Daryll Rowe: Police criticised for 'allowing' hairdresser to deliberately spread HIV while free on bail

Forces accused of putting gay men in jeopardy by allowing perpetrator freedom to pursue vindictive infection agenda

Flora Thompson
Friday 17 November 2017 15:31
Daryll Rowe
Daryll Rowe

Police have come under fire over claims they put gay men in danger when they released a hairdresser on bail, allowing him to continue a campaign to deliberately infect his lovers with HIV.

Officers were also criticised for allegedly wrongfully arresting and detaining one of Daryll Rowe's unsuspecting victims as he came to terms with his boyfriend's crimes.

Rowe, 27, was convicted at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday of trying to deliberately infect 10 men with the virus.

When first arrested by Sussex Police, he had already preyed upon eight men, his trial heard.

Only two had spoken to officers at that time and he was released on bail.

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.

Speaking to the Press Association, his final victim blamed police for putting him at risk and said more could have been done sooner to stop Rowe's offending.

The 42-year-old, who is considering taking legal action, said: “I blame the police for letting him go in the first place.

“There is no way in hell he should ever have been allowed out of Brighton police station.”

It was 18 days after Rowe's arrest by the time the force 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”.

This accompanied an appeal for anyone with information, or potential victims, to come forward.

But the force refused to publish a more detailed description of Rowe, including his name and photo.

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

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “They should have released more detail about him. He used a fake name with me but if there had been a picture I would have found out or friends would have warned me.

“They could have done more to protect us.”

He hit out at the conduct of Northumbria Police officers who arrested him at his home in North Tyneside alongside fugitive Rowe on December 24, last year.

He said: “They arrested me on suspicion of aiding and abetting. I had no idea what was going on. This one officer said I was lying and I knew about it.

“I was taken to a police station and kept in a cell for five-and-a-half hours after finding out he might have infected me with HIV. It was just awful.”

He said Rowe's controlling behaviour in their relationship then made sense, adding: “He wouldn't let me watch the news and wore a hood when we went to the shops.”

Once other officers realised the error, he was treated as a victim and fully supported by both forces throughout the investigation and prosecution, he said.

Sussex Police force stood by its decision to keep Rowe's identity secret but said it did not ask for the victim to be arrested.

A spokeswoman said there was not enough evidence to detain Rowe when he was first arrested and the case was “unprecedented in English law”.

She added: “The health and wellbeing of potential victims was the primary focus and releasing the suspect's name was not in the public interest because in this case it was felt it could lull some people, who had potentially been infected, into a false sense of security because of the risk of secondary infection [if someone had not had sex with Rowe, but may have been involved with one of his partners].

“We also believed the suspect may have used a variety of usernames when contacting people online so putting out his name may have meant some people failed to identify Daryll Rowe.

“We achieved the charges and conviction through careful and detailed investigation to get justice for all the victims.”

Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme, the senior investigating officer in the case, said the force responded quickly when they learned of the risks posed by Rowe and worked closely with other authorities to support victims who were as “instrumental” in bringing him to justice.

He added: “We recognise this case has been extremely traumatic for the victims and their families.”

A Northumbria Police spokesman confirmed officers from the force were present during the arrest operation, but said: “We have received a complaint in relation to this case, the outcome of which is yet to be established.

“It would therefore be inappropriate to publicly comment at this stage.”