by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
So long as men can be cruel it can be dangerous to hookup. Heavy cruising by Gay men didn't start with iPhone apps. Regardless, no matter how much as little boys we were told not to talk to strangers or go home with someone we did not know, many Gay and Bisexual men do just that on phone apps like Scruff, Grindr, and others that use GPS tracking to inform users just how close or far away they are from Mr. Right Now.
For some, that's the thrill of it. Meeting up with someone for the first time, someone you barely know or don't know anything about at all - except what they say (or don't say) about themselves on a Grindr profile. For others, it's a reason to stay out of the bars or the bathhouse. For a small membership fee (charged monthly or in a lump sum for the year) it's cheaper than Happy Hour at the local Gay watering hole and you don't have to deal with face-to-face rejection from a guy who looks like a hottie. Suffice to say Gay hookup app businesses are doing just fine in 2016 & but it's the members who sometimes suffer a great price.
On Wednesday, November 23, a London jury found Stephen Port, 41, guilty of the murders of four young men over a 15-month span between June 2014 and September 2015. Port also was convicted of drugging or sexually assaulting seven other victims who survived.
Port, a chef by trade, met the young men on Gay dating apps (mostly Grindr according to court papers) luring them with sexual promises to his east London apartment. Once they arrived he poisoned their drinks, raped them while they were dying, and then dumped their bodies around London neighborhoods. Port planted drugs - and in some cases a suicide note - on his victims to make it appear they had overdosed or committed suicide.
'He bought drugs on a regular basis and used them to stupefy his victims without their knowledge so he could rape or sexually assault them,' said Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police after the verdict. 'Four families have been left devastated by the loss of their loved ones in such awful circumstances and seven more men have suffered horrific sexual assaults, the trauma of which will stay with them for a long time.'
Police say Port laced his victims' drinks with fatal amounts of the drug GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, otherwise known as liquid ecstasy, in order to carry out his crimes.
In the murder trial in London, Port denied all the charges against him. Still, on Wednesday he was found guilty of the murders of fashion student Anthony Walgate, 23; Gabriel Kovari, 22, originally from Slovakia; fellow chef Daniel Whitworth, 21; and forklift truck driver Jack Taylor, 25.
The London jury ultimately convicted Port of a total of 22 charges against 11 male victims, including four additional rapes, four sex assaults and 10 counts of administering a substance with the intent to stupefy.
He was acquitted of three additional counts of rape.
'We can't rule out the fact there may be other victims out there who suffered at Port's hands and have yet to come forward,' Cundy said. 'We would appeal for them to contact us as soon as possible.'
According to the London Evening Standard, Port had no reaction as the jury delivered the guilty verdict which condemns him to an automatic life sentence.
'We are bereft at the loss of such a clever, talented and much loved boy,' said Mandy Pearson, Whitworth's stepmother, in a statement she read outside the courthouse. 'It has been difficult to say the least and has had a huge impact on our lives, which will never be the same again. We are emotionally and physically exhausted.'
Grindr is cooperative with authorities. In 2014, after a string of murders, assaults, and rapes linked to Grindr in Seattle and Philadelphia, Grindr began to provide police with data when requested.
'As a company, we treat all reports of crime very seriously,' Grindr officials said in a statement. 'We encourage anyone with information on any criminal incidents to reach out to the police. If we are contacted by the authorities about an investigation, we fully cooperate with their requests. Regarding the recent incidents you pointed out, our thoughts and prayers are with the victim's family and friends.'
The Gay community in Seattle knows all too well what can happen if a person isn't careful when using Grindr. On June 1, 2014 radicalized Muslim Ali Muhammad Brown, 30, used Grindr to meet up with Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, after they left R Place. Brown executed the two men, specifically because they were Gay, at 29th and King Street - just feet away from where Anderson-Young's mother was sleeping inside the Central District home they shared.
Brown confessed to the murder as revenge for the U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Brown stole Said's car after detectives say Said was shot multiple times in the face at close range and also in the back, as was Anderson-Young. There was no evidence of a struggle and the victims were not armed. Police said they linked Brown to the slayings after finding his fingerprints and three spent 9mm shell casings inside Said's car; which Brown abandoned in South Seattle before fleeing to New Jersey where he committed another murder. Police later linked Brown to another Washington shooting death of a 30-year-old Skyway man, although that shooting death, and his Philadelphia slaying of a 19-year-old college man had nothing to do with sexual orientation.
Seattle Gay News hopes this story serves as a reminder to be careful whenever using a Gay, GPS enabled, hookup app. Some best practices to stay safe include, telling a friend or a roommate that you are meeting someone and where you will be meeting said hookup. Provide that confidant with an address, name (if possible), and perhaps even a photo. Tell the person you are going to see that others know where you have gone. If you don't feel right for any reason at all (physically, mentally, etc.) once you have arrived, leave as soon as you can and as commandingly as you can.
And this should go without saying: DO NOT let a person make you a mixed drink, open a beer or pour a glass of wine for you, out of your line of sight. That, of course, is when a dangerous person can take advantage and drug or poison a victim.
Do not live in fear, live in knowledge.
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