Met Police accused of ‘institutional homophobia’ over Stephen Port investigation

The Metropolitan Police has been accused of "institutional homophobia" by a friend of a young man who was killed by serial killer Stephen Port.

John Pape was friends with Gabriel Kovari, who was killed by Port in 2014 after drugging him, along with three other victims, with a fatal dose of GHB and dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.

Mr Pape told an inquest into the deaths of Port’s victims that he had to turn detective himself because of the "disturbingly incompetent" investigation by Met Police.

Following Mr Kovari’s death, Mr Pape said that he tracked down Mr Kovari’s ex-boyfriend, who was told by another man – later established to be Port, who was seeking to distance himself from the investigation – that the men were drugged at orgies involving older men.

But Mr Pape said police seemed to ignore his attempts to provide them with information.

Stephen Port's victims Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor

Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

He told the inquests into the deaths at Barking Town Hall on Friday: "I think it’s been said here that the police were underfunded and under emotional strain.

"But I think, when grieving families, boyfriends and friends are getting close to the truth and trying to raise the alarm 10 months before the Met are even willing to acknowledge the deaths are suspicious, it can’t be a funding issue."

Mr Pape added: "The only thing that makes sense about how disturbingly incompetent this investigation was is prejudice.

"If the lives and deaths of young gay and bi men aren’t treated with significance and respect, I think that amounts to institutional homophobia."

Port was given a whole life sentence in 2016 after being found guilty of murdering Anthony Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and final victim Jack Taylor, 25, between June 2014 and September 2015.

‘I didn’t trust the police’

Mr Pape said he contacted gay charities, the gay press and campaigner Peter Tatchell to explain his concerns, adding: "I didn’t trust the police to link it properly.

"I was concerned about young, gay men in Barking."

Mr Pape wept as he described hearing that Port had been arrested.

He said: "I think I felt a mix of emotions, certainly a kind of anger because it felt like I had these concerns… that an older man might be preying on younger men… and I felt like I hadn’t been listened to.

"I wish I could go back and tell myself to push it more."

Stephen Port's victims Anthony Walgate and Gabriel Kovari

Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Peter Skelton QC, counsel for the Met Police, said officers involved in the case had apologised for the police response, but suggested to Mr Pape that "incompetence does not always equate to prejudice".

On Friday, the inquest heard that the detective appointed to speak with Mr Kovari’s family admitted having never done so, saying she was "busy".

Detective Constable Jackie Baxter, who was appointed as family liaison officer (FLO) to the Kovaris, told the inquest jury: "I can only put that down to the workload I was working on. That’s no excuse, I know."

Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel to the inquests, said: "You were appointed as the FLO for the Kovari family … the clue is in the name."

Ms Baxter replied: "The problem we had was we had an awful lot of work.

"I’d not done my job properly by not contacting the Kovari family."

The inquest into their deaths is examining whether more could have been done to stop Port, who was known to police days after the first murder.

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