A senior detective has denied that his colleagues were “lazy” in failing to link the deaths of four young, gay men in near-identical circumstances, at the hands of drug-rape predator Stephen Port, saying they were battling with “relentless” workloads.
Detective Inspector Tony Kirk, who was the head of local policing in Barking, east London, at the time of Port’s killing spree, said borough officers were having to deal with “hundreds of crimes every day”, meaning long-term investigations had to “take a back seat”.
He said he had thought about the Port case “every day” since the killer was finally detected, 16 months after he murdered his first victim, and would probably continue to do so.
He told inquest jurors at Barking Town Hall: “I’m not going to excuse what happened.
“But these were not officers who were lazy, they were working relentlessly in difficult conditions with very little reward (recognition).”
Inquests are being held into the deaths of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor between June 2014 and September 2015 to determine whether any of the victims could have been saved if police had acted differently.
They had all been fatally plied with the date-rape drug GHB by Port at his one-bedroom flat, before he dumped their bodies nearby.
None of the four victims had links to the area.
The inquests previously heard accusations that police ignored intelligence, including from the victims’ family members and friends, that led to Port, and that the Metropolitan Police murder squad turned down requests from the borough officers to take over the investigations.
Mr Kirk told the inquest jurors: “It’s the small things that were missed in this investigation that stick in my mind.”
But he added: “It’s not a case that these are the only things going on for these officers.
“That’s why the links weren’t made.
“When you have hundreds of crimes every day coming in, ten or 20 prisoners a day, critical incidents, missing people – any protracted investigation has to take a back seat.
“We have to prioritise.
“That’s the one problem with borough work, you can’t turn off the flow of work.
“Prisoners come in at all times of the day, you can never predict it.
“Sunday morning can be quiet, you can come in to 10 prisoners.
“It’s really a thankless task for those officers.”
He said it was “a truly goosebumps moment” when a detective working on the Walgate investigation recognised Port as the previously unidentified man spotted on CCTV walking with Mr Taylor before he died.
Mr Walgate, 23, Mr Kovari, 22, Mr Whitworth, 21, and Mr Taylor, 25, were all murdered during a 16-month period between June 2014 and September 2015.
Port, now 46, a former escort and bus depot chef, will die behind bars after being given a whole-life jail sentence for the crimes.
The inquests continue.
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