Teens jailed over plot to lure and rob men via Grindr
Three teens have been jailed for a string of robberies against men who believed they were meeting up with someone they’d matched with via a dating app.
Mohammed Sohail Khan, Qaasim Ahmad and Muhammad Umar, all aged 18, created fake profiles on Grindr - the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.
The gang communicated with men on the app to convince them to meet up, and over a period of three months arranged at least four fake dates with unsuspecting victims.
The callous trio arranged to meet their dates in Bordesley Green and then forced them onto wasteland - before assaulting and restraining the victims, robbing them, and humiliating them by shouting anti-gay slurs.
The first attack happened on 5 January 2019, and three further reports were made to West Midlands Police on the 18, 24 and 29 March sparking a huge scale investigation. Urgent warnings were issued via the media, sparking outrage in Birmingham and across the UK.
Striking similarities between the cases immediately led investigators to believe the same group of people were responsible for all four attacks.
One of the victim’s told police that he was spat on during his terrifying ordeal. His clothing was instantly seized for examination by forensic scientists and DNA on his trousers was found to match that of Muhammad Umar to a certainty of one in one billion.
The discovery made Umar the prime suspect in the case. He was subsequently arrested by officers in Bordesley Green along with two other teens, who were later released without charge.
Khan and Ahmad were quickly identified as suspects soon after, and were arrested by police at their home addresses on 30 March.
A wealth of evidence was found on phones belonging to Khan, Ahmad and Umar and warrants conducted at their homes uncovered further items linking them to the crimes.
Blood belonging to one of their victim’s was found on the sleeve of a coat seized from Qaasim Ahmad’s bedroom - the expensive Canada Goose coat was presented as evidence during the trial.
Other evidence amassed during the investigation included CCTV from stores and ATM’s where the defendants fraudulently used bank cards stolen from their victims, Snapchat videos and phone records.
Officers presented the evidence to the CPS, and the trio were ultimately charged with conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to burgle.
Both Khan and Umar pleaded guilty to both conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to rob – including false imprisonment.
And Ahmad was found guilty of all three crimes following a 13 day trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
Today (11 December) they were sentenced to a combined total of more than 37 years in prison:
· Qaasim Ahmad from Heather Road, Small Heath was sentenced to 13 years, four months
· Mohammed Sohail Khan of George Road, Hay Mills to 13 years, four months
· Muhammad Umar from Denville Crescent, Bordesley Green to 11 years, three months
All three will be subject to an extended licence period due to the severity of their crimes – which were treated as a homophobic hate crime from the outset, and reflected as an aggravated factor in their sentences.
Det Chief Inspector Ian Ingram said: “This was a calculated series of robberies with Khan, Ahmad and Umar deliberately targeting gay men via the dating app Grindr, because they believed they were vulnerable, easy targets.
“My team gathered compelling evidence against the trio - who in police interview showed no remorse for what they had done, and seemingly had no grasp of the trauma they had subjected their victim to.
“I know it took the four victims in this case a huge amount of bravery and courage to come forward and support the criminal justice process through to trial - and I commend them for doing so.
“Their evidence enabled us to launch a full scale investigation and a build a strong case, which ultimately brought the offenders to justice, and has undoubtedly prevented many other people from becoming a victim.
“Unfortunately we suspect the defendants may have committed other offences before they were arrested, and many victims may not have reported what happened to them to police.
“I hope today’s outcome provides reassurance that we take these types of offences extremely seriously, and always do everything in our power to bring offenders to justice. Those found committing offences like this can expect to face a considerable length of time in prison.
“Naturally I would encourage anyone who has been subject to a similar ordeal to come forward and report it to police. All reports will be dealt with sensitively and victims will be supported by specially trained officers."
Speaking about their fear and trauma since the sickening attacks, the court heard a number of victim impact statements. One said: “Since my attack the impact of what happened has taken many forms, first was the shock of being knocked to the ground, then the terror of being bound and threatened with being stabbed. As the punches hit my head and face I was expecting to be stabbed at any moment, it felt like hours as I was forced to lay face down in the dirt with my hands and legs bound not knowing if I would ever see my family again."
Another said: “Every time something reminds me of the attack, it takes me to a bad place and it affects my sleep. I have ongoing bad dreams particular about the moment of despair I felt at one point during the attack where I thought I would die in a horrible way. It is the memory of the fear of having that screwdriver rammed in my eye, that moment where the young man was threatening to do that. During the past six months there have been regular moments where I am taken back to that place. It can be watching television and seeing some violent scene in a drama or hearing about attacks on the news."
Speaking after today’s sentencing Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, issued the following safety advice: “If you decide to meet up in person with someone you have met online, it’s very important that you take precautions to ensure your personal safety. Sadly, not everyone is who they say they are online so be careful when arranging to meet.
“Never meet them at your home or even give them your address. Likewise, don’t go to theirs either. Meet in a public place where there are lots of other people around so you are safe. Take your mobile so you are contactable and let a friend or family member know you are meeting someone new and agree to send them a text so you can let them know you are safe."
Further Get Safe online dating safety advice can be found here.
If you’ve been affected by this case we’re here to help, please visit our website for a range of information, advice and support options.