Saturday 16 December 2017

Families of victims cheer and clap as serial Grindr killer begins life sentence

Stephen Port
Stephen Port

Emily Pennink

United in grief, the families of Stephen Port's murder victims cheered and clapped as he was sent down to start a whole life sentence behind bars.

Some of the relatives who had sat through harrowing evidence at the Old Bailey were singled out as a "model of dignity" by both prosecution and trial judge Mr Justice Openshaw.

Reading from their prepared statements, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC outlined the devastation Port's murderous sexual obsession had wreaked on them.

The mother of Middlesex University student Anthony Walgate, 23, from Hull, said his death had "devastated and broken the family".

She described her son, originally from Hull, as "a clever, funny, talented young man" whose dream of being a famous fashion designer was sure to have happened if Port had not taken it away from him.

She pointed out that Port had not only destroyed their family "but he has destroyed his own".

Adam, the only brother of Slovakian Gabriel Kovari, told in his statement of a loss that could "hardly be described in words".

He spoke of the difficulty in telling their mother of his death at the age of 22, saying "there is no pain greater than losing a child".

What happened had changed their lives forever, he said. "He will live forever in our hearts."

Daniel Whitworth's father Adam spoke of having two "parallel lives" - his everyday life and his life of bereavement.

Mr Rees said: "Juggling these two worlds is not easy. Sometimes the pain spills out into his everyday life. He has been told by others that the life has gone out of his eyes.

"His concentration has suffered. He is facing a life sentence - a life sentence of grief."

Mr Whitworth's stepmother Amanda Pearson said the family had to come to terms with being given the "wrong facts" around his death when it was initially put down to suicide - "a suicide we believed had never really happened".

Mrs Pearson said her 21-year-old stepson was the first and last thing she thought of in the day.

She had been left a "bitter and cynical person" only taking comfort from going through the ordeal and trial process with other families.

She said: "We had a rich and fulfilling life ahead of us with Daniel and it has been stolen from us."

"Bereft" grandmother Barbara Whitworth described her "pride and joy" at the "kindest, most loving considerate boy you could meet".

He used to come to her for lunch most days when he worked near to her home, she said.

She said: "He had everything going for him and was excited about his new job."

The family of 25-year-old Jack Taylor, from Dagenham, said his murder had turned their lives "upside down".

They told of the investigation they had to carry out to find out what happened over Jack's death.

On the devastating effect of having to experience the exhumation of his body, they said: "This is something no family should ever have to go through. There have been endless sleepless nights for all of us."

Mr Rees told the court that the family had been "a model and picture of dignity in the way they dealt with the trial".

They said in their statement that the murder had left a "black hole in our family" that will never be filled.

A rape victim, who cannot be identified, said he felt "paranoid" every time someone passes him a drink and now has difficulty trusting people because of what Port did to him.

Mr Rees said the victim was left with anxiety and depression and "casts blame on himself".

Summarising the young man's statement, the victim said that "had he reported it sooner, he thinks Jack's death could have been avoided".

Press Association

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