Dating app Grindr was used by criminals to seek out lone men, arrange to meet and then rob them. Eden White, Jack Walker, Mackenzie Wales, James Doel and Harrison Carter also used WhatsApp to plan a series of robberies between 27 May and 16 June last year.
The group used Grindr to seek out lone men and arrange to then meet them during the hours of darkness where they demanded mobile phones and cash while dressed in dark clothing with masks covering their facing and waving knives.
The first robbery was reported by a man in his 30s after he arranged to meet a man called ‘Toby’ at around 2am on 27 May at the playing field in Chequers Lane, Papworth Everard.
The victim, who is deaf, was asked to share his live location when he arrived and was then approached by two men in dark clothing with knives.
The men used a phone to demand he hand over his mobile phone and wallet and then wrote ‘lie down on the grass for five minutes’ as they ran off.
The victim waited until they were gone and then ran to the nearest house to seek help.
On 29 May they struck again on Jubilee playing field, Alms Hill, Bourn at around 6am when the victim, in his 50s, arrived to find men in dark clothing and a face mask demanding phone, keys and money.
A third victim, a man in his 40s, began speaking to a man called ‘Charlie’ on 10 June. The pair met on a couple of occasions, but each time ‘Charlie’ was wearing a balaclava.
On 12 June ‘Charlie’ asked the victim to meet and offered him £60 but when he arrived at Cambourne Business Park at 12.50am, ‘Charlie’ and another man were brandishing knives.
The mobile number used to contact the victim was linked to White which then led to the identities of the other men.
Police found WhatsApp groups involving the group detailing the method, sharing of profile images, arrangements to set up fake Grindr accounts, planning and preparation of the offences including the locations, weapons, face coverings and clothing.
They also discussed the aftermath of robbery offences.
At Huntingdon Law Court on Wednesday (8 November) White, 22, of Quidditch Lane, Lower Cambourne, was sentenced to five years in prison after previously pleading guilty to conspiring to commit robbery, being concerned in the supply of class B drugs, and conspiring to commit fraud by false representation.
Wales, 18, of Anson Road, Upper Cambourne, was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for 18 months after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit robbery. He must also carry out 100 hours unpaid work and pay £200 compensation to each of the victims.
Walker, 21, of Cromwell Crescent, Papworth Everard, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison after previously pleading guilty to conspiring to commit robbery.
Doel, 18, of St Neots Road, Knapwell, was given a 12-month youth referral order at Huntingdon Youth Court in April after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit robbery and possession with intent to supply class B drugs. He was also ordered to pay £100 compensation to each of the victims
Harrison Carter, 26, of Chesterton Road, Cambridge has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit robbery and will be sentenced in January.
On sentencing, the judge, Mr Recorder George Keightley, described the conspiracy and specific robberies as ‘unquestionably extremely grave’ and said their planning was ‘detailed, lengthy, and cynical, exploiting for gain with little or no thought for the victims’.
Speaking about the victims he said the production of knives was ‘clearly terrifying for those involved’ with ‘significant lasting effects’.
Detective Constable Rebecca Halls, who investigated, said: “These men used WhatsApp to plan every detail of these robberies and then joked about them afterwards.
“They intentionally preyed on members of the LGBT community, targeting victims through Grindr knowing that they would meet up, alone, in times and locations where no one else was present and believing they would be less likely to report the incidents to police.
“I have to commend all of the victims for coming forward to report these robberies allowing us timely investigative opportunities which have now led to their convictions.”
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