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A ‘whitewash’ probe that cleared 17 Scotland Yard officers of misconduct over a killer who murdered four young men is set to be re-opened, the Daily Mail can reveal.
The officers were accused of blunders that may have hindered the investigation into Stephen Port, who went on a year-long killing spree before he was caught in September 2015.
All but one of the 17 officers investigated for alleged misconduct refused to answer questions when quizzed by investigators.
Now, after an inquest jury ruled in December that ‘fundamental failures’ to investigate Port ‘probably’ allowed him to kill another three gay men after his first murder in 2014, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is close to beginning a new probe.
Stephen Port (pictured), 46, is serving life in Belmarsh prison for drugging, raping and killing four men, who he met on a gay dating app, between June 2014 and September 2015
Two of Port’s victims were Anthony Walgate (left) and Jack Taylor (right). Sarah Munro QC has published a prevention of future deaths report, saying she was ‘concerned’ to hear evidence of errors made by detectives
Ms Munro said she was ‘concerned’ to hear about the ‘basic investigative failings’ made by detectives. Pictured: Two of Port’s victims Gabriel Kovari (left) and Daniel Whitworth (right)
The watchdog has identified ‘compelling reasons’ for reopening the case, including ‘both potential significant new information and potential material flaws’ in the original investigation by its predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Graham Beesley, regional director of the IOPC, has told victims’ families he believes it is in the ‘public interest’ to continue with the five-stage reopening process.
Sources close to the Port case say they are ‘confident’ a new probe will be launched.
At the inquest into Port’s victims in December, Scotland Yard was accused of ‘one of the most widespread institutional failures in modern history’ after officers failed to stop the killer.
The sexual predator, obsessed with drugging and raping young men, killed Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, by giving them lethal overdoses of the date-rape drug GHB from June 2014 to September 2015.
Critics said the force had ‘blood on its hands’ after an inquest uncovered blunders that allowed Port to roam free for 16 months while officers dismissed the deaths as unexplained and unrelated, even though the victims were killed in the same way and dumped within 300 metres of Port’s flat.
During an inquest at Barking Town Hall, east London, a jury found that ‘there were fundamental failings in these investigations from the beginning’ which they said ‘probably’ cost lives.
These included officers not carrying out basic checks on the police national computer that would have revealed the 46-year-old chef had been accused of a near identical drug rape two years earlier and carried out another assault on a man spiked with GHB just days before his first murder.
But officers failed to spot the similarities and sat on evidence that could have uncovered scores of other victims subjected to his sickening rape fantasies.
Officers failed to examine Port’s laptop seized within days of the first murder, which would have revealed his obsession with drug rape and uncovered a further 12 victims he sexually assaulted.
Police also failed to carry out basic forensic checks, examine Port’s movements and missed evidence and ignored concerns from the victims’ families and friends.
It was 16 months after the first killing before a murder squad was brought in, leading in October 2015 to the capture of Port – who was played by Stephen Merchant in the BBC drama of his crimes, Four Lives, in January. None of the 17 officers investigated over the botched inquiry lost their jobs or faced disciplinary action.
Inquest jurors found ‘failures’ by the police were likely to have contributed to three of the men’s deaths. Pictured: Met Police assistant commissioner Helen Ball speaks after the inquest
Seven were promoted, including five whose performance was found to be below standard. All were cleared of misconduct in 2019.
In an update sent to victims’ families last month, Mr Beesley said an ‘independent person’ would conduct a review as part of stage four of the reopening process, adding: ‘Following the review, the final stage is the Final Decision. Only at this point will the IOPC make a formal decision on whether to reopen, in part or full, the original IPCC investigation.’
After the inquest in December, relatives of Port’s four victims said in a statement: ‘The inadequate investigations by the Metropolitan Police… should be on public record as one of the most widespread institutional failures in modern history.
‘The jury has been unanimous in identifying fundamental failings and basic errors in the investigation into Anthony’s death which meant that Port was not stopped, and was allowed to carry on with his terrible acts. Had the police done their jobs properly in the first place, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack would not have been killed.’
It is the IOPC’s second major embarrassment after it faced criticism for clearing five officers of alleged misconduct in Operation Midland, Scotland Yard’s disastrous VIP child sex abuse inquiry into lies peddled by Carl Beech, who was also known as ‘Nick’.
Source: Daily Mail