A sexual predator who targeted young gay men has been found guilty of four murders and drugging and sexually assaulting another seven victims.
Stephen Port, 41 (22.2.75), a chef, of Cooke Street, Barking, was found guilty at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, 23 November of a total of 22 offences.
A jury convicted him of the murders of Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, and, for each victim, four counts of administering a substance with intent to stupefy / overpower to enable sexual activity.
Port was also found guilty of offences in relation to another seven victims – four counts of rape, six counts of administering a substance with intent to stupefy / overpower to allow sexual activity and four counts of assault by penetration.
He will be sentenced on Friday, 25 November at 10:30hrs.
Commander Stuart Cundy, of the Met’s Specialist Crime and Operations command, said: “Stephen Port was motivated by his overwhelming desire to have sex with younger gay men while they were unconscious through drugs.
“He bought drugs on a regular basis and used them to stupefy his victims without their knowledge so he could rape or sexually assault them.
“The jury found that on four occasions he deliberately set out to administer such a large quantity of drugs that it killed his victims. He then dumped their bodies a stone’s throw from his flat before going to great lengths to cover his tracks. Port is a highly devious, manipulative and self-obsessed individual who has not once shown a shred of remorse for his actions.
“Four families have been left devastated by the loss of their loved ones in such awful circumstances and seven more men have suffered horrific sexual assaults, the trauma of which will stay with them for a long time. They have my deepest sympathies and I have nothing but praise for those men who came to court and so courageously gave evidence to help convict Port today.
“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.
“Throughout this case we have worked very closely with the LGBT community and liaised with key representatives including the LGBT Independent Advisory Group to take their advice and guidance. We have held community meetings and worked alongside organisations such as anti-violence charity Galop to issue safety advice for those who use online dating sites and apps or are affected by any of the issues raised. Cases like this are rare but that does not mean they are any the less concerning for both police and the community.
“Port committed his offences in Barking but a case such as this has a far wider impact and will undoubtedly have affected many people. Offences against members of the LGBT community are taken extremely seriously by the Met and we have a network of trained LGBT officers available across London to offer help and support and take reports of crime.
“None of the sexual assault victims had contacted police before Port was charged in relation to the four deaths. I hope Port’s conviction today offers reassurance to the LGBT community that if you have been a victim of crime our officers will take you seriously, treat your situation with the utmost sensitivity and do their very best to bring offenders before the courts.
”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. We would appeal for them to contact us as soon as possible.”
Following the deaths of the four young men, in October 2015 the Met referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The IPCC subsequently launched an independent investigation into how police handled the response to the four deaths. The investigation continues.
Commander Cundy said: “The Met is fully co-operating with the IPCC and providing every assistance to ensure there is a thorough and transparent inquiry into the original police investigations into the deaths of these four young men before they were formally linked.
“The IPCC investigation is ongoing and I can’t pre-empt its findings but the evidence heard at the trial did identify potentially missed opportunities to catch Port sooner.
“Now we have the verdict I am personally writing to each of the families of the four young men who died as well as Daniel Whitworth’s partner to express our sincere condolences. The letters, which we are giving them today, apologise to them for those missed opportunities. I have offered to meet them if they would like to do so, both now and at the conclusion of the IPCC investigation.
“It is only right when situations occur where police conduct is called into question that there is a full and independent process to reassure not only the victims and families of those affected but the wider public as well.
“If the IPCC inquiry highlights further areas of learning for the Met where we could have acted better we will be course take those lessons on board and respond accordingly. If the investigation finds evidence of potential misconduct against any officer that will also be carefully considered.
“However, we have not waited for the IPCC investigation to bring in measures to enhance the knowledge and understanding of our officers about drug -facilitated sexual assault or sexual assault following chemsex.
“A toolkit and a checklist document have been created to provide guidance for front-line officers plus investigating officers on how to best respond to allegations. We have also trained all frontline officers and specialist officers who investigate rape and sexual offences about this type of crime with the help of Galop and other LGBT organisations.
“We know there is likely to be significant under-reporting of offences to police and continue to encourage victims to come forward, working closely with LGBT agencies.”
In September the MPS also began a pilot project to increase understanding and knowledge in the use of drugs to facilitate sexual assault in male victims.
Victims are requested to provide a urine sample to test for GHB, the drug most commonly used.
As part of the study, tests for GHB are also being carried out where males have died and there is evidence of sexual assault or the death is unexplained.
The trial heard that Port used various networking sites to meet other gay – mostly young – men and to buy drugs for use during his sexual encounters. The drugs were used to knock out each man so he could have sex with them while they were unconscious.
Port carried out his offences over a three-and-a-half-year period. He either injected his victims with drugs or spiked their drinks. He used a range of legal substances such as ‘poppers’, Viagra and sleeping pills as well as drugs including GHB and crystal meth. GHB was found in the bodies of each of the four men who died and, in three of the four deaths, drugs were planted on or near their bodies to make it seem they had overdosed.
Enquiries revealed Port regularly searched the internet for pornography featuring people apparently being raped while unconscious or stupefied through drugs.
On 19 June 2014 Anthony Walgate, a fashion student from Golders Green, was found collapsed outside Port’s block of flats in Cooke Street. Port had dialled 999 to report someone had collapsed or was drunk, although he had not given his name.
Anthony was pronounced dead at the scene. His top was pulled up, consistent with his body having been dragged along the ground. A holdall next to him contained a bottle with traces of drugs.
Port was traced by police and provided a statement saying he had returned home from work at 04:00hrs and found Anthony lying unconscious by the front door to the flats. He propped him against a wall and called an ambulance. He then went into his flat and fell asleep.
In fact the evidence showed Port had arranged for Anthony, who occasionally worked as a male escort, to come to his home on 17 June 2014 after they met via a website. After making the arrangements Port searched online for drug-rape pornography.
