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The Glenn Mills case, uncovered

Fri 2 Sep 2011 In: HIV View at Wayback View at NDHA

Detective Sergeant Andy King led the case The detective who led the investigation into Glenn Mills has made a series of fresh revelations about the case they were gathering against the man who became known as an ‘HIV predator’. While the new information unveils the mammoth scope of the investigation, and makes it all too clear just how many lives Mills is believed to have irrevocably damaged with his recklessness, it has also been revealed police were investigating even more horrifying accusations at the time of his death. Because the 40-year-old died suddenly in prison before going to trial, the full extent of the allegations and evidence against him has never yet been revealed. Detective Sergeant Andy King has now broken the silence, telling a group of HIV professionals and advocates exactly what he and his team uncovered and how they uncovered it. Responding to the rumours In May 2009, rumours someone was knowingly spreading HIV began reaching fever pitch in the gay community. Detective Sergeant King, who headed Auckland Central's Adult Sexual Assault Team, was first made aware of the claims in a phone call from an Auckland public health official, who told him Mills had been diagnosed HIV positive two years before and had been on treatment since. The official expressed concern that for the past few months he had been failing to turn up for treatment, at the same time as there was a spike in HIV positive cases coming to their attention. "His name was becoming more and more apparent as being a possible area of where the infection was coming from," Detective Sergeant King says, adding that health officials had tried to contact Mills in a number of ways but he was not calling them back, which increased the level of concern. Immediately Detective Sergeant King began thinking about what police needed to do, in terms of what sort of criminality was involved, if any, and what police required to make a formal statement of complaint. It was a tough challenge, as public health officials were unable to release the names of people they believed had been infected by Mills, so police had to initially work backwards instead of their usual manner of having victims lead them to a suspect. "In this particular case we had a potential offender," he explains. "We didn't know exactly what he'd done. Whether he was criminally liable for what was occurring. But we were essentially starting with the end result and travelling backwards and looking for potential victims." Upon returning to his office after chatting with the public health official, Detective Sergeant King received a call from Editor Jay Bennie who was already investigating the allegations that Mills was knowingly spreading HIV. "Jay, very rightly, was almost challenging me I think; to see what the police were likely to do, to see whether or not we would be interested in what was going on, and whether we would pick up the fact that it was potentially quite a major public health risk." The detective explained the situation, in that it was tough to start an investigation without any victims, and Bennie informed him he was about to publish an article and asked for a quote. When he was given permission from his superiors Detective Sergeant King confirmed on the record that police were monitoring the situation and wanted public information. "Almost immediately I received contact from a 23-year-old male who alerted me to the fact that he wished to talk to me about potentially being infected with the HIV virus by Mr Mills. After some to-ing and fro-ing I met with him, and his story was quite a simple one really. He advised me that he'd gotten to know Mills some months before and that they'd formed a platonic relationship initially. After some time had gone by they decided that they were going to have sex together. This male advised me that he was very pro safe sex and Mr Mills very much tried to talk him into having unprotected sex with him." The young man told the detective that they eventually decided to have sex using a condom, hooked up, and then went their separate ways. "However sometime later this young man developed the symptoms of HIV, sought some medical attention and tested HIV positive. He went back to his previous partners and they were all HIV negative. And essentially he didn't know where the HIV had come from. He didn't attribute it to Glenn Mills because as far as he was concerned a condom had been used, he actually put the condom on Mr Mills, so he felt it couldn't have come from him." The man believed his infection may have come from a needle injury, as he had stood on a needle a number of months before.  "He then got in with his treatment and tried to get on with his life." Detective Sergeant King says. "However as time went by he started hearing rumours within the gay community about Glenn Mills and the fact he'd possibly been infecting others with the HIV virus. He started thinking about his own situation, and rang Glenn and asked to meet with him. "They had a meeting and this gentleman outright asked Glenn 'what happened, did you infect me with HIV? I believe you may have'. And Glenn, well this is what he told me, he told me that Glenn laughed in his face and said 'yip, when your back was turned I tore the condom and we had sex'." Detective Sergeant King says the young man was not sure whether he wanted to make a complaint and open up an investigation, but after receiving advice from police and members of the gay community he decided to make a formal statement of complaint. "My thoughts on what this young man had told me were that at the very least the activity concerning that sexual activity between them was at least in a reckless arena of criminality. So we were looking at some sort of criminality on the part of Glenn Mills." The complaint from the 23-year-old man "essentially opened the floodgates", Detective Sergeant King says. "Almost immediately we received contact from at least two or three other men who advised me that they'd been in sexual contact with Glenn Mills and several men advised that they were infected with HIV and they very strongly believed Glenn Mills to be responsible