Stephen Port had a type: young gay men, preferably unconscious while he raped them in his apartment in Barking, East London. Careless police work enabled the serial killer to carry on undetected for years. By the time he was caught, he had murdered four men with an overdose of the date rape drug GHB (Gamma hydroxybutyric acid), also known as “G.”
Between 2012 and 2015, the “Grindr Killer,” as he came to be known, drugged seven others, raping most of them. He then constructed “wicked and monstrous lies” to cover up his crimes, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales found in November 2016. Most of his victims were strangers he met online.
Before his heinous crimes were revealed, Port lived an unremarkable life, with his highest claim to fame being seen working as a chef in the background of an episode of Celebrity MasterChef.
Big Little Lies
As a schoolboy growing up in suburban East London, Port was so tall and skinny his classmates called him “Stretch”—and so quiet his teachers thought he was deaf. He had to drop out of art school because his parents couldn’t afford it.
Later, when his family learned he was gay, his parents were crushed: His mother wanted grandchildren. His older sister was more supportive, claiming she always knew because of the posters of male celebrity crushes—including the boy band Boyzone—he hung in his bedroom.
But his family didn’t know of the alternative world Port had constructed on social media, where he claimed to be a former member of the Royal Navy who became a special needs teacher after attending Oxford University. In reality, Port worked the night shift as a chef at a bus garage, occasionally moonlighting as a male escort. Years spent at the gym had paid off—he had developed a six pack, and he hid his balding head beneath a £900 (about $1,300) blonde wig.
‘I Am A Big Kid’
As Port grew older, he pursued “twinks”—boyish-looking gay men in their late teens or early 20s. He developed a taste for chemsex, using mephedrone (or “meow meow”) and Ecstasy.
Yet, he had childish desires. After his arrest, Port corresponded with Cody Lachey, a former criminal who now campaigns for prison reform. “I know I am a big kid,” Port wrote from prison, claiming he missed watching Minions and wanted the latest Stars Wars toys. He described how a boyfriend had left him because Port liked to frequently visit “Toys ‘R’ Us.”
“He was very child-like,” Lachey tells A&E Real Crime. “This wasn’t a master criminal at work.”
Yet, this “big kid”—Port is 6’3” and wears size 13 shoes—committed horrible crimes.
He found his victims on dating apps and websites and invited them home. At first, he drugged and raped them.
Then he graduated to murder.
In June 2014, Port met Anthony Walgate, a 23-year-old fashion student, through the website Sleepyboy.com and hired him as an escort for a night. When Walgate arrived, Port gave him an overdose of G and raped him. He then planted a bottle of the drug on the dead body and dragged it outside his apartment building. Port then told emergency services that he had seen a young man fall unconscious while driving past.
A police investigation found that he was lying, but after he claimed Walgate had died from a self-administered drug overdose, he was convicted of a minor offense and released on bail.
A Series of Barking Murders
In August 2014, he struck again. This time his victim was 22-year-old Gabriel Kovari, a Slovakian who had recently moved to London. Port invited Kovari to move into his apartment, and then drugged, raped and murdered him.
The crime was nearly identical to the Walgate murder, but his lies to cover it up grew bigger.
Port told a friend that Kovari had gone to Spain where his ex-boyfriend, Thierry Amodio, lived. Meanwhile, he let Kovari’s body lie in his apartment for a few days before moving it one night to a church courtyard nearby. The police dismissed his death as an accidental drug overdose.
In less than a month, Port would use exactly the same technique to rape and kill 23-year-old Daniel Whitworth, a chef he met on the dating site Fitlads.com. Port then created an elaborate backstory to connect the two deaths and erase his own role in them.
He first deposited Whitworth’s body in the exact spot in the church courtyard as Kovari’s and planted a fake suicide note on him. The note claimed Whitworth had accidentally given an overdose of G to Kovari, and, overwhelmed by guilt and remorse, took his own life.
To cement this narrative, he went a step further. Using a fake identity on Facebook, Port fed lies to Kovari’s ex-boyfriend, Amodio. He told Amodio that Kovari had met Whitworth at a sex and drugs orgy. He suggested that Whitworth killed Kovari and then committed suicide. Amodio passed on the information to the police and John Pape, a friend of Kovari’s who was a witness in the case. The police believed the suicide narrative and didn’t investigate further.
“It’s disturbing, vindictive, malign, psycho madness to murder someone and then to engage with their former boyfriend,” Pape tells A&E Real Crime. “It goes beyond someone trying to cover their tracks.”
“It’s an insight into what a monster he is.”
A Familiar Pattern
In the months after these murders, Port drugged and raped several more men he met on Grindr, as well as some of his long-term boyfriends, and even filmed these encounters while his victims were unconscious. The police found 83 such home videos on his cellphone.
Almost a year after he had murdered Whitworth, Port met Jack Taylor, a 25-year-old forklift driver, on Grindr. What followed was the now-familiar pattern of drugging, rape and murder, ending with a staged drug overdose at the same church courtyard.
It was only in November 2015 that police arrested Port and connected him to all the murders, after they had missed multiple opportunities to stop his crimes. They initially dismissed this murder as an accidental drug overdose too. But Taylor’s sisters campaigned to get the police to investigate the man seen in CCTV footage walking with the victim a day before he turned up dead. That man was Stephen Port.
“The police should be embarrassed,” says Pape. “When you think they had him in after the first death, you know he is not someone equipped to outsmart a police detective.”
“He should have never made it to four.”
A fresh inquest to examine all four deaths and any police failings will take place in January 2021. Port, meanwhile, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.