Inquest jurors are today expected to return their conclusions into the deaths of four young, gay men killed by drug-rape predator Stephen Port.
The 11 jurors will decide whether police working in Barking, east London, during Port’s 16-month killing spree in any way contributed to the deaths.
Port, now 46, is expected to die behind bars after killing Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and 25-year-old Jack Taylor between June 2014 and September 2015, by luring them to his flat and plying them with a fatal dose of GHB before dumping their bodies nearby.
But police failed to link Port to the deaths despite detective work carried out by the victims’ family and friends that would lead them to the culprit.
Coroner Sarah Munro QC has already directed jurors at Barking Town Hall – a minute’s walk from where Port killed his victims and left their bodies to be discovered – to return conclusions that the four men were “unlawfully killed”.
Jurors have been told to look at the police investigations that followed the death of Port’s first victim, fashion student Mr Walgate, from Hull.
Sending them out to consider their conclusions on December 2, Ms Munro said: “You will need to consider whether or not in your view certain features of the three investigations that followed the discovery of each of the bodies of Anthony, Gabriel and Daniel contributed to the deaths of Port’s subsequent victims.”
They included any “error, omission or circumstance” that either probably or may have contributed to deaths, Ms Munro said.
The daily inquest hearings, which began in the first week in October, heard evidence that police ignored intelligence, that the Metropolitan Police murder squad turned down requests from the borough officers to take over the investigations, and that key forensic evidence was missed.
Officers were accused of a lack of professional curiosity, leaving family members and friends of the victims to carry out their own investigations.
Police called to give evidence described having to cope with heavy workloads, and lacking the skills at a local level to properly investigate homicides on a patch with relatively few suspicious deaths.
The 6ft 5in serial killer was eventually stopped when a police officer working on the Walgate investigation recognised bus depot chef Port as the unidentified figure caught on CCTV walking alongside Mr Taylor through Barking town centre the night he was last seen alive.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, who led the subsequent review of the investigations into the deaths of Port’s victims, told the inquests there was a “serious failure of policing”.
He said: “Every single one of you absolutely had a right to expect a professional investigation to the standards all of us expected.
“It’s fair to say those standards weren’t met.”
Mr Cundy said there was a “clear possibility that Stephen Port could have been identified and arrested sooner than he was”.
He added: “I have never seen anything as unique and as having such terrible consequences as we’ve seen at this inquest.”
The coroner ruled out homophobia as an issue for the jury to consider in its conclusions.
The conclusions are expected to be returned from midday.