COUNTY NEWS: Hairdresser found guilty of deliberately infecting men with HIV

Daryll Rowe (Photograph: Sussex Police)
Daryll Rowe (Photograph: Sussex Police)

A man who set out to infect men in Sussex with HIV has been found guilty in the first case of its kind in the country, Sussex Police said.

Police said Daryll Rowe, 27, was found guilty by a jury at Lewes Crown Court today (November 15) after a seven-week trial. He was accused of five counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and five counts of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent by deliberately infecting his victims with HIV in the Brighton area between October 1 2015 and January 31 2016. At least four of the men have contracted HIV.

A statement from Sussex Police said: "Hairdresser Rowe was arrested in February last year after police were contacted by a health clinic in Brighton who noticed similarities in how two of their clients reported contracting HIV. Police issued warnings to the public about an unnamed man who had been infecting people with HIV in Brighton. Articles also appeared in the national press after Rowe was named on social media.

"But right from his initial interview with police, Rowe denied having HIV and denied infecting others. He was released on police bail.

"However evidence also proved that he had been diagnosed with the disease in April 2015 in Edinburgh, where he was originally from. He had refused medication to treat the illness and to make him less contagious.

"After he left Brighton in February last year he lived in a tent near Edinburgh and then went on to meet more men in the north east of England giving them a false name. He feared they would look him up on Google if he gave them his real name.

"When police tracked him down in a house he was sharing with another man in the Wallsend area of Newcastle, he jumped out of a window and fled.

"After failing to report back on police bail in November last year, Rowe was arrested a month later by police officers from Northumbria and Sussex, after several forces worked to try to locate him. He was then charged and remanded in custody on Christmas day.

"The court heard that Rowe met his victims on the online dating site Grindr. He would persuade them to have unsafe sex telling them he was clean or negative for HIV or would deliberately sabotage condoms that he had used. Afterwards he would send vindictive messages or texts to the men he had met goading them or even telling one victim after they had had sex, he was riddled with the virus.

"Rowe told the jury that he researched alternative therapies online and believed that drinking his own urine daily, called urine therapy and taking herbs and oils would cure him."

Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme said: "This trial is the first time that a person has been charged and convicted of deliberately infecting others with HIV in the country.

"The verdict today is very welcome. It will bring some closure to the victims who have been very strong and supportive through the investigation. By bravely giving evidence in the trial, it sends a clear message that despite the complex and highly sensitive nature of such a case, the police and prosecutors will not shy away from investigating allegations of deliberate HIV transmission in order to keep people safe.

"Daryll Rowe was consistent in lying to his victims about having HIV, he was persistent and aggressive in wanting unprotected sex in order to infect people, and when he didn’t get what he wanted, he deliberately damaged condoms to achieve his aim. The victims have demonstrated real strength of character in speaking out about this, and because of this strength and the hard work of the detectives, staff and partners working on the case, a dangerous man, who betrayed the trust of many men, will now be imprisoned."