before that." A mountain of information The investigation team that had begun with Detective Sergeant King and several of his officers grew and grew until his entire squad of ten staff and a full-time analyst were working on the case. "Effectively there were a number of avenues we took,” the detective explains. “One of the ways of investigation that we look at in this day and age is looking into cell phone technology. We executed a search warrant on Vodafone. Glenn Mills had two telephones he'd been using, two 021 numbers. We dumped all his text messages from Vodafone for the previous six months. That was in the vicinity of 60,000 text messages received and sent over six months. So you're looking at 10,000 text messages per month, which is a huge amount of data. In hard copy it was five thousand A4 pages of spreadsheet data." The data was cell phone to cell phone, and included incoming calls and outgoing calls or what the text message said. Detective Sergeant King says while it's great evidence for police, it comes from Vodafone jumbled up in chronological order and an analyst is needed to put it into full conversations, after which police look at who the phone numbers belong to. An analyst worked on doing this with Mills' colossus of messages and calls full-time, for about three months. "We were gathering evidence straight away from that means," Detective Sergeant King says. "From that text data it was patently obvious that Glenn was extremely sexually active. He was obviously working a great deal on internet dating sites. And we then went from there to NZ Dating, he was very active on NZ Dating ... he had three or four profiles on there, portraying himself as a homosexual male looking for other males." Police were granted a search warrant and asked for downloads of all of his conversations on the dating site. "NZ Dating were extremely receptive to helping us," the detective recalls. "They took the search warrant and went away and came back somewhat sheepishly probably about three or four days later and said 'look, we do really want to help you, but we can't, because the amount of data we have on this person is just too much. He's been active on this site for three years and he's been in contact with literally thousands of people nationwide, and there's literally millions of messages on our system between him and other people, and it's so large we can't download it'." NZ Dating told police they were welcome to send officers to look at the information. "At this time we were starting to realise it was getting bigger than Ben Hur," Detective Sergeant King recalls. "And we started to change our game plan somewhat, changing around to having victims come to us rather than us trying to seek them." The team decided to utilise the media to attract people to come forward. "Obviously by this time the story had been in the media anyway," he says. "It was on right from the word go and it was also in the mainstream media by this stage as well. And obviously we were trying to encourage that because of the huge public health risk we could see, which we were obviously getting more and more concerned about as we saw how active he had been sexually in the time that he was HIV positive, which was two years." Police gathered a number of formal complaints and within three weeks they had seven complaints; three from HIV positive men and four who had unprotected sex with Mills and had not been told he was HIV positive. "So the investigation was unfolding very rapidly. We were very aware that we needed it to happen as quickly as possible because he was out there still sexually active as far as we could tell." Deciding on charges Glenn Mills appearing in court Mills was aware of the investigation and made contact with police through his lawyer, making arrangements to come and talk to officers on a particular Thursday morning. He did not front and did not get in contact with his lawyer either, who was concerned about his mental health and the possibility he was a suicide risk. This sparked the police team to break into Mill's Mt Eden house to check on his wellbeing, but he was not home and a number of personal items were gone. Police tracked him down in Mission Bay within a few hours and brought him back to Auckland Central Police Station where he was arrested and charged in relation to the initial seven complaints. "He went off to court the next day. We actively sought for him to have his name published as quickly as possible because of the public health risk. For whatever reason the judge decided he should have three weeks name suppression, which was incredibly disappointing for us. That was so he could go and tell his elderly mother who was living in Levin, down the bottom of the North Island, which we thought three weeks was rather excessive for him to do. There was a major outcry in the media because of that." Detective Sergeant King spent considerable time speaking with Crown Law about what charges could and should be laid at the stage they had seven complainants. They decided in relation to the three complainants who were HIV positive, the charge of Infecting with Disease was the most appropriate. The charge is high-threshold, which means police and the prosecution needed to prove that when Glenn Mills had sex with another person he had it in his mind that he wanted to infect that person with HIV. "Obviously that's quite a difficult thing for police and the prosecution to prove, because you need to get into somebody else's mind. What was his mind-set at the time while having sex?" Police also laid alternative charges of wounding with reckless disregard, which means their bases were covered. "We believed as the investigation unfolded that we would be able to prove that he did have the necessary intent at the time of sexual intercourse. But we had a fall-back place where a jury for instance could decide that it was only reckless." The investigation expands further As the analyst went through the text data they came across a message where a woman claimed Mills had made her pregnant, which was the first time police became aware that he had not only had sex with men. "And it was obviously of concern to us insofar as that he had quite possibly infected a woman with HIV – and we had concern for the unborn baby