Entertainment

Stephen Port drama shows ‘massive institutional failure’ in police investigation

Stephen Merchant plays the serial killer in the new BBC factual drama Four Lives.
Stephen Merchant plays the serial killer in the new BBC factual drama Four Lives. Stephen Merchant plays the serial killer in the new BBC factual drama Four Lives.

The creator of BBC drama Four Lives, about serial killer Stephen Port, said the story shows there was “massive institutional failure” in the Metropolitan Police investigation.

Port, played by Stephen Merchant, drugged and raped four men before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.

Known as the Grindr Killer, he used the gay dating app to target young men.

Stephen Port murders
Stephen Port murders Stephen Port (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Neil McKay, who co-created the drama with Jeff Pope, said he wanted to tell the story of the victims and their families to highlight the “massive implications” for policing.

He told BBC Breakfast: “There has been some news attention but not an enormous amount. I felt it was unappreciated and unexplored and I think that is because it wasn’t really a story about a few incompetent coppers or a few lazy coppers.

“It is basically a massive institutional failure by the Metropolitan Police where one compartment didn’t talk to another.

“And these four murders were not investigated properly and three of them wouldn’t have happened if the first had been investigated properly. So it is a smallish story in one sense but it (has) massive implications for our policing.”

Ultralounge Cabaret Club at Selfridges
Ultralounge Cabaret Club at Selfridges Jaime Winstone (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Actress Jaime Winstone, who plays Donna Taylor, the sister of victim Jack Taylor, said the programme highlights how unprotected members of the LGBTQ community are.

She said: “I was lucky enough and honoured enough to meet Donna Taylor, the sister of Jack, the fourth victim, and it was an overwhelming experience.

“I got to hear their story, their love and their connection with their brother.

“But also this unhinged undertone where there was so much information missing.

“There was so much misinformation fed to them.

“Also, the responsibility of the ignorance that was shown towards the LGBTQ community and then also to highlight how unprotected they are and how this cannot happen again, and we can’t afford afford for this to happen again. Lives were lost.”

The three-part factual drama is told from the point of view of the victims’ families, focusing on their fight to uncover the truth about what happened to their sons and brothers.

In December, inquest jurors found the shambolic inquiries probably contributed to the deaths of three of Port’s victims: Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Mr Taylor.

Sheridan Smith appears in the series as Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first victim Anthony Walgate.

Four Lives launches at 9pm on January 3 on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.