing I remember I was on the floor screaming and shouting. It was like I was going mad.” The witness claimed he was naked and confused, not even recalling his own name.
Port drove the man to nearby Barking Rail Station. The victim was “screaming and shouting” and described Port “kind of dragging me along and holding me up.” Police and ambulance attended, withConstable Alesha Owers testifying Port seemed “worried and jittery” and accepted he had taken . Port claimed the man had turned up at his door and Port was helping him get home.
The witness did not give a statement to police, telling the trial he did not want his family to discover the encounters and simply wished to be home. He says on arriving he telephoned Port. “I was shouting at him: ‘What did you give me? What the hell did you give me, because it certainly wasn’t poppers?'[…] I got the impression it was a normal thing what happened to me.”
The witness added he had one final meeting with Port at the accused’s flat. Port, he claimed, apologised to him but still did not say what substance was involved.
A transgender man in his early twenties told the court he met Port via Facebook and they met for sex because the witness was angry his boyfriend had cheated on him. The man said after consensual sex and drinking he passed out and Port filmed himself raping the complainant.
Another man, now 24, told the court he met Port via Gaydar when he was 16 and grew close to Port as the man had few friends. He said Port pressured him into takingand he passed out, awakening to find himself on his back with his legs over Port’s shoulders and Port raping him. He said he returned a week later, at which time Port again gave him mephedrone and raped him, as well as non-consensually injecting drugs into him. He told the court Port was “god in his flat”, someone “you did not argue with”. He told the Old Bailey “I didn’t feel like I was being treated like a person.”
The court was played six homemade sex tapes from Port’s phone, with police and prosecutors alleging they showed Port raping an unconscious 24-year-old man. The six were amongst over 80 sex tapes in total Port had made involving himself. The alleged victim testified that while he and Port had consensual sex and sniffed poppers after meeting via Manhunt he did not consent to any activity in the videos.
At least three other men can be seen or heard in the videos. Port sniffs a bottle in one video and tells an unidentified man “you fuck him”. In another an unidentified voice says “I’ll leave you guys to carry on, I have got work in the morning.” Port then says to a second man “Shall we do more stuff?” “Yeah babe” comes the reply.
Two of the rape charges are sample counts relating to the videos. Sample counts are a method by which prosecutors can try multiple similar crimes based on a single count. Port routinely browsed the Internet for rape-themed pornography.
Stephen Port’s own sister, Sharon Port, was a prosecution witness. She spoke of a conversation with her brother — who smiled when she entered court to testify against him — the day before Slovakian national Kovari’s body was found. Speaking quietly, she said she had rung him and found him “very distressed”; he said there was a corpse in his flat.
Sharon Port testified that the conversation left her with the understanding the pair had been doing drugs together and Kovari expired. She said she urged Stephen Port to alert the police; the following day, she drove from herhome to visit him after he became unresponsive to messages. She described her brother as quiet, and saying he had been released on police bail to return in a month or two.
After Rees finished, defence lawyer Etherington questioned her further. During this she added that in March 2015, when he was imprisoned for lies to police after the first death, Stephen told her that the conversation had not referred to a body at all. Instead, he was talking about another man altogether.
Two former partners of Port testified early in the trial. Both said the accused wore a wig to help him feel confident about his appearance, and one further said both would watch ‘twink’ porn together. In the gay community, slender young men are sometimes referred to as twinks. The man also testified Port “never tried any sexual acts I wasn’t happy with.” The court also heard Port was a prostitute and sometimes wore the wig to meet men. Port was said to have called Kovari his “new Slovakian twink flatmate” who was “quite cute, tall and skinny” to friends.
Port’s sister, during her evidence, spoke of a bullied, quiet schoolboy who revealed his sexuality at 26. She said their mother did not approve. She also testified she was wholly unaware of Port’s drug use until the August 2014 phone call and even after did not know which substances were involved.
Port gave evidence in his own defence. Starting on 27 October, he spoke of his version of the deaths. He started with the death of Walgate, confirming he offered the student800 to spend the night with him. Port claimed Walgate visited the bathroom during sex, returning “high and very rampant.” Port testified he was unaware what Walgate had taken but spoke of his own experiences with GHB, which he said “could knock you out” before reawakening aroused. Port said he used it to have “hyper high” sex and in one relationship it was normal for him to have sex with his partner while the latter was unconscious through GHB use.
Port claimed Walgate became unwell and slept at the flat; Port went to work that morning and returned to find the deceased still there and woke that night to discover the “very rigid” body. Port said he “just panicked” when he carried Walgate’s corpse outside to call an ambulance, lying about the circumstances because he was “in shock”.
