A London man who murdered four gay men he met online was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole, in a case that has seen substantial criticism of police response.
Stephen Port, 41, was convicted Wednesday of the murders of Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, and Jack Taylor, who all were given lethal overdoses of the drug GHB, London newspaper The Guardian reports. Port was also found guilty of several other charges, including drugging and raping other men, who survived. The dead men ranged in age from 21 to 25.
Port had a fetish for sex with unconscious men, and he testified that he did not intend the drugging of his victims to result in death. In pronouncing the sentence, Justice Peter Openshaw said he believed Port, but did not find that to be an extenuating circumstance.
“I accept his intention was only to cause really serious harm rather than cause death, but he must have known and foreseen there was a high risk of death, the more so after the death of Anthony Walgate, the first victim,” Openshaw said, according to The Guardian.
The murders took place at Port’s apartment over the course of 15 months, from June 2014 to September 2015. Port would drag the bodies outside and leave them on the street. London’s Metropolitan police initially thought the victims had administered the drug to themselves, even though were “striking similarities” between the four deaths, The Guardian notes; they even took at face value a suicide note Port planted on Whitworth, which included the line “please do not blame the guy I was with last night.” Taylor’s family insisted that police reopen the investigation, and the family members say more people would have died if the police had not done so.
Taylor was Port’s final victim, and his family is planning to sue the Metropolitan force, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is reviewing the police’s initial investigation, including whether “discrimination played any part in actions and decisions,” the paper notes.
Openshaw referred to the police response when he pronounced the sentence, the newspaper reports. “It is not to me to say whether the seeming bizarre coincidence of these … gay young men being found dead so close together might have given rise to suspicions that these deaths were not the result of ordinary self-administered drug overdoses, but that is how their deaths, including Jack Taylor’s death, were treated at the time; the competence and adequacy of the investigation will later be examined by others,” he said.