The Chief Coroner has confirmed that a judge will be appointed to conduct the inquests into the deaths of Stephen Port’s murder victims.
Hudgell Solicitors, instructed by the four families of Port’s victims, asked the current coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe, Assistant Coroner for the Eastern Area of London, to allow the inquests to be held in a different area or step aside in favour of a judge.
Dr Radcliffe requested permission from the Chief Coroner to appoint a judge citing the potential complexity of the case, volume of material to be reviewed and the considerable public interest.
A judge will now be appointed by the local authority, Waltham Forest and a planned pre-inquest review to be held at Walthamstow Coroners Court in November has been postponed. An inquest date has yet to be set.
Two of the victims’ inquests were quashed last year after Port was found guilty of their murders. The initial inquests in June 2015 recorded an open conclusion into the deaths of Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth. However, these conclusions were reached before the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had made the link between the death of Anthony Walgate a year previous, Gabriel and Daniel’s deaths and, before Port’s fourth known murder victim, Jack Taylor was killed in September 2015.
In a note to Hudgell Solicitors, Dr Radcliffe also confirmed that the IOPC’s completed report into the MPS’s initial response to the four deaths is currently being reviewed by the force to allow it to make any redactions relating to sensitive operational matters. Once this has been completed, it will be made available to the families.
Civil liberties and police action specialist Andrew Petherbridge of Hudgell Solicitors says: “We’re very grateful to the coroner for her intervention. There is real public interest in these inquests and in particular into the actions of the Metropolitan Police. The long fight for justice continues for the families but they are reassured by the decision to appoint a judge to lead these inquests.”
Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor, were murdered by Port between 2014 – 2015. Port was jailed for life in 2016 for the murders.