Serial killer Stephen Port had a “voracious appetite” for meeting “very young” men, and had a “strange” obsession with children’s toys, a former friend told a court.
Neighbour Ryan Edwards said drug-rape killer Port spent time with “vulnerable” boys to such an extent that he considered the softly-spoken chef might have “paedophile tendencies”.
Mr Edwards said he also had concerns about Port’s drug use, but was reassured by the predator that his interest in young males was legal, and that the drugs were for personal use only.
Port, now 46, was jailed for life in 2016 after being convicted of murder by plying four young, gay men with fatal doses of the drug GHB, as well as a number of rapes.
Inquests into the four deaths in Barking, east London, which are being held yards from where Port lived and dumped his victims’ bodies, are examining whether police actions could have stopped the 6ft 5in serial killer earlier.
Mr Edwards told inquest jurors he struck up a friendship with Port due to them being neighbours and members of Barking’s LGBT community.
He said their friendship was strictly platonic, and that Port would frequently invite him over to meet his new partner, something which occasionally gave Mr Edwards cause for concern.
He told the inquest jury: “My slight concern with Stephen Port was sometimes the guys he would introduce me to were very young – 16, 17 sometimes, very close to the age of consent.
“Often there were difficult circumstances, broken homes, needing somewhere to stay, vulnerable.
“I was wondering if he was bordering on paedophile tendencies, but I didn’t have any evidence.”
Mr Edwards added: “He had a voracious appetite for meeting guys and I was always astonished at how he was able to meet so many, he wasn’t exactly ‘Mr Personality’.
“That was slightly strange.”
Mr Edwards also described being invited to Port’s flat one evening to meet his “new guy”, only to find the male seemingly unable to speak and drugs paraphernalia on the coffee table.
He said: “I did ask Stephen about it and he reassured me it was for his own personal use and reassured me not to worry.
“Rightly or wrongly, drugs are very prevalent on the gay scene, I don’t see it as my place to police that.”
Mr Edwards said he would have reported concerns about Port’s young companions and about drug use if there was any evidence of criminal activity, as he had done with a previous friend.
He also described how Port loved playing with Transformers toys, specifically the ones designed for children.
“(It was) strange for a grown man,” Mr Edwards said, “but I took Stephen for his quirks, and there were many.”
Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, were all found dead near Port’s flat during a 16-month period between June 2014 and September 2015.
The inquests continue.