MPs have called for a public inquiry into police failures to stop serial killer Stephen Port and whether homophobia played a part in the bungled investigations.
Inquest jurors found last week that the shambolic inquiries probably contributed to the deaths of three victims – Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor.
Loved ones of the three men and those of the first victim, Anthony Walgate, raised concerns that something sinister had happened after each of the deaths but were ignored by investigators.
The inquests into the four deaths revealed that officers failed to carry out basic evidence gathering such as examining Port’s laptop, testing DNA on bedsheets on which two of the bodies were found, and checking the veracity of a fake suicide note found with Mr Whitworth’s body.
Port killed the four men between June 2014 and September 2015 in Barking, east London, and sexually assaulted more than a dozen others.
“Does he at the very least agree that, given the facts of the cases, homophobia must have been a factor that influenced the actions and inactions of the police?
“In these circumstances will he please order a full public inquiry to examine whether there is institutional homophobia in the police service?”
Dame Margaret said such an inquiry is “vital” if the police are to “gain the trust of the LGBTQ+ community”, adding: “The inquiry is also vital to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.”
She said: “It is incomprehensible that the dots were not joined… three young men might otherwise have been alive today.
“Crucially the victims’ families have raised very serious concerns about homophobia blighting both the investigation and the way they as partners and relatives were treated, though the jurors were directed not to consider this.
“But given the seriousness of this, does the minister not agree a further independent inquiry will be required to get to the truth of how and why it was possible for things to go so badly wrong, and does he accept that the families need answers which they have not got right now on how far homophobia, prejudice or unconscious bias affected this investigation?”
Policing minister Mr Malthouse said a forthcoming review into the culture at the Met, sparked by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, would examine whether there is homophobia in the force.
He also said that deputy mayor of London Sophie Linden had asked watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services to examine whether changes to the Met’s investigative processes had been effective.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is considering whether to reopen its investigation into how the cases were handled.
It originally investigated 17 officers, all but one of whom gave no comment interviews and instead provided written statements, and nine were found to have performance failings.
A number of detectives gave a full account of their actions to the inquests into the men’s deaths, and the IOPC said it is considering whether anything they said will alter its findings.