The next day Port confirmed Kovari shared his flat and said the pair went to a party to take drugs and have sex. He said his “friend” Kovari left early with ‘Dan’.
Rees asserted Port was “caught out” in a lie. The prosecution claimed Whitworth could be placed in a pub elsewhere when the alleged party happened and Rees said Port’s account amounted to the pair getting “coy and bashful” after public sex. Rees asked Port to explain Whitworth’s presence “in two places at once”. “I’ve no idea. I just know it was as I remember it,” said Port.
Port said Whitworth later recounted to him a story in which Whitworth and Kovari had sex at St Margaret’s. After both passed out, Whitworth claimed he was unable to rouse Kovari and could not revive him.
“He said he panicked. He was going to call an ambulance but did not know what to do, so he left him.” Port said he reassured a worried and guilt-ridden Whitworth and urged him to go to police. Port and Whitworth had sex with drugs at Whitworth’s suggestion, Port said, before Whitworth dictated the suicide note.
“I thought it was just the [drugs] talking and he was just getting his emotions out of his system,” Port told jurors. “I didn’t believe he was actually going to do it. I would have stopped him. I would have done anything to prevent him doing it.” Port said he added the line reading “please do not blame the guy I was with last night.”
Rees accused Port of manipulating evidence, saying he left a hoodie belonging to Kovari on Whitworth’s body alongside a bottle of GHB. Port countered he only agreed to write the suicide note because Whitworth promised sex in exchange for it. Port testified they did not, in fact, have sex because Whitworth gave him a drink laced with GHB, causing Port to fall unconscious.
“You are not suggesting he may have drugged you Mr Port?” asked Rees. “You are not suggesting he may have taken advantage of you whilst you were drugged?” Port confirmed this was possible, leading to Rees asking “Why did you raise the suggestion this young man may have raped or sexually assaulted you? Against this dead boy?” Port answered, “I wouldn’t have minded if he did.”
“Come on, Mr Port!” Rees retaliated. “That’s not true, is it? You ‘‘ other people, they don’t top you. So you would have minded if he raped you whilst you were unconscious.” Port’s response was “It’s just a shame we didn’t get to do more together.” Rees later said “You just cannot bring yourself to accept the truth of what is going here. To the families. Lie after lie, that’s what’s being played out here in this court.”
He also recounted his time with Taylor. The pair met on Grindr and Port testified Taylor accepted a suggestion to get “mega high”, before the two left for “fresh air” and had “rampant” sex at St Margaret’s. Port described this in detail: “I realised our height difference was quite significant[…] It was a bit of a struggle at first, I had to hold him around the chest. Then we just had sex like that for two hours.”
Port testified he suggested going back to the flat; “He said, ‘I’m going to sit down here for a bit, I’m feeling tired.'” Port said he left around 2:30 in the morning and never saw Taylor again but he was “very much alive” at this point. He testified he left as he had a new job to go to the next day and did not expect anything further as Taylor “was not happy being gay.”
“The essence of it is, you like playing God and manipulating and controlling young men”, Rees told him in front of jurors. “The key to this case is you like penetrating young men who are unconscious. That is at the heart of this case, isn’t it? You try to manipulate the evidence to fit the facts as you know them to be and you have done this throughout this case.”
Rees asked, “Do you agree it is never too late to tell the truth? Do you agree it would be a good thing for the families of the 4 dead men to learn the truth about what happened to them?” Port responded, “of course.” After agreeing all 4 deceased met similar deaths shortly after being in his company, Port was asked, “I know it’s very late in the day, Mr Port, would you care to change any part of your account you have given to the jury?” “No,” he replied.
The jury began deliberations on Monday last week, deliberating for over 28 hours. They faced a question of intent. The prosecution had to prove intent to cause very serious harm for a murder conviction. The prosecution case was Port administered GHB in a bid to cause comas, and Walgate’s death at least was likely unexpected. The jury had to decide if a coma met the test; if not, they could convict on alternative charges of manslaughter. The jury unanimously convicted Port of three murders, and by an 11–1 majority of Walgate’s murder.
Port was simultaneously convicted of most other charges and on Wednesday Mr Justice Openshaw informed jurors a 10–2 verdict would be acceptable for the remaining counts. Port was ultimately convicted of all charges against six surviving victims. He was also convicted of offences against a seventh but acquitted of raping him. The jury acquitted him of two rapes relating to an eighth man.
