Edinburgh hairdresser given life sentence for infecting men with HIV

Daryll Rowe has been jailed for life. Picture: PA
Daryll Rowe has been jailed for life. Picture: PA

A hairdresser who deliberately tried to infect 10 men with HIV has been jailed for at least 12 years.

Daryll Rowe became the first man in the country to be found guilty of intentionally setting out to spread the virus after meeting the men on gay dating app Grindr.

Branded “grotesque” and a “sociopath” by his victims, the 27-year-old was convicted in November of 10 charges - five of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and five of attempting to do so.

Rowe, wearing a grey suit and open-collared white shirt, showed no emotion as he was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 12 years at Brighton Crown Court on Wednesday.

Judge Christine Henson QC, sentencing, referred to his crimes as a “determined hateful campaign of sly violence”.

“You are the first individual to be sentenced for Section 18 offences in the context of infecting others with HIV,” she said.

“With the full knowledge of the risk you posed to others and the legal implications of engaging in risky sexual practices, you embarked on a deliberate campaign to infect other men with the HIV virus.

“Unfortunately for five of the men you met, your campaign was successful.”

The judge continued: “They describe living with a life sentence as a result of your cruel and senseless acts.

“Many of those men were young men in their 20s at the time they had the misfortune to meet you.”

She told Rowe he poses a significant risk to the public, adding: “You will potentially remain a danger to others for the rest of your life.”

After being diagnosed in April 2015 in his home city of Edinburgh, Rowe met men on gay dating app Grindr and had sex with eight of them in Brighton, East Sussex, between October that year and February 2016, before fleeing to the North East where he went on the run from police, targeting two more victims.

His six-week trial heard he embarked on a cynical and deliberate campaign to infect men with HIV, refusing treatment and ignoring advice from doctors.

He insisted on having unprotected sex with men, claiming he was “clean”. When they refused, he tampered with condoms, tricking them into thinking he was practising safe sex.

Afterwards he would become aggressive and taunt them over text, telling one: “I have HIV. Lol. Whoops!”

Rowe repeatedly lied to authorities and would use aliases with his victims.

He told jurors he believed he had been cured of the virus by the time he moved to Brighton, having adopted the practice of drinking his own urine as a treatment, supplemented with natural remedies, including oregano, coconut and olive leaf oils.

He sat in the dock, showing no emotion during his sentencing hearing as prosecutor Caroline Carberry QC read out statements from nine of his 10 victims, which she said showed the “devastating consequences” of Rowe’s actions.

Many told how they had considered suicide having suffered physical and psychological damage, needing to take daily medication.

Rowe’s first victim told how he had considered taking his own life after he was diagnosed with HIV in January 2016.

He said: “Darryl has destroyed my life. I would rather he had murdered me than left me to live my life like this.”

One said he thought he was going to die when he found out he had the virus, while another told of the “shattering effect” it had on him and his family, believing “it was a life-long sentence, which would eventually kill me off” because of the stigma surrounding the disease.

“While for some cases of GBH it might be possible for victims to put the acts behind them, unfortunately this will never be the case for me,” said a different victim, who requires daily medication.

“There is a virus inside me which will give me a horrible and painful death unless I take pills for the rest of my life.”

The court heard a psychiatric report found Rowe’s crimes were carried out with a “significant degree of rage, control, sadism and violence”.

“This defendant is the first individual in the UK who falls to be sentenced for Section 18 offences in the context of the intentional infection of others with the HIV virus,” said the prosecutor.

“This was a deliberate campaign to infect multiple men with a serious life-threatening and life-changing disease such that it falls outside the sentences envisaged by the (sentencing) guidelines.”

Felicity Gerry QC highlighted comparable cases from around the world, urging the judge to pass a sentence that would not add to the “social stigma” of HIV, but inform the public the virus is not what it was in the 90s.

“He was a vulnerable young man in a community where the disclosure of one’s HIV status remains unusual, in the context of how he was meeting people,” she said.

“This is not a terminal illness. Those who live with HIV have good and high life expectancies.”

She added: “There really is a need for therapy and not incarceration.”

Sussex Police came under fire over claims they put gay men in danger when they released Rowe on bail, after which he continued his campaign.

Northumbria Police have been accused of wrongfully arresting and detaining one of his unsuspecting victims as he came to terms with his boyfriend’s crimes.

Rowe’s final victim blamed police for putting him at risk and said more could have been done sooner to stop Rowe’s offending.

It was 18 days after his arrest that Sussex Police and Brighton and Hove City Council urged gay men to get tested for HIV if they had been sexually involved with “a man in his 20s with a Scottish accent”.

Police appealed for anyone with information or potential victims to come forward but refused to publish his name and photo.

He was later identified by a newspaper, prompting widespread media reports.