Born in 1975, Stephen Port was an awkward child, who was often described as a loner who encountered bullying at school. He lived with his parents and his sister in Dagenham, after moving there from Southend on Sea when he was just twelve months old.
In the mid 2000’s, he came out as gay to his family and moved into a ground floor flat in Barking, London. He worked as a chef at a bus depot based in West Ham. Described as a fellow neighbour as “different” and rather childlike at times, Stephen enjoyed an active social life. He often hosted parties at his home and attended get together’s at other flats in the area.
Stephen was also an active and frequent user of various gay dating apps, which he used in order to meet up with other men from the local gay community.
It was using social media that enabled Stephen to make contact with 23 year old Anthony Walgate. Anthony lived in London and was an aspiring fashion designer who also did some escort work to earn extra money. Stephen requested Anthony’s services for the evening of the 19th of June 2014. The pair met at Barking train station and together travelled back to Stephen’s flat.
It was in this tidy and unassuming flat that Stephen Port would claim his first victim in Anthony Walgate after lacing his drink with a lethal dose of GHB. Stephen went on to abuse Anthony before moving him outside and leaving him to die on a pathway outside the building. He went on to make an anonymous 999 call to report seeing a young man unconscious on the street whilst he was out driving. He hung up before the operator had chance to take his details. Eventually police tracked Port down after tracing him via the mobile phone he used to make the call. Stephen told police that he had simply found Anthony outside the building, before changing his story again and admitting that he had in fact spent the evening with him before his death. Rather than investigate further, Port was just charged with perverting the course of justice and was sentenced to 8 months in prison, to which he would be expected to serve in the coming months.
Had he been investigated in further detail, another three murders could well have been prevented and countless lives could have been spared from changing forever.
Gabriel Kovari had recently moved to the area after travelling from his native Slovakia in order to start a new life and find work in London. He lived briefly with a gentleman named John Pape before he moved from the home suddenly after being offered a place to stay with Stephen Port rent free. Here he became a well liked member of the community and was described as a friendly character by one of Stephens neighbours who struck up a close friendship with Gabriel whilst he was living with Port.
After living with Port for only a short amount of time, Gabriel was ready to move on. The neighbour who Gabe had grown close with noticed that he’d not heard from him in a while and was concerned due to it being out of character for him not to respond to messages and calls. Stephen told him that he had moved away after meeting someone new. He later told him that Gabriel had moved back to Slovakia and passed away from a sudden illness.
On the morning of August the 28th, a lady walking her dog through the local church yard in Barking, came across Gabriel’s body. He was slumped against a tree with a bag of his belongings next to him. He was minus his mobile phone and was wearing sunglasses. Police arrived on the scene and confirmed Gabriel’s death. It was ascertained that the cause of his death was due to an overdose and wasn’t at all suspicious. This didn’t sit well with Gabriel’s friends from the area, with one friend in particular, John Pape taking it upon himself to do some research into the death of his friend. John searched online to find out if any other bodies had been found in the same area and found that only weeks before, Anthony Walgate had been found under extremely similar circumstances, in the same area and was also a young gay man. When John approached the police regarding this he was told that the deaths were not linked and were not going to be investigated. The coroner reached an open verdict in both deaths but the police were not willing to take things further, despite pressure from the local LGBT community and media.
Daniel Whitworth was a 21 year old trainee chef who lived with his partner Ricky. He has been in contact with Stephen Port on an off for several months, before the death of Gabriel in fact. Despite this they hadn’t met up in person. This all changed on the 18th of August when the pair finally met up and went to Port’s flat for drinks. As per his usual MO, Port laced Daniels drink with GHB and abused him. Daniel died from the overdose administered by Port and was then left in the same graveyard that Gabriel had been left in just a month before. In a tragic twist, Daniels body was discovered by the very same dog walker who had found Gabriel.
When the police arrived on scene they again concluded that Daniel had died by a self administered over dose. They also found a “suicide” note with Daniels body indicating that he was responsible for the death of his friend, Gabriel the month before after they’d taken drugs together. The note stated that he was so remorseful for the death of his friend that he no longer wanted to live. The note also pleaded that no blame should be placed on the man who Daniel had spent the night with before his death. This man was of course, Stephen Port who had cunningly forged the note and left it with the body.