as well. So we contacted her very quickly and it transpired that she had met Glenn off a phone dating site called Hot Gossip and they had hooked up by means of Hot Gossip ... he'd gone around to her place and they'd had sex that night, then he'd gone next door and had sex with her girlfriend as well, both times unprotected. “So we had her and her friend tested, and obviously we had to check in regards to her unborn baby as well. Both were negative, fortunately, which was great." Police realised they needed to further expand the investigation and found Mills was also very active on Find Someone, another dating website which is run through Trade Me, where he was portraying himself as a man looking for a woman to start a relationship with. As they had with NZ Dating, police executed a search warrant with Trade Me and found he had been in contact around 300 women in around 18 months. "Trade Me did their own analysis for us, they were very helpful, and they broke that down to approximately 100 women who he'd exchanged contact details with," Detective Sergeant King says. "And so we sat a detective down with every single one of those women and advised them what the situation was, and advised them to get tested and take all the precautions necessary." Detective Sergeant King says this portrays the huge amount of labour-intensive detective work that went into the investigation. Testing the law Police were also planning to use a section of the Crimes Act which has never been used in New Zealand before. It came after someone came forward who had been in a long-term relationship with Mills in the early 2000s, which ended with a bad domestic dispute where Mills threw hot liquid over the man's head and face and badly wounded him. Mills was charged with and convicted of assault as a result of the incident and the victim moved to overseas. As news of the case against Mills broke the man called police and claimed he believed he had also been infected with HIV by Mills. At the centre of this claim was a key message police found in his text data where he stated that if there was one person he wanted to infect, it was this man. "That obviously was extremely crucial evidence for us, in terms of Infecting with Disease and trying to prove what Glenn's mind-set was at the time of infecting this particular male with HIV, as you can sort of tell from a text message like that. It very much goes a long way towards proving Glenn potentially had sex with that male with the intent of passing the infection on to them." The man was still living overseas and told police he had been in contact with Mills since their bad break-up. In 2008 they decided they would meet up and go on an eight-day gay cruise. They had sex during the cruise and months later the man was diagnosed HIV positive. "He strongly believes that Glenn was responsible for that infection," Detective Sergeant King says. Looking into how they could use the information, Detective Sergeant King found that under Section 8 of the Crimes Act, that any crimes committed by British subjects on a foreign flagged vessel on the high seas come under the Crimes Act. Further investigation confirmed it was a US flagged ship which went into non-territorial waters, so a complaint was taken and a charge was laid. Police also looked at similar cases overseas as there had not been anything particularly similar in New Zealand, aside from the Peter Mwai case in the 1990s, where the Kenyan musician was sentenced to seven years' prison for having unprotected sex with five women, and infecting two. The investigating team found international police were using blood samples, with the possibility of being able to say that the strain of HIV the accused was carrying was very similar to the one infecting the seven HIV positive complainants. Detective Sergeant King's team began exploring how this could be used in this case, although the technique it does not have the science to the degree of that of DNA evidence police commonly use today. "It's not quite as advanced as that, but even to be able to say 'it's highly likely', or 'more likely to have been Mr Mills' than not' was going to be very beneficial to us. “It also has another side to it that it could have also worked in Mr Mill's favour too as well, if we had made an error with some of these victims' then obviously the charges would be dismissed. It would have a double-edged sword effect." Mills committed suicide in prison on November 13 2009, before police had completed that aspect of their investigation. "It was very sad, not also for him, but also for his victims," Detective Sergeant King says of the death, which he can’t comment further on as an inquiry by the Coroner continues. The complainants While police ended up with 14 complainants, Detective Sergeant King says there were a large number of others who charges could have been laid for. He says the team decided that effectively in the eyes of the law there would be no point taking any more complaints and it would save more people from the trauma of being involved at that level. The complainants were 11 men and three women, and seven are HIV positive. The youngest was 17 when he was infected. He had met Mills through a dating site in 2009, while he was still exploring his sexuality, and it was his first love affair. He believed it was a monogamous relationship and while they started off using condoms, he says Mills persuaded him over a number of months to have unprotected sex. Detective Sergeant King recalls being there when the teenager was diagnosed. "It was incredibly sad. When I spoke to him he broke down with me and said he was never going to have a normal love affair and his life was never going to be the same again." As if the impact Mills’ reckless disregard had on the lives of those who consensually slept with him was not enough, Detective Sergeant King has also revealed further and even more frightening allegations against Mills his team was investigating, as the man at the centre of them took his own life. will have details of those allegations in the second part of this series tomorrow. Jacqui Stanford - 2nd September 2011

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Friday, 2nd September 2011 - 12:00pm

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