Stephen Port: The GHB Killer

A bottle of GHB

Over the course of 2014, chef-turned serial killer, Stephen Port, murdered four men in the Barking area of East London. He met all his victims on gay dating apps before bringing them to his flat, spiking them with a lethal dose of the drug, GHB, causing them to overdose.

On the 19th of June 2014, 23-year-old Anthony Walgate was found dead near Port’s residence on Cooke Street in Barking. After inviting Walgate back, Port drugged and raped him before administering a fatal dose of GBH. Port then dumped his body near the entrance to his flat with a small bottle of GHB planted in his pocket to give the impression of a self-inflicted overdose (Judiacry UK).

Port then phoned an ambulance, claiming that he had come across the body when returning home from work. When paramedics arrived, Walgate was pronounced dead at the scene; rigor mortis had already set in and resuscitation efforts were unfruitful.

Walgate was a fashion and design student at Middlesex University, originally from Hull but living in Barnet. He had ambitions of one day becoming a famous fashion designer, and his mother said, with his passion and determination, there was no doubt he would have achieved his goals.

On the 28th of August 2014, the body of 22-year-old Gabriel Kovari was found by a dog walker near the graveyard at St. Margaret’s Church in Barking, around 500 metres from Port’s home.

Kovari was originally from Slovakia but had been living with Port for a short period. Just the day after he had moved in, Port messaged a friend and told him to come over and meet ‘his new Slovakian twink flatmate’. Two days before the body was found, Port had changed his phone number and told a friend that Kovari had unexpectedly moved out. By this point, he was already dead.

Less than a month later, on the 20th of September 2014, the same dog walker stumbled across the body of 21-year-old Daniel Whitworth, from Gravesend, Kent. His body was also found in the same graveyard as the previous victim.

Whitworth was a very skilled and ambitious chef who had met Port through a dating website. They had corresponded for several weeks before finally meeting up on the 18th of September at Port’s flat. After killing Whitworth, Port once again planted a bottle of GHB in his pocket and disposed of his mobile phone.

This time, however, Port tried to conceal the murder even further by planting a suicide note. It claimed Whitworth had administered the fatal overdose of GHB to Kovari while having sex and felt so much guilt that he took his own life. It read in part: ‘BTW. Please do not blame the guy I was with last night. We only had sex then I left. He knows nothing of what I have done.’

Then on the 14th of September 25-year-old Jack Taylor’s body was found near the ruins of Barking Abbey. He had connected with Port on the dating app, Grindr, and they met at Barking railway station before returning to Port’s flat. After drugging, raping, and killing Taylor, Port dumped his body with the trademark GHB bottle. He returned home, blocked Taylor on Grindr and deleted his own account.

Despite the similarities in the deaths, the Metropolitan Police simply assumed the men had overdosed and failed to open an investigation, even though concerns were raised by the victims’ loved ones.

An investigation into the deaths was only launched after the murder of Taylor. He had been out on the evening of the 12th of September with friends. He returned home for a while and then went back out in the early morning hours of the 13th of September, after calling a cab. Police released the CCTV footage and appealed to the public for information that could help them retrace his last known movements (The Guardian, 19 October 2015 – ‘Man Charged With Murder and Poisoning of Four Men in East London’).

CCTV footage of Taylor and Port at Barking train station was uncovered, and a public appeal was issued to identify Port. He was identified by a police officer who had questioned him as a witness in relation to the death of Walgate (BBC News, 11 December 2021 – ‘Stephen Port: How Met Failings Contributed to the Deaths of Three Men’).

Port was arrested in October of 2015 and charged with four counts of administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm (The Sunday Telegraph, 19 October, 2015 – ‘Man appears in court charged with four poison murders - Stephen John Port, 40, appears at Barkingside Magistrates' Court accused of fatally poisoning four men in their 20s after being charged with murders’). During his trial, it was heard that Port had drugged and raped his victims before dumping them in the vicinity of his flat. It was also revealed that Port had sexually assaulted numerous other men over the course of three years.

In November of 2016, Port was convicted of 22 offences against 11 different men. These included four murders, four rapes, four assaults by penetration, and ten counts of administering a substance. He was acquitted on three counts of rape.

In the wake of the trial, questions were raised regarding why Port wasn’t stopped sooner. The original inquests into the deaths had returned open verdicts but the coroner, Nadia Persaud, had raised some concerns. For example, she found bruising underneath Whitworth’s armpits, chest, and neck, which gave her the opinion that somebody had lifted Taylor and moved him. It was also noted that his underwear was inside out and back to front, and his fly was undone.

In her inquest conclusion, she had written:

‘My concerns of a third-party involvement in Daniel coming to be in the graveyard on 20 September cannot be allayed by the evidence that has been produced to the court. I cannot say beyond reasonable doubt that I am satisfied that he voluntarily took his own life. I also cannot say that I am satisfied that he was unlawfully killed.’

The Independent Police Complaints Commission ordered a review. Evidence also emerged that suggested police had missed several opportunities to catch Port. When the body of Whitworth was found, police were advised to DNA test items at the scene where his body was found but failed to do so. These items included a suicide note which had been written by Port but purported to be from Whitworth. There was also a blue bed sheet and a bottle which contained GHB.

While these items weren’t initially DNA tested by police, each item was later found to contain Port’s DNA. The handwriting on the suicide letter was also determined to be a match to Port (The Guardian, 24 November 2016 – ‘Stephen Port Murders: Police Failed to Follow up on Coroner’s Concerns’).

The inquests into the four deaths were held in October of 2021, with the families of the victims stating that it was a key step in their ‘quest for accountability’ (The Guardian, 5 October, 2021 – ‘Delayed Inquests into Deaths of Stephen Port’s Victims Open’). The inquest found a plethora of failings that as a result, had ‘terrible consequences’. The jury at the inquest found that Metropolitan Police failings had ‘probably’ contributed to the deaths of the four victims (The Guardian, 10 December 2021 – ‘Stephen Port Case: The Missed Opportunities to Catch a Serial Killer’).