Met boss Cressida Dick has made a heartfelt apology to the mum of Anthony Walgate, the first of Grindr serial killer Stephen Port’s four victims.
Fashion student Anthony, 23, was found dead outside Port’s flat in Barking, East London, in June 2014.
Mum Sarah Sak says she told police 12 times she believed the 39-year-old bus depot chef had murdered him.
Yet despite her pleas over her son’s death from an overdose of date-rape drug GHB, she was repeatedly told there was “nothing to investigate” .
Port was eventually given eight months’ jail for lying about the circumstances around Anthony’s death – but was still not suspected of killing him.
By then he had already gone on to kill Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21. And after his release he murdered a fourth man, 25-year-old Jack Taylor. He dumped the bodies of all three in a nearby graveyard.
UK Press via Getty Images)
Sarah said it had “given her nightmares” knowing the three could have been saved if police had listened.
Port was finally jailed at the Old Bailey in 2016 for the murders of all four men and a string of sex assaults.
And a nine-week inquest at Barking Town Hall last week concluded that failings by the Met had contributed to the deaths of Gabriel, Daniel and Jack.
Sarah, from Hull, was invited to meet with Met Commissioner Dick after the inquest. Families of Port’s other victims were also offered meetings.
Sarah said: “She told me, ‘I am sorry, both personally and on behalf of The Met’.
“That touched me the most. I do believe she meant it very genuinely.
“She said, ‘Had police listened to what you said, things would have turned out a lot differently’.
“I told her, yes, it gave me nightmares. The whole time I was insisting Anthony was killed, no one was listening. I was thinking, ‘Was there more I could have done?’
“I’ve been to my MP, my local police. And Cressida said to me, ‘No, there wasn’t. There was nothing else you could have done’.”
Asda worker Sarah, 55, added after Tuesday’s emotional hour-long meeting: “It’s been all-consuming.
“I finally feel lighter knowing changes are being made, even though nothing will bring my son back.”
The inquests into the four deaths revealed that officers failed to carry out basic evidence gathering.
They had not examined Port’s laptop, or tested DNA on bed sheets on which two of the bodies were found.
And a fake suicide note found on Daniel was taken at face value.
MPs including Margaret Hodge have called for a full public inquiry into whether institutional homophobia was behind the failures.
Sarah said: “Cressida asked why I thought the police were homophobic.
“I said the officers had this preconception of what these men liked, and what they were into.
“She said she thought it was more a ‘total lack of professional curiosity’ – which it was as well. I don’t know how you can prove if they were homophobic. But I believe the culture needs to change. Right from the start there should be training into things around homophobia and racism.
“My gay friends say they wouldn’t even report a gay crime or rape because they feel the police wouldn’t take them seriously.
“I believe Port probably raped far more men who haven’t spoken out for that reason.”
Policing minister Kit Malthouse has said he will not order a public inquiry, saying a review sparked by the murder of Sarah Everard would also look at homophobia in the force.
BBC/ITV Studios/BritBox/Ben Blackall)
Sarah says Commissioner Dick told her she is now informed about any unexplained deaths and there is a new team that analyses deaths and crime data to look for patterns.
But Sarah said: “Even a five-year-old could have solved that case. It feels good to know she’s making changes, but we’ll see. Only time will tell.”
Sarah says the inquest ruling is now allowing her to move forward.
She added: “It’s getting closer to closure, but I’m not quite there yet. But I’ve been proved that we were right all along.”
Sarah, who split with Anthony’s father Thomas years ago, says her first hurdle now is Christmas.
She said: “I hate it. I don’t have a tree. I put any cards in the bin. It was always the weekend before Christmas that Anthony came home to Hull.”
In January, Sheridan Smith will play her in a BBC drama called Four Lives, also starring Stephen Merchant as Port, who is serving a whole-life sentence for the killings.
Sarah says Sheridan has remained in contact, and spoke to her shortly before the inquest.
She said: “We were talking about some TV I was being asked to do for the series and she promised she’d be with me by my side if I needed her.
“She’s been so supportive and plays me so well.”
Sarah’s book, A Life Stolen: The Tragic True Story of My Son’s Murder, is also due out next year. She said: “It makes it easier to heal knowing it’s finally all out there – what the police missed – even though we knew it all along.
“I got off my chest what I wanted to say to Cressida. Ant would have been proud.
“After seven-and-a-half years fighting, I can now grieve for him.”
The Met declined to comment on the meeting. In a statement after the inquest, the force said: “Our thoughts are with everybody who loved these young men. We are so sorry for their loss.
“We’re deeply sorry there were failings in the police response.”