Trial of alleged serial killer delayed
The trial of an alleged serial killer accused of drugging and murdering four men he met on gay websites has been delayed because of the "large amount of outstanding work" in the case, a court has heard.
Stephen Port, 40, appeared via prison video link at Kingston Crown Court in Surrey charged with four counts of murder and four counts of administering a poison with intent to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm.
He allegedly met the men on gay websites and invited them to his house where he is said to have poisoned them with the party drug GHB.
After suffering from overdoses, the men, in their 20s, were dumped in or near a churchyard in east London.
Wearing a light pink shirt, bald-headed Port spoke only to confirm his name during the brief 15-minute hearing.
He was due to enter pleas but the case was adjourned for a hearing at the Old Bailey in April. A provisional trial date was fixed for October 4.
Prosecutor William Emlyn-Jones said: "There is a very large amount of outstanding work given the scale of this inquiry."
Mr Justice Singh extended the custody time limit for Port ahead of the trial which is expected to last eight to 10 weeks.
The judge said: "Given the unusual circumstances of this case I'm satisfied the criteria for extending custody is met in this case."
Port, of Cooke Street, Barking, in east London, will next appear at the Old Bailey at 9.30am on April 15 for a plea and case management hearing.
Detectives launched an investigation after four men died over a period of 14 months.
The first, Anthony Walgate, 23, was found dead on Cooke Street on June 19 2014. He was a fashion and design student at Middlesex University who was originally from Hull but living in Barnet.
Gabriel Kovari, 22, was found by a dog walker near St Margaret's churchyard on August 28 2014. He was originally from Slovakia but lived in Lewisham, south London.
Just under a month later, on September 20 2014, the same dog walker discovered the body of Daniel Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, Kent, near the same churchyard.
Then on September 14 last year, Jack Taylor, 25, a forklift truck driver from Dagenham, was found dead near the abbey ruins close to North Street.
The deaths were not initially linked but after further investigation they were referred to the Metropolitan Police homicide and major crime command on October 14 last year.
The force has referred its handling of the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).