Family of Gravesend chef Daniel Whitworth murdered by serial killer Stephen Port appeal for information ahead of planned legal action against Met Police
PUBLISHED: 13:22 05 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:22 05 January 2017
Hudgell Solicitors, a legal team specialising in misconduct or failings by the police, has been chosen to represent the victim families over the coming months
The family of the Gravesend chef murdered by serial killer Stephen Port have issued an appeal for information before launching a legal case against the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the investigation.
Daniel Whitworth, 21, was one of four young men killed by Port, who stalked his victims on gay dating websites and plied them with drinks spiked with fatal amounts of the drug GHB to rape them while they were unconscious.
He dumped their bodies in or near a graveyard within 500 metres of his flat in Barking, east London, and embarked on an elaborate cover-up.
He disposed of their mobile phones, repeatedly lied to police and planted a fake suicide note in the hand of one of his victims, taking the blame for the death of another.
Mr Whitworth’s stepmother, Mandy Pearson, told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme last month that the families were planning to sue the force after claiming officers took a homophobic attitude towards the case.
“We were in the dark, I found out most of the things we needed to know at a public inquest five or six months after his death,” she said.
“They were very difficult to get hold of, the police. Our liaison officer basically didn’t liaise and that’s my take on it.”
A total of 17 police officers face investigation for possible misconduct over the catalogue of failures in catching the killer.
Scotland Yard bosses have admitted “potential opportunities” were missed and that investigators who failed to see “striking similarities” between the deaths of four men had only patchy knowledge of the use of drugs linked to gay sex.
Watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating whether homophobia played a part in the errors, and the Met’s advisers from the gay community have called on the force to deal with “any systemic or cultural issues” that may have come into play.
Now Mrs Pearson and the families of the other victims, Anthony Walgate, Jack Taylor and Gabriel Kovari, have chosen a legal team specialising in misconduct or failings by the police to represent them over the coming months.
Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, said: “The Metropolitan Police have publically acknowledged that the evidence heard at Stephen Port’s trial identified potentially missed opportunities to catch Port sooner.
“There are many serious questions which the families of these young men need answering through the on-going IPCC investigation and any future inquests.
“It is essential that we establish whether the police response to the deaths of these young men was thorough and appropriate, including whether discrimination played any part in their actions.
“The families expect the IPCC to fully scrutinise the investigative work undertaken by the police and examine how any potential similarities between the cases were considered.
“The families rightly want the police to be held to account but it is too early at this stage to say what form any legal action may take, the emphasis right now is on information gathering.
“We urge anyone with information they believe could be relevant to the IPCC investigation to contact the IPCC directly on 0800 151 0021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Alternatively, the legal team can be contacted directly on email@example.com”
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