Serial killer Stephen Port’s laptop was not submitted for forensic examination by police until 10 months after the death of his first victim, who then killed two others, an interrogator has heard.
The device showed that a few days before Port arranged to meet with 23-year-old Anthony Walgate, a fashion student at Hull, a jury was told that he had used material depicting unconscious male drug rape, including date rape. The use of the drug GHB was also involved.
Between June 2014 and September 2015, Port’s victims were given fatal overdoses of the pre-rape drug GHB and their bodies were dumped near their flat in Barking, east London.
Following Walgate’s death, a Toshiba PC was seized from Port’s flat in Barking, east London, whose body was found trapped outside the communal door block of the flats on 19 June 2014.
The Metropolitan Police’s Homicide Command advised Barking Police to submit Port’s laptop and phone for download on June 27, 2014. But it was not until the following April, when Barking officials were preparing an investigation into Walgate’s death, that the computer was submitted for scientific examination. At the request of the coroner, the investigation was heard.
By June 2015, a year after Walgate’s death, Barking police found a USB stick with downloaded computer data. The jury was told that in August and September 2014, Port had killed 22-year-old Gabriel Cowry and 21-year-old Daniel Whitworth.
Giving evidence, DS David Parrish, who was then a trainee detective at Barking, said he was not allotted the task of submitting laptops for the exam in 2014. When he submitted it, in April 2015, he received a USB. Content downloaded in June 2015.
He told the jury that while he noted that Port had used gay pornography sites, he did not recall having visited drug rape sites prior to Walgate’s death, nor the social media accounts and messages that appeared on the laptop. were also available.
“Ultimately, and looking back, this is a mistake on my part,” Parish said.
Inquiry attorney Beatrice Collier asked: “If you had, would you have suspected Port might have been responsible for the death?”
Parish responded: “Potentially,” adding: “That would raise further questions about his involvement.”
Port was convicted of the murders of Walgate, Cowry, Whitworth and 25-year-old Jack Taylor and is serving a life sentence.
Inquiries at Barking Town Hall will examine the “capacity and adequacy” of the police investigation and whether lives could have been saved.
Walgate’s college friends said they told police they suspected Port had killed him. China Dunning, who reported Walgate’s disappearance, later told an officer: “This man is crazy as bullshit. He has done something to Anthony.”
Walgate hired himself as an escort to the port for £800. The two had met online, using the port alias Joe Dean.
Dunning said that when she asked police whether Port’s computer had been checked, she was told it was “too expensive” and that there were only two people who knew what had happened and one had died.
She told interrogation that she was told by DS Martin O’Donnell: “You have to let it go. You’re not going to find out.”
Another friend, Keira Brennan, said she thought the police had closed their minds to how Walgate died and believed Port’s account to be true. “The port should have a laptop, a mobile phone. Go and get it. Why don’t you go and get it. Surely this must be an important task,” she told the jury.