Stephen Merchant plays Stephen Port in the new factual drama (Picture: ITV/Rex)
Stephen Merchant was left in shock after learning the details of how police handled the serial killer investigation depicted in new BBC drama Four Lives.
The actor, 47, portrays sex predator Stephen Port in the new series, who notoriously drugged and raped four men before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London.
Port, known as the Grindr Killer, used the gay dating app to target young men between 2014 and 2015; the police investigations into their murders were marred with continuous failings.
Merchant, best known for his roles in The Office and Extras, said: ‘The idea that in 2014 and 2015, you’re still coming up against silence, you still can’t get through the door when you’re trying to help.
‘You’re not even trying to obstruct, you’re trying to help.’
He continued, saying: ‘You’re saying, “Let me ask questions. Let me see the forged letter that was found on one of the victims,” and the police go, “We don’t need your help.”
Merchant plays serial killer Port in the hard-hitting new drama (Picture: BBC/ITV Studios/Britbox)
‘I mean, that is what I found so utterly shocking… I felt it was an important piece of work.’
Port was found guilty of four murders following a trial at the Old Bailey and handed a whole life sentence in November 2016.
The police watchdog is looking at whether any charges of gross misconduct should be brought against officers involved in the initial inquiry which allowed Port to slip through the net.
In December of this year, inquest jurors found the shambolic police inquiries probably contributed to the deaths of three of Port’s victims – Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth and Jack Taylor – after investigating officers continuously missed clues .
Merchant added: ‘That’s the thing that seemed most devastating and heart-breaking, you think this is something that’s going to be set in the 1970s, with the reactions of the police and the sort of hum of homophobia that’s through it all, and instead, 2014.
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.
Loved ones of Kovari, Whitworth, Taylor and those of first victim, Anthony Walgate, raised concerns that something more sinister had happened after each of the deaths but were ignored by investigators.
The BBC drama is by Jeff Pope and Neil McKay, who were the brains behind for The Moorside and Appropriate Adult.
The role of Stephen Port is a departure from Merchant’s usual comedic roles (Picture: BBC/ITV Studios/Ben Blackall)
Merchant’s latest role serves a major contrast to his usual comedy style, and the actor recently explained he wanted the programme’s focus to be on the victims and their families rather than the brutal killer.
Sheridan Smith appears in the series as Sarah Sak, the mother of Port’s first victim Mr Walgate, while Jaime Winstone plays Donna Taylor, the sister of Mr Taylor.
Rufus Jones, who stars in Stan & Ollie, Bodyguard’s Stephanie Hyam, and Leanne Best from Line Of Duty also appear in the series.
Four Lives launches at 9pm on January 3 on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.
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