New evidence has emerged suggesting that police may have missed opportunities to catch Stephen Port, who will be sentenced on Friday after being convicted of murdering four young gay men.
The coroner at the June 2015 inquest into the death of Port’s third victim, Daniel Whitworth, 21, raised concerns that someone else may have been involved three months before Port murdered Jack Taylor, 25, his final victim, in September last year.
Transcripts from the inquest also revealed police were advised to test items found near Whitworth’s body for DNA but failed to do so, the BBC reported. He was found in a graveyard near Port’s flat. A fake suicide note, written and planted by Port, and a blue bed sheet, would later be found to have Port’s DNA on them.
The coroner, Nadia Persaud, said in her inquest conclusion: “My concerns of a third-party involvement in Daniel coming to be in the graveyard on 20 September cannot be allayed by the evidence that has been produced to the court.
“I cannot say beyond reasonable doubt that I am satisfied that he voluntarily took his own life. I also cannot say that I am satisfied that he was unlawfully killed.” She recorded an open verdict.
Transcripts obtained by the BBC show that Persaud asked DI Rolf Schamberger whether the bed sheet had been examined, as recommended by a pathologist. He said it had not, adding that the “circumstances at the time indicated towards no other external parties being involved”.
“The potential outcome of having the blanket analysed, the bed sheet analysed, could have been to identify maybe where he had been the night before, who had contact with him. But it wasn’t submitted,” Schamberger told the coroner.
Whitworth’s body was found by a dog walker in St Margaret’s graveyard in Barking in September 2014, just three weeks after the same dog walker found the body of Gabriel Kovári, 22, in the same location.
The body of Taylor was also found in the graveyard, which is about 500 metres from Port’s flat in Barking, east London. The body of Anthony Walgate – Port’s first victim in June 2014 – was found just outside the communal entrance to his block of flats.
Persaud was most concerned by bruises under Whitworth’s armpits, and on his chest and neck, which she said suggested someone may have lifted him and moved him.
Schamberger told the inquest that only the contents of a bottle found in a bag with Whitworth’s body had been tested. The bottle, which was found to contain the “date-rape drug” GHB, was later found to have Port’s DNA on it.
The detective inspector also revealed that officers had checked the handwriting of the “suicide” note found with Whitworth’s body with one of his diaries, but a handwriting expert was not called in to advise, the BBC reported. The writing on the note was later found to be a match for that of Port.
Seventeen officers are being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is reviewing the coroner’s concerns as part of its investigation into the police handling of the case.
Port was convicted on Wednesday of 22 offences against 11 men, including four murders, four rapes, four assaults by penetration, and 10 of administering a substance. He was cleared on three counts of rape.
He will be sentenced on Friday.