Stephen Port has been found guilty of raping and murdering four men he met on dating apps. A jury at the Old Bailey found Port, 41, guilty of 22 offences including murder, rape and administering a substance with intent. The substance he used was GHB – or gamma-Hydroxybutyrate – a known date-rape drug.
GHB is the active ingredient in a drug used to treat narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder that can be debilitating to sufferers. It relates to poor control over the sleep-wake cycles, meaning people can fall asleep at any moment. As a treatment for narcolepsy, GHB has been shown to increase slow-wave sleep.
In the UK it is approved for medical use but is tightly controlled. It is a class C drug, meaning it is an offense to possess or supply the drug.
Non-medical use of GHB
GHB is known to be used as a recreational drug, as it produces a feeling of euphoria and reduces inhibitions and increased libido. It is a depressant – so it slows brain activity. Effects of the drug can normally be felt within five to 20 mins of being ingested, and last for between one and seven hours.
Port was found guilty of murdering Anthony Walgate, 23, from Dagenham, Gabriel Kovari, 22, from Lewisham, Daniel Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, Kent, and Jack Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, between June 2014 and September 2015.
He met them on dating websites including Grindr then got them to go to his house in Barking where he drugged them with GHB. All four died from overdoses. Their bodies were found in or near a graveyard close to Port's home.
The major problem with GHB is the dose – and that there is an extremely narrow range from where a user experiences the above effects, to where they suffer unpleasant side effects.
At larger doses, GHB can make people extremely drowsy or unconscious. After first being identified by scientists, it was initially investigated as a potential anaesthetic because of the way it quickly sedates people. For this reason, it has become recognised as a widely-used date rape drug.
Further to this, the drug can also place users at risk of coma and death. It can cause slow breathing and seizures. It is particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol.
Port administered GHB to unsuspecting victims, in order to rape them. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, drugging someone in order to sexually assault or rape them is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Scotland Yard is currently reviewing 58 deaths in London involving GHB, which Port could be involved with. He will be sentenced on Friday (25 November).