A man who was deliberately infected with HIV has bravely waived his right to anonymity to share his story.
Lenny, an American man living in Brighton, discovered he was HIV positive in February 2016 after Daryll Rowe secretly ripped the condom they were using.
Dubbed the ‘HIV hairdresser’ Rowe, from Edinburgh, became the first person to be convicted in the UK for deliberately infecting others with the virus and was jailed for life in April 2018.
He is said to have embarked on a ‘revenge’ campaign on the gay community after he was diagnosed with HIV himself, and met his victims on gay dating app Grindr.
Lenny is one of five men who tell their stories in new BBC documentary The Man Who Used HIV As a Weapon.
He told how Rowe was ‘adamant’ about having unprotected sex after the pair met online, and didn’t tell him about the sabotaged condom until several weeks after they had slept together.
Rowe, pictured, is said to have given the men the virus in a ‘revenge’ campaign on the gay community after he was diagnosed with HIV, and met his victims on gay dating app Grindr
Daryll Rowe, a hairdresser from Edinburgh, became the first person to be convicted in the UK for deliberately infecting others with the virus and was jailed for life in April 2018 (pictured in handcuffs at Brighton Crown Court in October 2017)
After they slept together ‘things got a little weird’, according to Lenny, who says Rowe quickly became ‘possessive’ and ‘insulting’ in a string of abusive WhatsApp messages.
It was only after Lenny tried to block the Scotsman that he received the chilling phone call that caused his world to come crashing down.
‘He said, “You’re gonna burn… you’re stupid. I ripped the condom, I got you,”‘ says Lenny, who recalls feeling a ‘rush of fear’ come over him.
Initially he didn’t take Rowe’s threat seriously, but after he became sick two weeks later he visited a clinic where he tested positive for HIV.
‘I remember saying to myself, how can I be so stupid,’ says Lenny, who ‘felt like his life was over’.
Victim Lenny, pictured, discovered he was HIV positive in February 2016 after Daryll Rowe secretly ripped the condom they were using. He has bravely waived his right to anonymity in a new BBC documentary exploring Rowe’s ‘dangerous, nationwide campaign’
Lenny, pictured, explains that initially he didn’t take Rowe’s threat seriously, but after he became sick two weeks later he visited a clinic where he tested positive for HIV
Lenny went straight to Sussex Police after learning he was HIV positive (pictured in police footage), which helped officers link Rowe to a string of cases in the North East
When the nurse revealed she’d seen four men with identical cases, all relating to an unnamed Scotsman, Lenny went straight to Sussex Police who immediately linked his ordeal to a string of similar reports in the North East.
Police arrested Rowe and handed him into the custody of Police Scotland, who discovered he had targeted hundreds of other men on dating apps and were forced to issue a public health warning.
After briefly going into hiding, Rowe was charged and handed a life sentence in April 2018 and ordered a serve at least 12 years following the landmark case, which was the first of its kind.
Rowe had successfully infected five men from the Brighton area and the North East with HIV, while at least five others narrowly escaped contracting the life-changing virus.
Producers also spoke to Rowe’s foster parents, pictured, who took him in at the age of eight, as they try to come to terms with and to understand their son’s crimes
Daryll Rowe as a young boy on holiday with his foster parents. The couple described him as ‘very loving’ and told of their shock on discovering his crimes
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIV?
Most people who are infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness about two to six weeks after infection.
The symptoms usually last for between one or two weeks.
After the initial symptoms, those with HIV may not have any more symptoms for several years.
Later on, other symptoms that may present themselves include weight loss, chronic diarrhoea, night sweats and recurrent infections.
The harrowing BBC documentary tells the intimate and shocking accounts of the five victims, some of whom have never told their families, as they speak publicly for the first time.
It explores how, over 18 months, Daryll Rowe set out on a ‘dangerous, nationwide campaign’ to trick unsuspecting men into having unprotected sex with him.
Victims tell how Rowe would lie about his HIV status, sabotage condoms and later send abusive text messages taunting them with the virus, such as: ‘You have HIV. Lol.’
A total of 24 men reported Rowe to the police, but nobody knows how many others he may have slept with.
The victims’ candid and revealing testimonies, read out in court, revealed the devastating effect of psychological abuse they suffered.
Producers also spoke to Rowe’s foster mother, Jacqui, as she tries to come to terms with and to understand her son’s crimes.
A psychiatric report concluded Rowe’s crimes showed a high level of sadism and violence and as such he was a high risk or causing serious harm to gay men through similar offences
Rowe’s mugshot. The Scotsman was sentenced in April 2018 and Judge Christine Henson QC, sentencing, referred to his crimes as a ‘determined hateful campaign of sly violence’
Rowe in handcuffs. He was handed a life sentence in April 2018 and ordered a serve at least 12 years following the landmark case, which was the first of its kind
Rowe was handed a life sentence in April 2018 and Judge Christine Henson QC, sentencing, called the crimes 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
Rowe made contact with men on the dating app, Grindr, before infecting them with HIV
‘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 added: ‘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 twenties at the time they had the misfortune to meet you.’
The judge 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.’
In a victim impact statement read out ahead of his sentencing, one of Rowe’s victims told of the lasting impact of the crimes.
A psychiatric report read to the court concluded Rowe’s crimes showed a high level of sadism and violence and as such he was a high risk or causing serious harm to gay men through similar offences.
The Man Who Used HIV As A Weapon is available on iPlayer now
Rowe’s chilling revenge campaign
Rowe is said to have given the men the virus in a ‘revenge’ campaign on the gay community after he was diagnosed with HIV himself.
He sent a taunting message to one of victims, texting: ‘Maybe you have the fever. I came inside you and I have HIV LOL. Oops!’
Rowe made contact with men on the gay dating app, Grindr, and would exchange a series of messages with the men before meeting up with them at their homes where they would have sex.
Lewes Crown Court heard Rowe had hatched the plan almost the moment he received the news that he had contracted HIV from his previous boyfriend in April 2015.
He was told about the treatments available but stunned medical staff in his home city of Edinburgh by informing them he did not want to take anti-retroviral drugs.
When first arrested by Sussex Police in 2016, he had already preyed upon eight men, his trial heard.
He was ordered to stay out of Sussex and answer bail in Northumberland but he went on the run, targeting two more men in the North East before he was finally detained again and kept in custody.
He was finally put on trial in 2017 and found guilty of five counts of causing grievous bodily harm and five of attempting to cause GBH in a prosecution hailed as the first of its kind.
After his conviction, Rowe’s final victim blamed police for putting him at risk and said more could have been done sooner to stop Rowe’s offending.
Police footage showed Rowe being interviewed by officers and telling them he did not have HIV.