When Daniels family were notified of his “suicide” they were left shell shocked and understandably with many questions. Daniel had never suffered with mental health related problems and was in a happy place. He loved cooking and was enjoying his job as a trainee chef. When his family were shown the note found with Daniel they immediately had their doubts that it was written by him, due to the handwriting and how the note had come across. Despite raising concerns with police and also pointing out similarities in his case and the previous two before him, they still weren’t willing to investigate the deaths and concluded that Daniel had taken his own life. His family were even told that it would be too expensive to track Daniel’s phone.
Shortly after Daniels death, Stephen Port began his 8 month sentence for perverting the course of justice in the case of Anthony Walgates death. He served 7 and a half months of his 8 month sentence before being released on licence. This was another blunder made by the police, as Stephen Port was now free and ready to carry out his fourth murder…..
Jack Taylor was a 25 year old forklift truck driver who lived in Dagenham with his parents. He had two older sisters who he doted on and the three siblings got along incredibly well. Described by his sisters as protective, happy and caring, Jack had never been in trouble and would never touch drugs due to the fear of losing control.
Jack had spent the evening of September the 14th drinking in his local pub before he returned home in the early hours of the morning. His father recalls hearing him come home and go to his bedroom. Unfortunately Jack didn’t stay home for long after being contacted by Stephen Port via the gay dating app Grindr. He took a minicab to Barking station where he was met by Port. CCTV captured the pair walking through the town towards Stephen’s flat.
Shortly after arriving back at Stephens flat, Jack was drugged, raped and killed by Port. His body was moved from the flat to the area around the churchyard where the previous victims had been found. Like the other three men, Jack was missing his mobile phone when his body was discovered.
When Jacks family were informed of his death, they immediately became suspicious. Jack was anti drugs and the circumstances in which he was found just didn’t fit with the type of person Jack was.
When his sisters approached the police about the death they were initially told that there were no investigations taking place with regards to what had happened. They believed that Jack had self administered the drugs and had died of an accidental overdose.
This did not deter the sisters, who were convinced foul play was involved in their brothers death. Together, they started looking into the unexplained deaths of young gay men that had occurred within the area. They instantly found a pattern emerging and again, approached the police, demanding they open an investigation into the events.
Pressure was now being put on the police by Jack Taylor’s family, Gabriel Kovari’s former housemate, John Pape and the families of Daniel Whitworth and Anthony Walgate. There was widespread doubt that the deaths were all as straightforward as being caused by an overdose. The determination of Jack Taylor’s sisters finally started to pay off when the police eventually agreed to released the CCTV footage of Jack and Port walking through the town on the night he died. An appeal was made for anyone who may recognise the man to come forward with any information. Two days after the footage was made public, Stephen Port was arrested.
A multiple murder investigation begins.
As soon as Port was arrested, the case was passed along from Barking police to an official homicide unit where the investigation began. Searches were carried out in the flat and his computer and phones were examined. A large amount of GHB was found in Ports home and there was record of multiple gay dating apps, plus the conversations he’d been having with various men, including the four found dead in the area. Stephen Port was charged with multiple murder and sexual assault. He appeared at the Old Bailey in London in November 2016 where he was given a whole life order, meaning that he will never see freedom again and will die behind bars.
If it wasn’t for the actions of Jack Taylor’s sisters in particular and the pressure they put on the police to do something about the deaths, Stephen Port may never have been caught. The shambolic nature of the case and the lack of actions taken by the police caused uproar in the local community and in particular the LGBT groups in the area who argued that they should have been notified about the fact that members of their community were possibly under threat.
Seventeen police officers from Barking were placed under investigation due to the lack of effort and actions shown in the case of Stephen Port and the catastrophic way that the deaths had been handled.
There is a BBC documentary that outlines the case and the failings that occurred during the investigation. You can watch it on YouTube here .