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Dog walker recalls ‘peculiar’ churchyard discovery of Port victims

·5-min read

A dog walker has described the “peculiar” discovery of two victims of serial killer Stephen Port three weeks apart.

Over 16 months, Port gave four young gay men fatal doses of the drug GHB and dumped their bodies near his flat in Barking, east London.

Two of his victims, Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, were left in a secluded corner of St Margaret’s Churchyard, propped against a stone wall beneath an old maple tree.

Stephen Port murders
A corner of St Margaret’s Churchyard in Barking, east London, where Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth were found (Emily Pennink/PA)

They were both found by dog walker Barbara Denham, who alerted the police.

Giving evidence at an inquest into the deaths, Mrs Denham said she found the experience “overwhelming”.

On August 28 2014, Mrs Denham was taking her usual route through the churchyard with her own border collie and two chocolate Labradors.

She told jurors: “I just saw a young man lying up against a wall and his glasses – he had dark glasses on – they were not straight in front of his face.

“He looked like he was asleep. Someone who had a rough night – drugs or drink – and was sleeping it off.

“I never got a good look at his face. I never removed his glasses. The glasses were skew-whiff.”

She said he had a large black trolley bag and a smaller black bag with him, which she thought was “strange”.

She said that unless someone was in a deep sleep, they would normally react to the dogs passing by.

“His position, the way he was, I felt strongly there should have been some kind of movement.

“I just was not sure. It just did not look right to me.

“I said ‘Yoo-hoo’, to try to see if I could wake him up – at that time of the morning he should be waking up anyway. But he didn’t.”

Retired Mrs Denham said she touched Mr Kovari before deciding to call police.

“I thought, I cannot leave him there, he needs help of some kind. There is a possibility he is dead.”

She added: “Because I was not very au fait with mobile phones and my phone needed charging at the time, I phoned them and said: ‘Don’t keep me holding on because I think my phone needs charging’.”

Stephen Port murders
Daniel Whitworth was found dead in St Margaret’s Churchyard (Metropolitan Police/PA)

On September 20 2014, Mrs Denham found the body of Mr Whitworth when she was out with her border collie.

She said: “I have seen another young man sitting in the same position, almost in the same spot.

“It could have been a foot or two feet away from where the other one was.

“He again was sitting up in an L-shape. He actually looked like he sat down.

“His chest was open and he had a plastic envelope or bag tucked inside the shirt or jacket.

“It was like someone would think, ‘I have a letter to post and I’ve just not posted it.'”

Watch: Dog walker on the moment she found two of Port's victims

Mrs Denham, who lived locally, said she put her finger on his stomach before calling the police once more.

She told jurors: “This time I phoned up and said: ‘I am the same woman that found the other body a few weeks ago.’

“And I said: ‘I have found another young boy.’

“They all came flying over there. There was lots that day.”

Mrs Denham said it struck her as “very peculiar” at the time.

She added: “Having said in the phone call to them that I thought it was peculiar that they were there, I was certainly never asked then or later whether it was suspicious at all.”

Stephen Port murders
Stephen Port’s victims: Daniel Whitworth, Jack Taylor, Anthony Walgate and Gabriel Kovari (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Pc Thomas Faulkner, who attended the scene of Mr Kovari’s death, said: “At the time I cannot say whether or not we were treating it as suspicious or unexplained.

“All I can say is there was an element we were treating the scene in a suspicious manner.”

The court heard that Pc Faulkner searched Mr Kovari’s belongings and interviewed his friend, John Pape, over the phone.

In his statement, Mr Pape said: “He (Gabriel) said his mother is a pharmacist and he said to me he had lots of pharmaceutical drugs, I presumed painkillers, if I needed any. He would drink socially but I do not think he was a heavy drinker.”

Pc Faulkner said he probably did not think to ask about recreational drugs.

Jurors heard that Mr Pape had claimed he had linked the death with that of Anthony Walgate a few months earlier.

But Pc Faulkner said: “I cannot remember whether or not he mentioned that to me. If he had mentioned something along those lines I would have thought I would have brought that to the attention of a supervisor.”

Watch: Serial killer Stephen Port sentenced to life in prison

Paramedic Tobie Waggatt pronounced Mr Kovari dead after being called to a report of a “male collapsed, possibly deceased”.

He told jurors: “I was quite new to the role. This is the first time I had seen a body in a churchyard sat up against a wall.”

He said it appeared that the patient had been dead for “some hours” and he could not find “any sign of any poison or overdose”.

Previously, the inquest has heard that police now believe that 6ft 5in Port had wrapped his victims’ bodies in bed sheets and carried them to the sites where they were found.

The discovery of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth followed the death of Mr Walgate, 23, who was left outside Port’s flat in Cooke Street, Barking, on June 19 2014.

On that occasion, Port had alerted authorities anonymously, initially claiming to be a passer-by before lying about his involvement to police.

His fourth victim, aspiring police officer Jack Taylor, 25, was found dead on the other side of the graveyard wall by a parks worker on September 14 2015.

Inquests at Barking Town Hall are examining whether any of the deaths could have been avoided if police had acted differently.

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