A senior London police officer has denied “unconscious bias” in the handling of the investigation into serial killer Stephen Port’s first victim.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Jones attended the scene of Anthony Walgate’s death on June 19, 2014.
Having classified it as “unexplained” rather than “suspicious”, he determined the case should be dealt with locally rather than his specialist homicide team.
However, Mr Jones was not aware at the time of “inconsistencies” around the time of death or that the man who called 999 was a suspected rapist.
Giving evidence at the inquests into Port’s four victims, Mr Jones, who has since retired, denied there was “bias” because the victim was a young gay man and his death potentially involved drugs.
Mr Walgate (23) was found propped up against a wall outside Port’s flat in east London.
After making an anonymous 999 call just after 4am, Port claimed to police that the victim had “gurgled” before he moved him.
But medics called to the scene noted the body was cold and stiff, suggesting he had been dead for up to eight hours, the inquest heard.
In the course of identifying the caller, officers discovered Port had an allegation of rape recorded against him on the Police National Computer.
Andrew O’Connor QC, counsel for the coroner, added that Mr Walgate had no mobile phone or wallet on him and had been “propped” up in a strange position. He asked Mr Jones: “If you had been made aware of an inconsistency, Anthony ‘gurgling’ at 4am, and information from the ambulance man and doctor suggesting that could not have been right… Would that have altered your view?”
Mr Jones replied: “I think if a view had been expressed that the time of death had been prior or significantly prior to what is being presented by Stephen Port then that would be incredibly important.”
Mr Jones added it would have been “helpful” to have been told of the previous allegation of rape against Port when he attended the scene.
The witness was asked about a request later in June 2014 for the case to be taken over from borough officers – which was refused.
In an email setting out the argument, a senior borough officer wrote that Mr Walgate “died at the hands of another” on the balance of probabilities.
Between June 2014 and September 2015, Port gave all four of his victims fatal doses of the date rape drug GHB before dumping the bodies near his flat.
He was later convicted of lying to police about the circumstances of Mr Walgate’s death, but not before he killed Gabriel Kovari (22) and Daniel Whitworth (21).
The killing spree was not stopped after until after the death of Jack Taylor (25).
In 2016, Port was found guilty of the murders and handed a whole life order.
The jury inquest at Barking Town Hall is examining the competence and adequacy of the police investigation and whether Port could have been caught sooner and lives saved.