Port was arrested for perverting the course of justice after police uncovered their internet exchanges. He admitted the offence at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 23 March 2015 and was jailed for eight months.
The prosecution in the Old Bailey trial alleged that Port had spiked Anthony’s drink with GHB before having sex with him and then dragged his body outside when he couldn’t rouse him.
Port met Gabriel Kovari, who had come to London from Slovakia to begin a new life, on a dating website in August 2014 and let him move into his flat.
On 26 August 2014 Port sent a message to a mutual friend saying Gabriel had gone to stay with someone else he had met online. However, the day before he told his sister on the phone a man had died in his flat after they had taken drugs together. She told him to contact police and he said he would.
On the morning of 28 August a dog-walker came across Gabriel’s body propped against a wall in Abbey Green, Barking, about 500 metres from Port’s flat. Gabriel’s clothing was also pulled up as if he had been dragged.
On 11 September Port sent another text to the mutual friend saying he had heard some “sad news” and that Gabriel had travelled to Spain where he had died of an infection.
At the same time Port traced Gabriel’s Spanish partner via Facebook and began talking to him online using the alias ‘Jon Luck’. He said he had discovered Gabriel had gone off with a man called Dan to a party or orgy in Barking.
The prosecution claimed this was Port laying the groundwork for implicating Daniel Whitworth in Gabriel’s death.
Daniel, a chef from Gravesend, was found dead on 20 September 2014. Port suggested to Gabriel’s partner that maybe Daniel had killed Gabriel and then himself.
Daniel was also found slumped against a wall in Abbey Green, by the same dog-walker who had found Gabriel. The top half of Daniel’s clothing had again ridden up and there was a small bottle containing liquid and traces of drugs in his pocket.
He had what appeared to be a suicide note clutched in his hand. It contained his ‘confession’ to accidentally killing Gabriel during sex after giving him GHB.
Port was first in contact with Daniel via a dating website on 18 August 2014. They swapped pictures and met on 18 September.
The next day Daniel failed to appear for work. At the same time Port deleted his account with the dating website. The following morning Daniel’s body was found.
A handwriting expert later concluded the suicide note was fake and had been written by Port. A blue sheet under Daniel’s body had Port’s semen on it.
In the early hours of 13 September 2015, Jack Taylor, a forklift truck driver from Dagenham, travelled to Barking having met Port on Grindr. Shortly before Port had again been searching the internet for drug-rape pornography.
Jack is believed to have died soon after he met Port as four-and-a-half hours later Port blocked Jack’s account on Grindr.
On 14 September Jack’s body was found by a refuse collector in Abbey Green, slumped against a wall with his shirt pulled up. A bottle containing liquid and traces of drugs plus a syringe and a bag of drugs were found on him.
As part of media appeals CCTV images were released of Jack at Barking station with an unknown male, quickly identified as Port who was then arrested for Jack’s death and the previous three. Port claimed Jack had taken the drugs voluntarily – evidence showed Jack had always refused offers of drugs because he worried he’d lose his job.
Port was charged and several other victims were then either indentified or came forward and contacted police to say they had been drugged and raped or sexually assaulted by Port.
Further charges concerning these eight victims were later added to Port’s indictment.
Port was today convicted in relation to seven of them.
Each had met Port via gay websites or social networks and visited his flat where they were drugged without their knowledge.
They described becoming dizzy and losing or almost consciousness before being attacked by Port.
The offences occurred between August 2011 and August 2015 with the victims ranging in age from 19 to 34.
The police investigation was comprehensive with 10 million lines of data – social media conversations, photos, videos and web browsing history – examined.
Anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of Port can call the police incident room in the strictest confidence on 020 8358 0400, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or third party organisations such as Galop, a specialist charity that supports LGBT people affected by violence and abuse, on 020 7704 2040 or online at http://www.galop.org.uk.
The Met has 150 trained LGBT officers available across London to speak to anyone who has concerns about crime or their own safety. Dial 101 to be put in touch.
For anyone who feels anxious about talking directly to the police, they can contact organisations such as Galop. They can help with appropriate support and advice, maintain confidentiality and will treat anything you tell them with the utmost sensitivity.
Reports of crime can be made to police via 101. Offences against members of the LGBT community are taken extremely seriously by the Met. There are 900 specialist hate crime investigators in 32 dedicated Community Safety Units across the Met and they work closely with partner agencies to support victims.
The Havens are specialist centres for victims of rape or sexual offences and can also help, even if you want to remain anonymous – call 020 3299 6900.
Several LGBT organisations have resources with useful safety advice about meeting people online, for example: http://www.galop.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Safety-Tips-A7-Booklet.pdf
Most interactions people have on dating or virtual networking sites or apps will be safe but it is sensible to take precautions.
The Met is working to issue safety advice via Galop. The advice includes protecting your personal information online, thinking carefully before sharing intimate photos or videos, arranging to meet people in public places and being conscious of any alcohol or substances you may consume.
+ Port was found not guilty of three counts of rape.
+ Peter Hirons, 48 (5.2.68) of E6 pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday, 10 October to possession with intent to supply drugs.
He was sentenced on Tuesday, 8 November to two-years-and-six months’ imprisonment.
Hirons had been arrested as part of the Stephen Port investigation for supplying Port with drugs that he bought on the day he attacked Jack Taylor.
Hirons admitted possession with intent to supply class A drugs (MDMA, MDMA tablets and crystal meth), class B drugs (mephedrone, commonly know as Meow Meow, brephedrone and chloromsthcathinone) and class C drugs (GBL – which is converted into GHB in the human body).
He also admitted possession of criminal property, £6,060 obtained through drug dealing.