During Port’s trial one of his drug dealers, Peter Hirons, 48, separately pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court to supplying ̺, crystal meth, mephedrone, , , and GBL, the last being metabolised into GHB when ingested. He also admitted possessing £6,060 of drug-dealing proceeds. He was jailed for two and a half years. Gerald Matovu appeared before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, charged with supplying Port with mephedrone and GHB.
Police were criticised early in the case after the LGBT website Pink News revealed a friend of Kovari had contacted them after the death. Pink News in turn contacted the Metropolitan Police but received assurances police did not view the death as suspicious. The revelations coincided with the police appeal following Port’s initial charges. “This appeal should have been made in June and August last year after the first two killings”, said human rights activist Peter Tatchell at the time. “If the police had done that, the killer may have been caught and some of these men might still be alive.”
Following murder convictions it was revealed Taylor’s family triggered the homicide investigation themselves after pressuring police. Taylor’s relatives have indicated they intend to sue the police. The IPCC probe is examining possible failings by seventeen officers. In July, the IPCC appealed for anybody who raised concerns with police prior to the launch of the murder investigation to contact them and revealed they had met with London’s LGBT community.
On Wednesday the IPCC reiterated its call for witnesses, revealing seven Metropolitan Police officers had been informed they faced gross misconduct probes and 10 more faced less serious misconduct probes. Officers under investigation rank from constable to inspector. British Transport Police are not under investigation.
IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said “It is important we establish whether the police response to the deaths of all four men was thorough and appropriate in the circumstances, including whether discrimination played any part in actions and decisions[…] our investigators are continuing to work hard to scrutinise the police response to the tragic deaths of these four young men.”
“This has been an incredibly detailed and wide-ranging inquiry with detectives not only investigating these crimes but providing full support to all the families and victims,” said Stuart Cundy, a Metropolitan Police Commander. “Throughout this case, we have worked very closely with the LGBT community” he added. Cundy claimed none of the surviving victims had been in touch with police prior to Port facing murder charges.
A Metropolitan Police statement said the force takes “Offences against members of the LGBT community[…] extremely seriously.” The force said it had 900 hate crimes investigators in addition to 150 specialist LGBT officers.
Cundy, however, acknowledged “potential missed opportunities” to catch Port. He said he has written to the families of the deceased, apologising. “I have offered to meet them if they would like to do so, both now and at the conclusion of the IPCC investigation.” He said police were co-operating with the IPCC probe.
When Port was arrested for perverting the course of justice police seized his laptop, but did not examine it. Detectives took advice from homicide specialists but a murder investigation was not launched and Port was released on bail while the Crown Prosecution Service considered charging him. The serial killer murdered Kovari and Whitworth while on bail.
Port’s laptop, when eventually examined, showed Port first looked at Walgate’s escorting ad on 13 June 2014. On the same day, he also sought out gay rape pornography. Searches included “sleeping boy”, “unconscious boys”, “drugged and raped”, “taking date rape drug”, “gay teen knocked out raped” and “guy raped and tortured young nude boy”. Friends of Walgate pressed police to examine the laptop, with one alleging police told her it was too expensive.
Amodio emailed a detective about the Jon Luck communications. Over several exchanges, the detective asked Amodio to get Luck to contact him, but police did not take it upon themselves to trace Luck. Had they done so they would have found Port. Amodio also linked the deaths of Kovari and Whitworth to the earlier death of Walgate, but the detective told him the first death was “nothing about Gabriel or Daniel.”
Whitworth’s death also caused his friends to press police for further action, but police again did not treat the death as suspicious despite seeking advice from homicide specialists. Port’s DNA was on the blanket with Whitworth’s body; police already had his DNA from arresting Port during the Walgate investigation. Police did not trace his movements or investigate the man referred to in the apparent suicide note.
DCI Tony Kirk said to press the two deaths were “unusual and slightly confusing” but not murders. A pathologist found Whitworth had “bruising below both arms in the armpit regions which is unlikely to have been caused accidentally and may have resulted from manual handling of the deceased, most likely prior to death.” At inquest coroner, Nadia Persaud recorded open verdicts and advised police to perform additional forensic tests, but this was not done.
The serial killer was finally caught after Taylor’s murder when the victim’s older sisters linked his death to the other three. While pressing police to take action, they learned of CCTV showing Taylor and an unidentified person. Taylor’s sisters convinced police to release the footage in a bid to trace the man; when this was done, another officer recognised Port from the footage. He was arrested and the case became a murder probe.
Police are re-examining a further 58 fatal GHB overdoses from June 2011 to October 2015. “We can’t rule out the fact there may be other victims out there who suffered at Port’s hands and have yet to come forward,” Cundy said. “We would appeal for them to contact us as soon as possible.”
From Wikinews under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence