Statement on behalf of families of Stephen Port's victims following inquest conclusion
Statement on behalf of families of Stephen Port’s victims following inquest conclusion
The inquests into the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor, the four men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port between 2014 and 2015, concluded today at Barking Town Hall.
At a press conference following the conclusions, the families’ lawyer Neil Hudgell of Hudgell Solicitors read out the following statement on behalf of the families:
“We welcome today’s conclusions. The jury has obviously taken great care and considerable time to return these clear failings. We feel thoroughly vindicated by their findings.
The inadequate investigations by the Metropolitan Police into the deaths of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack 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. On the jury’s findings, we continue to believe that had the police done their jobs properly in the first place, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack would not have been killed and other young men would not have been drugged and raped by him.
We are incensed by the police’s successful efforts to prevent the jury from examining whether prejudice played any part in the police’s actions. The coroner did not rule that the police were not homophobic, and our position remains unchanged; based on the treatment we received, our firmly held belief is that the Metropolitan Police’s actions were, in part, driven by homophobia. Had four, white, heterosexual girls been found dead in the same manner as Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack, then the police’s actions, and the likely outcomes, would have been different.
The approach of the Met on the issue of homophobia demonstrates to us that even today, seven years on, they have learned very little.
The inquests have at least gone where the IOPC investigation failed to. Given that all but one of the 17 officers questioned as part of that investigation into the police’s actions gave ‘no comment’ interviews, the inquests represent the first time we have had the opportunity to hear from the police in a public forum. It has taken seven years.
There is nothing that can return Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel or Jack to us. Their killer has rightly been held accountable, but the police have not. It distresses us hugely that many of the officers who failed us so badly continue to serve as police officers without any significant sanctions, and we cannot be confident that their performance has improved. In fact, we understand that at least 10 of the officers involved in the investigations have been promoted. We are now calling on the IOPC and the Met to revisit this issue.
We ask the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the Home Secretary, Priti Patel how that can be right? What faith in policing can the British public have when failings not only go unpunished, but are instead rewarded? How can the much-touted platitude of ‘lessons being learnt’ be true when there is a culture of rewarding failure?
Despite hearing assurances from one of the most senior officers in the Met, the coroner is not convinced that enough change has happened to prevent similar deaths in future. The people of London should be concerned. The coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report will be essential reading for the government, and we will keep up our fight to ensure its findings are thoroughly and swiftly actioned.
During the inquests we have heard apologies from several officers. The fact that all of these apologies have come about only because of the inquest process, renders them hollow. Further, the prevailing attitude demonstrated by some of the officers whilst giving evidence has demonstrated to us that those lessons haven’t been learnt, despite the Met’s attempt to spin otherwise.
The past eight weeks have inevitably taken their toll. It has shocked us that many of the police witnesses either have very different recollections to ours, or only selective memory recall. We are exhausted, but we also feel vindicated. And while our view of the world has been tainted by what has happened, we have also been shown great warmth and care by so many people.
We want to thank the coroner, Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC and her counsel for their diligence and their sensitive communication with us throughout, the jury for their commitment and consideration, the leader of the Council and all of the staff at Barking Town Hall who have looked after us and made us feel welcome.
Detective Constable Ian Atkinson and Detective Superintendent Tim Duffield were assigned to us as family liaison officers ahead of Port’s trial and have been with us ever since. We refer to them as ‘the real police’ as they have been a shining example of what we would have expected from the outset, but didn’t get. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their communication, their consideration and most of all, for their kindness.
We’d also like to thank our legal team led by Neil Hudgell at Hudgell Solicitors and Henrietta Hill QC and Tom Stoate of Doughty Street Chambers.
Finally, but most importantly, we want to say to Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack that you will never be forgotten. We feel your loss every minute of every day, we will forever wonder how your lives would have turned out, but you live on strongly in our cherished memories.”
Neil Hudgell added his own personal tribute to the families: “Over the past seven years, the families of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack have been through every family’s worst nightmare. This nightmare was then compounded by the police resolutely refusing to believe what the families knew all along to be true.
“Throughout their seven-year ordeal they have never once wavered in their desire for justice, accountability and answers. It is down to their dogged determination that we are here today and have forced the police into explaining their actions. Furthermore, it is to their absolute credit that during this time they have faced everything that has come their way with quiet dignity and good humour. It has been a privilege to represent them.”
Further details about the rulings can be found on the inquests website: www.eastlondoninquests.org.uk