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‘Keystone cops’ failed Port’s first victim, parents tell inquest

·6-min read

The parents of the first victim of Stephen Port have described the police investigation into his death as a “travesty”.

Anthony Walgate, a 23-year-old fashion student from Hull, was found dead outside Port’s flat in Barking, east London, on June 19 2014 after being given a fatal dose of GHB.

Port was charged with perverting the course of justice over the death but killed three more young men before he was stopped.

Sarah Sak and Thomas Walgate both believed their son Anthony was murdered, but said police insisted his death was not suspicious, an inquest was told.

On Friday, Mr Walgate described officers in the case as like “Keystone Cops”, saying: “It’s a travesty what’s gone on here.

“I know my son couldn’t be saved but the other three could have been if they’d done their jobs better.”

Describing the moment he found out his only son had died, he said: “I was at home watching the World Cup.

“There was a knock at the door and it was a WPC. She said ‘you’d better sit down I’ve got some bad news for you’. She said ‘your brother Anthony has died’.

Stephen Port murders
Sarah Sak (second right), mother of Anthony Walgate, arrives at Barking Town Hall (Emily Pennink/PA)

“I said ‘I haven’t got a brother called Anthony’. She said ‘it must be your son’.

He said the meeting took only a few minutes, adding: “The shock is unbelievable.”

A few days later, family liaison officer Detective Constable Paul Slaymaker made contact, but he did not have any answers to his questions, Mr Walgate said.

At first Mr Walgate found him “fine and amicable” but added he felt he could have treated him with more “compassion”.

He went on to describe to the court a meeting with Mr Slaymaker and another officer in March 2015 at which Ms Sak was also present.

He told jurors: “DS Slaymaker did all the talking.

“They were smiling, almost joking, like it was almost some sort of a joke. My lad is on a slab in the morgue.

“It felt like Keystone Cops. I just thought they’d be a bit more serious.

Stephen Port murders
The location outside Stephen Port’s former flat in Cooke Street, Barking, east London, where Anthony Walgate’s body was found (Emily Pennink/PA)

“They could not find it suspicious (that Port) dragged the body out, called an ambulance and went back to bed. Just put the trash out.”

He pressed the officers to get Port’s laptop examined, but was informed it was “too expensive”, the inquest was told.

Mr Walgate said police informed him that Port would lose his home and job as a result of lying to police, as if “they had done their job well”.

But Mr Walgate said: “It just did not sit right with me.”

Asked why he thought his son was murdered, he replied: “It was just father’s instinct.”

Ms Sak described how she rushed home from a holiday in Turkey to be told her son had died in “unusual” but “non-suspicious” circumstances.

Mr Slaymaker had noted that Ms Sak told him the victim “likes to drink” and would “dabble in drugs – she thinks cocaine”.

Ms Sak told jurors: “That’s an absolute lie. I never said that. I did say he liked to drink – because he did.”

Stephen Port murders
A map showing the spots where bodies were dumped by Stephen Port during his 16-month killing spree (Met Police/PA)

Ms Sak said: “I said to him, how come it’s not suspicious?

“People don’t just drop down in the street. And he said to me it was probably drugs.

“That’s when I just lost it with him. I said you can’t say that, it could be anything.”

From that moment the relationship went downhill, she said. “It was as though he had written it off there and then – it was probably drugs. He just wouldn’t listen to anything.

“I said Anthony was murdered. I will never shut up and I will never go away.

“He said he wasn’t murdered, it was unexplained.”

Ms Sak told jurors she was “furious” that she found out that Port had been arrested from the media and not police.

She went on: “The fact Anthony’s phone had not been found, that was a significant thing, that somebody had obviously been involved and taken his phone.

Stephen Port
Stephen Port was handed a whole-life order at the Old Bailey (Metropolitan Police/PA)

“I said you have got to find his phone. I said to him ‘I’m not going away. I’m not going to shut up. Anthony was murdered. Something is not right about this’.”

She went on to complain to Mr Slaymaker that she felt her son was being treated as just “a number”.

She told jurors: “I had said it would be quicker in Hull. I said he’s just become a number there.

“His exact words: ‘We get more deaths in a week here than you get in Hull in a year’.

“That was the thing that made me cry. It didn’t matter what I did, what I said. They were not going to do anything.”

After going to her local MP, she said Mr Slaymaker was “really annoyed”.

“He said ‘how many times do I need to tell you, Anthony was not murdered’.

“I said how many times do I have to say he was.”

In September 2014, she found out about the deaths of Port’s second and third victims, Daniel Whitworth and Gabriel Kovari, and raised it with Mr Slaymaker.

She told jurors: “I said how close they were and he just snapped at me.

“He said they are nothing to do with each other.

“One did not live in the area and the other was homeless.”

The mother said that she felt that being part of the gay community and involved in chemsex somehow explained her son’s death in the eyes of investigators.

And if he had been female, his death would have been investigated more, she said.

Ms Sak said the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth could have been avoided if police had treated her son’s death differently.

Referring to the inquests, she added: “I was having sleepless nights. Could I have done anything more?

“But as I have listened to all of this, no matter what I did, they would never have done anything.”

Clair Dobbin QC, representing Mr Slaymaker and other officers, said: “I suggest to you he was not the angry, dismissive, even homophobic person you have suggested in your evidence today.”

Ms Sak replied: “I do not agree.”

Over 16 months, Port killed a total of four young men in similar circumstances.

In 2016, Port was handed a whole-life order at the Old Bailey after being found guilty of the murders.

The inquests at Barking Town Hall were adjourned until Monday.

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