Dating apps, like Grindr, and the police have come under fire after a British chef is found guilty of four murders.
On Wednesday, Stephen Port, 41, was found guilty of poisoning and killing four men he met on gay dating services: Anthony Walgate, 23, Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25.
Port used the drug GHB to incapacitate his victims and then raped them as they were unconscious. The bodies were discovered between June 2014 and September 2015, within a 500 meter radius of his east London flat.
The killer was ultimately convicted of a total of 16 sexual and drug offences against nine men, including the murder victims.
Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, Chief Constable Jane Sawyers, police lead for LGBT issues, said that dating apps “could do more to prevent the offences in the first place”.
This included advising users to be aware of fake profiles through messages such as “get to know the person, not the profile”.
Meanwhile, the police themselves have come under fire in the Port case and have been accused of allowing homophobia to hamper their investigations.
Critics say that officers refused to link the killings and initially viewed them as “non-suspicious”. They’re also accused of dismissing concerns of foul play from the victims’ families and from within the gay community.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed on Wednesday that it was investigating the police response to the four murders.
Seven officers have been served with gross misconduct notices advising them their conduct is under investigation. A further ten officers have been served with misconduct notices.
LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell welcomed the news. “To have three young men found dead in public places in mysterious, unexplained circumstances – all within a few hundred yards of each other and within the space of three months – should have triggered alarm bells,” he said.
“Appallingly, even after the third murder the police were still maintaining that the deaths were ‘unusual’ but ‘not suspicious.’ They did not issue a public alert to the gay community that a serial killer could be on the loose.”
He continued: “If four young middle class women had been murdered in Mayfair, I believe the police would have made a public appeal much sooner and mounted a far more comprehensive investigation. The killing of low income gay men in working class Barking was treated very differently.
“Police officers stand accused of class, gender and sexuality bias,” said Tatchell.