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25 November 2016, 12:28
Serial killer Stephen Port has been given a whole life sentence for the murders of four young gay men, including one from Gravesend.
Relatives of the 41-year-old's victims cheered and clapped as Mr Justice Openshaw told Port he would never be released. One woman in the public gallery of the Old Bailey courtroom called the impassive Port a "scumbag''.
Port stalked his victims on dating websites and plied them with drinks spiked with fatal amounts of the drug GHB to rape them while they were unconscious.
He dumped their bodies in or near a graveyard within 500 metres of his flat in Barking, east London, and embarked on an elaborate cover-up.
He disposed of their mobile phones, repeatedly lied to police and planted a fake suicide note in the hand of one of his victims, taking the blame for the death of another.
The deaths of Jack Taylor, Anthony Walgate, Gabriel Kovari and Daniel Whitworth over 15 months bore striking similarities but police failed to make the link until relatives of his final victim demanded answers.
Following a trial, Port was found guilty of the murders after a jury deliberated for 28 hours and 27 minutes. He was also convicted of a string of sex offences against seven other men who came forward following his arrest.
Port's first victim, Mr Walgate, 23, was found dead in the communal hall of Port's flat in Cooke Street after he called 999 anonymously in the early hours of June 19 2014.
When police tracked him down, Port lied to officers to distance himself from the fashion student and occasional male escort.
He was later jailed for perverting the course of justice but continued to claim Mr Walgate died from taking his own drugs.
Second to die was 22-year-old Slovakian Mr Kovari, who was staying on Port's sofa as a temporary flatmate.
After killing him, Port spoke to his older sister Sharon on the phone and confessed he had a body in his bed.
But rather than going to police, he dragged the body to Barking Abbey graveyard to be discovered by a dog walker.
Port constructed a complex web of deceit, telling his neighbour that Mr Kovari died of an infection in Spain.
Over months, he posed on Facebook as an American student to probe Mr Kovari's grief-stricken Spanish boyfriend and divert suspicion by suggesting the victim had gone off to a sex party with ``Dan''.
Mr Rees told jurors that the misinformation was to "lay the groundwork'' for implicating his third victim, Mr Whitworth, even though Port maintained his story.
Three weeks after Mr Kovari was found dead, the same dog walker stumbled across the body of Mr Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, on September 20 2014.
In his hand was a suicide note taking the blame for Mr Kovari's death, saying: "We was having some fun at a mate's place and I got carried away and gave him another shot of G.''
Police treated Mr Whitworth's death "at face value'' and no efforts were made to verify the sham note which turned out to be in Port's handwriting, Mr Rees told jurors.
Mr Taylor, 25, died within hours of hooking up with Port on Grindr in the early hours of September 13 2015.
After killing him, Port got rid of the forklift truck driver's mobile phone and deleted their communication on the gay dating app.
Just after 1pm the next day, Mr Taylor's body was found by a refuse collector with a needle and syringe in his pocket.
Initially his death was treated as "non-suspicious'', the court heard.
But CCTV footage from Barking Station emerged linking him to Port, whose DNA was found on a bottle of GHB also planted in Mr Taylor's trouser pocket.
The jury convicted Port of a total of 22 offences against 11 men, including the four murders, four rapes, 10 counts of administering a substance, and four sex assaults.