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IOPC to re-investigate Port case after new evidence

The conduct watchdog is reopening its investigation into the case of multiple murderer Stephen Port.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is re-opening its review of the how the deaths of four young men in East London was handled.

Its decision to look again at how the Metropolitan Police handled the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor follows their inquests in 2021 which revealed previously unknown evidence.

Port, who is now serving a whole life sentence, drugged each of his victims with gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) but concerns were only raised after a case review following the fourth death.

The inquests heard new evidence, previously unknown to the IOPC, which was presented by officers who had been subject to the IOPC investigation and by other MPS officers.

The coroner concluded late last year and the jury found that investigative failures by the MPS probably contributed to the deaths of three of the men.

The inquests found a lack of ‘professional curiosity’ was key to the failings and the inquest heard how the unit tasked with the cases was overloaded and under pressure.

Now, the watchdog is re-looking at the decisions taken by officers because it believes the threshold has been met to merit it.

The IOPC is satisfied that the original investigation was materially flawed and there is ‘significant new information’ that requires further investigation.

Regional Director Graham Beesley said: “Following analysis of the new information provided at the inquest, we have concluded that the original investigation needed to be wider in scope and, therefore, certain lines of enquiries were not followed. Had this information been known at the time it may have led to different decisions on outcomes.”

“A new team has been appointed and they will decide the scale and scope of the new investigation,” he added. “The reinvestigation decision does not necessarily mean that the entirety of the original investigation will be examined again, but it would not be appropriate to comment further on any future lines of enquiry at this stage.”

Today’s announcement is the latest stage of a re-examination of the cases which began in October 2015 when the Met identified concerns regarding the initial investigations into their deaths.

The IOPC’s initial findings, published in 2018, found that officers did not have a case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct. The IOPC also found the performance of nine officers fell below the standard required and that they needed to undergo measures to ensure performance is improved.

But the families say that homophobia was a factor in the Met’s handling of the cases, which the force has strongly rejected.

In a statement, their solicitor said: "It is time for them to be held accountable."

"The inadequate investigations by the Metropolitan Police into the four deaths is one of the most widespread institutional failures in modern history, exacerbated by a woeful lack of remorse, regret or sympathy displayed at the inquests by some of the officers involved," they said.

In response, the Met said it would fully comply with the IOPC and that the officers involved had been informed.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball said: “The deaths of these four young men is a tragedy and we are deeply sorry there were failings in our police response. Again, I give my own and the Met’s heartfelt apologies.

“Since the deaths of Anthony, Gabriel, Daniel and Jack we have worked hard to ensure the service we provide is better while understanding we have more to do. Learning and recommendations from the Independent Office for Police Conduct, Her Majesty’s Coroner and our LGBT+ Independent Advisory Group of community members have enabled us to make a range of improvements.”

She added: “If the IOPC reinvestigation makes further recommendations for improvements we will of course consider those very seriously, in addition to any misconduct matters that may arise.”

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