The serial killer Stephen Port’s laptop was not submitted for forensic examination by police until 10 months after the death of his first victim, by which time he had killed two others, an inquest has heard.
The device showed that days before Port arranged to meet Anthony Walgate, 23, a fashion student from Hull, he had accessed material depicting unconscious male drug rape including the use of the date rape drug GHB, a jury was told.
Port’s victims were given fatal overdoses of the drug GHB before being raped and their bodies dumped near his flat in Barking, east London, between June 2014 and September 2015.
The Toshiba PC was seized from Port’s flat in Barking, east London, following the death of Walgate, whose body was found propped outside the block of flats’ communal door on 19 June 2014.
The Metropolitan police’s homicide command advised Barking police to submit Port’s laptop and phone for download on 27 June 2014. But it was not until the following April, when Barking officers were preparing for an inquest into Walgate’s death, that the computer was submitted for scientific examination at the coroner’s request, the inquest heard.
It was not until June 2015, one year after Walgate’s death, that Barking police received a USB stick with the downloaded computer data on it. Port had gone on to murder Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21, three weeks apart in August and September 2014, the jury was told.
Giving evidence, DS David Parish, who was a trainee detective at Barking at the time, said he had not been allocated the task of submitting the laptop for examination in 2014. When he did submit it, in April 2015, he received a USB with downloaded material in June 2015.
He told the jury while he did note Port had accessed gay pornography sites, he did not recall seeing the drug rape sites accessed before Walgate’s death, nor the social media accounts and messages that were also available on the laptop.
“With hindsight, and looking back, that’s a mistake on my part,” Parish said.
Beatrice Collier, counsel for the inquiry, asked:“If you had, would you have suspected Port might be responsible for the death?”
Parish replied: “Potentially,” adding: “It would have posed more questions about his involvement.”
Port was convicted of the murders of Walgate, Kovari, Whitworth and Jack Taylor, 25, and is serving a whole-life term.
The inquests at Barking town hall will examine the “competence and adequacy” of the police investigation and whether lives could have been saved.
College friends of Walgate said they told police they suspected Port had killed him. China Dunning, who had reported Walgate missing, subsequently told one officer: “This guy’s dodgy as fuck. He’s done something to Anthony.”
Walgate had hired himself out to Port as an escort for £800. The two had met online, with Port using the alias Joe Dean.
Dunning said when she queried with police if Port’s computer had been checked she was told it was “too expensive” and that there were only two people who knew what had happened and one was dead.
She told the inquest she was told by DS Martin O’Donnell: “You need to let it go. You’re not going to find out.”
Keira Brennan, another friend, said she felt police had closed their minds to how Walgate had died and taken Port’s account as correct. “Port must have had a laptop, a mobile phone. Go and get that. Why wouldn’t you go and get that. Surely it must be an important thing to do,” she told the jury.