A friend of the first victim of serial killer Stephen Port was convinced his death was suspicious and believed police assumed he had overdosed on drugs because he was a gay sex worker, an inquest has heard.
China Dunning, a university friend of Anthony Walgate, told the inquest into his death that they had discussed the drug GHB in the past and would never have risked taking it.
Fashion student Mr Walgate, 23, was found dead in Barking, east London, on June 19 2014 after being given a fatal overdose of the drug by Port.
Port went on to kill Gabriel Kovari, 22, Daniel Whitworth, 21, and Jack Taylor, 25, and inquests are examining whether any of them could have been saved had police acted differently.
Giving evidence via videolink from Hong Kong where she lives, Miss Dunning told the inquests: “I was convinced that Anthony’s death was suspicious. I… just knew that he hadn’t taken drugs himself and overdosed.
“I was convinced that it was the actions of Stephen Port. I was convinced that he had his drink spiked or something, and that it was suspicious.”
Mr Walgate would sporadically work as an escort and had arranged to meet Port, who was using the false name Joe Dean, on June 17 2014 at his flat in Barking.
Miss Dunning reported Mr Walgate missing two days later, along with the name, address and date of birth that Port had provided and a physical description of him.
In September 2014, as the investigation into Mr Walgate’s death continued, Miss Dunning told police that if toxicology reports found GHB in his body she did not believe he would have taken it of his own accord.
Asked about how the police responded to her concerns that her friend’s death may be suspicious, Miss Dunning said: “They received the information professionally but I was also aware that maybe they might have come to the assumption that he was young, gay, a sex worker, and I just thought that they would instantly assume ‘yes, he does drugs as well’, or he would be willing to, or he would take the risk.
“I wanted to convince them that they shouldn’t have that stereotype.”
Port initially pretended not to know Mr Walgate when questioned by police and was jailed for perverting the course of justice in 2015 for the lies he had told relating to his death.
When Miss Dunning attended court for the hearing, she, another friend and Mr Walgate’s stepfather Sammy Sak, urged an officer present to examine Port’s laptop but were told that the procedure was expensive.
Jurors were read a statement in which Miss Dunning recalled telling the detective: “We said this guy is dodgy as f***. He’s done something to Anthony.”