London

Judge to lead Stephen Port victims' inquests

Stephen Port Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Port, from London, was given a whole life prison term for the murders of four young men between August 2014 and September 2015

The inquests into the deaths of serial killer Stephen Port's victims will be led by a judge, it has been announced.

The 43-year-old drugged and raped four young men and dumped their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.

He was given a life sentence in 2016 for murdering Anthony Walgate, 23, Daniel Whitworth, 21, Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Jack Taylor, 25.

Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC agreed to a judge being appointed to conduct the inquest into all four deaths.

It follows a request to the current coroner, Dr Shirley Radcliffe, to allow it to be held in a different area or for her to step aside in favour of a judge.

Dr Radcliffe has since asked Mr Lucraft to appoint a judge, due to the potential complexity of the case, the volume of material and the considerable public interest.

She also confirmed that the Independent Office for Police Conduct had completed its report into the Metropolitan Police's initial response to the deaths.

It is expected to be handed to the victim's families in 2019.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Anthony Walgate (L) and Gabriel Kovari (R) were Port's first victims

Lawyer Andrew Petherbridge said: "There is real public interest in these inquests and in particular into the actions of the Metropolitan Police.

"The long fight for justice continues for the families but they are reassured by the decision to appoint a judge to lead these inquests."

Last year, the 2015 inquests into the deaths of Mr Kovari and Mr Whitworth were quashed.

The earlier open conclusions were reached before police had connected the deaths to Mr Walgate's the previous year and before Mr Taylor was killed in September 2015.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Daniel Whitworth (L) and Jack Taylor (R) were also killed by Port

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