UK hairdresser guilty of deliberately trying to infect men with HIV

A hairdresser has been found guilty of deliberately trying to infect 10 men with HIV after meeting them on Grindr.

UK hairdresser guilty of deliberately trying to infect men with HIV

A hairdresser has been found guilty of deliberately trying to infect 10 men with HIV after meeting them on Grindr.

Daryll Rowe was convicted of five counts of grievous bodily harm with intent, and five counts of attempting to do so on Wednesday afternoon at Lewes Crown Court.

The jury of seven women and five men returned its verdicts after 18 hours deliberating.

The court was silent, and 27-year-old Rowe sat motionless, as the verdicts were announced just before 4pm.

Initially four unanimous verdicts - three of grievous bodily harm with intent and one of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm - were returned.

Judge Christine Henson QC asked the jury to retire to continue deliberations after the foreman said they had been unable to all agree on verdicts for the remaining six counts.

Moments later, the 12 returned to court to find Rowe guilty by majority verdicts of 11 to one of all the other counts he faced - two of grievous bodily harm with intent, and four of attempting to do so.

During the six-week trial, the court heard how Rowe embarked on a cynical and deliberate campaign to target the men he met on gay dating app Grindr in Brighton and the North East between October 2015 and December last year.

Rowe, now of no fixed abode but originally from Edinburgh, repeatedly denied having unprotected sex, or tampering with condoms, in a bid to infect others with the virus he had been diagnosed with months earlier.

He claimed he thought he was cured and denied ever telling his victims he was "clean".

He moved to Brighton where he met eight of his alleged victims, shortly after being diagnosed with the virus in Edinburgh in April 2015.

Rowe knew he had been diagnosed with the virus when he used Grindr to meet men for sex and was exposed as someone who lied to all of his victims.

He demanded unprotected sex and if they said no, he wore a condom which he had secretly broken in a bid to infect them.

He was persistent, insistent, and could become aggressive and abusive.

At this time he had also contracted herpes, the sexually transmitted disease which makes passing on HIV more likely.

Doctors said he was coping well with his diagnosis but became concerned when he stopped turning up to appointments and refused antiretroviral treatment which would make him less contagious.

He was warned he could be prosecuted for passing on the virus or putting someone at risk of contracting it.

By this time two of Rowe's victims had gone for tests at a sexual health clinic in Brighton and were diagnosed with HIV.

Health professionals became concerned and called police when both provided similar descriptions of the person they had last slept with.

Detectives launched Operation Brickhill and arrested Rowe in February last year.

In his first police interview, he lied about being HIV positive or knowing the first two men who came forward. He was told to stay out of Sussex and answer bail in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland.

The investigation prompted a public health warning which urged gay men to get tested if they had been involved with a man matching his description. After widespread media coverage, a third victim came forward.

By the time of Rowe's second police interview, officers had obtained his medical records proving he had lied about his HIV status.

He was released on bail again but in November last year he went on the run, adopting the name Gary Cole, and continued his campaign in the North East, targeting two more victims.

Giving evidence, Rowe said he used the fake name so the men he met would not find online media reports about him.

When officers tracked him down to his final victim's house, police were handed his rucksack where a stash of ready-sabotaged condoms was found.

Inside they found three condoms. The wrappers, shown to the court as evidence, had a small rip and the ends of the condoms had been cut off before being rolled back into the black packaging.

One of the victims told how he found a broken, used condom in his sink after they had sex but Rowe denied it was his.

The hairdresser, who would post topless pictures of himself online, repeatedly defended his decisions to refuse medical treatment and have unprotected sex after being diagnosed, claiming he believed he was cured.

He said he read online that drinking urine was a cure but was too embarrassed to tell health professionals or sexual partners he was doing this regularly throughout the day. He also said the police would not understand.

His claims were exposed as a convenient story he used to explain his actions and slither out of the allegations.

Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Comments he posted online months before meeting the men proved he knew of his HIV positive status, even though he said he did not remember doctors telling him how infectious he was.

The jury was shown pages of conversations between Rowe and his victims where he taunted them in texts and became abusive after they had sex.

In initial conversations with police, Rowe said the allegations were a "big, dramatic lie" because gay people were being "horrible" and trying to single him out.

Judge Henson adjourned sentencing until January 29 2018, to give time for a psychiatric report to be prepared.

She said Rowe could face a life sentence and an extended sentence for being a danger to the public.

Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme, of Sussex Police, who branded Rowe a "dangerous man", said the charges and conviction were the first of their kind in the country.

Both police officers and prosecutors praised the bravery and strength of character of victims who all came forward to give evidence in court.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust (NAT), said Rowe's behaviour was "utterly exceptional and vanishingly rare" and the majority of HIV transmissions are by people who are unaware they have the virus.

She said: "It is not surprising that such a case is unprecedented.

"We are all responsible to practise safer sex with new and casual partners, and as and when appropriate discuss honestly with them how to remain as healthy as possible in our sex lives."

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