Anthony Patrick Walgate (23) was found dead on the street in Barking in June 2014. Gabriel Kovari, (22) was found in August 2014 and Daniel Whitworth (21) in September 2014, both in the same churchyard in Barking. The fourth victim was Jack Taylor (25) who was found dead in September 2015.
All these men were initially thought to have died from drug overdoses and with one victim holding a suicide note, police did not treat these deaths as connected murders. The suicide note is now believed to be false and in early October 2015 police realised they may have a serial killer on their hands and launched a full-scale murder investigation.
The widely accepted definition of a serial killer by police and academics is “when an individual has killed three or more people who were previously unknown to him or her, with a ‘cooling off’ period between each murder” as highlighted by the Centre For Crime and Justice Studies.
Stephen Port from Barking in East London was arrested in October 2015 and charged with four counts of murder and four counts of administering poison with intent to endanger life. All four victims were found within half a mile of his Barking flat and links to the gay social networking app Grindr have also been established.
At a pre-trial hearing at the Old Bailey in London at the beginning of August 2016, Stephen Port has been charged with an additional 21 charges with regards to a further eight victims who survived encounters with him. These charges include six counts of administering a poison, seven charges of rape and four charges of sexual assault. This amounts to a total of 29 charges against the now 41-year-old.
Stephen Port is alleged to have used the drug GHB to gain control over his victims and ultimately cause their deaths. A drug also known as liquid ecstasy, it can cause unconsciousness, coma and death. GHB is a known drug that is often used to facilitate sexual assault due to these effects which can kick in as quickly as within 10 minutes and last for several hours. Statistics suggest that serial killers in the UK who are undetected could be responsible for up to seven murders a year. Furthermore, British criminologist Professor David Wilson who has studied UK serial killers tells us “research indicated there are at least two unidentified active serial killers in the country at any one time”.
His research has included some of Britain’s most notorious serial killers including Dr Harold Shipman who on 31 January 2000, was found guilty of 15 murders, but an inquiry after his conviction confirmed he was responsible for at least 218 and Dennis Nilsen who by 1981 had killed 12 men.
Stephen Port pleaded not guilty to all charges against him when he appeared through video link at the Old Bailey from Belmarsh Prison where he is being held. The connection with the Grindr dating app and its possible role in facilitating meetings between Stephen Port and his victims has prompted many in the media to label Stephen Port as the Grindr Serial Killer.
This case is said to be complex and ongoing with a date for trial being repeatedly delayed. It is now expected that Stephen Port with go on trial in October 2016, a trial which could last for at least 8 weeks.
UPDATE: On 22 November 2016 Stephen Port was found guilty at London’s Old Bailey of the murder of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor. The Independent reports “Port was convicted of a total of 16 offences against nine out of 12 alleged victims, including the three murders. Other charges he was found guilty of included seven counts of administering a substance, three rapes and three sex assaults.”