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"How Glenn Mills gave me HIV"

Wed 2 Dec 2009 In: True Stories View at Wayback View at NDHA

Following reports in April that an Auckland man, soon identified as 40-year old commuter train driver Glenn Mills, was knowingly infecting young sex partners with HIV and that police needed a formal complaint from one of his victims, one young man took the courageous step of fronting up to police and laying the complaint which opened the floodgates on the case. Complainant number one risked much and had to confront some shocking truths as he prepared to see the matter through to a high court trial. He also had to come to terms with the way in which he had been deceived into unsafe sex by a man he had come to like a lot. Whom he had, in fact, fallen for. He approached's Jay Bennie, offering to tell his inside story so others in the community could understand more about Mills and the situation his victims found themselves in. Some portions of his story, so raw and deeply personal they reduced him to tears, have been omitted from this interview. Would you say you are a good judge of character? Definitely. I had a good upbringing so had learned a lot. I'd been through a terrible relationship when I was eighteen that was very manipulative and controlling. It turned very ugly. So my eyes are open to what people can stoop to and how low they can actually go. I'd been burned previously, and so I had my wits about me. I did have reservations about him, but those reservations fell away over time through getting to know him better. He selectively mentioned things of his history... it was like with any other person, you build a friendship, you work on it. I really had no suspicions of anything sinister. How did your friendship with him start? We just met up in a club, and there was definitely a spark between us. I was interested in him as well. There was definitely chemistry, and I hadn't felt that for a while. I was with friends at the time, but he left a note for me and passed it through another person. The note said I was cute and that he didn't want to come off as someone who was creepy or anything, and that he didn't have the courage to come up and talk to me face-to-face but would I like to go out for coffee. I was quite intrigued by it really, that someone was interested. I had suspicions on who it was - I'd guessed it was him, and I was quite interested. So I went out for coffee with him. What was he like? Very pleasant. Just like anybody else you'd go out with. Nothing odd about his behaviour at all. He seemed very down to earth, quite fun to be around. I went to a couple of nightclubs with him. We had a couple of drinks and I introduced him to a couple of my friends. What sort of person was he? He was very intelligent. We'd had some very deep and intellectual conversations about things in life. That's part of what attracted me to him. But I noticed nearer the end of our friendship that he was quite reserved,that he didn't seem to want to come off as being quite so intelligent, which was a little bit suspicious. What would you say Glenn's approach to life was? He seemed to be very lost. I know he'd been through rough things, but he didn't divulge too much. I knew that he'd been in a previous relationship which had turned nasty and very sour - as had I. So there was a common ground there. I did feel empathy towards him, I wanted to be a friend and support him like I usually do with other friends. But he would get very upset and emotional if we broached the topic of his ex-partner. Did he seem to have good friends? He said that he was a bit of a loner in Auckland. He said all his friends were in Wellington but he couldn't be there because his ex was in Wellington. His whole thing was that he was lonely and needed friends. He had friends he went to bars and clubs with. I thought that was healthy. He seemed to have left his comfort zone in Wellington and didn't seem comfortable living in Auckland. Did he introduce you to any of his friends? He did introduce me to one of his friends, just like 'hi this is such-and-such'. Nothing odd about it at all. Hobbies? Trains, he loved talking about them. He liked texting a lot. I remember he used to text all the time. And he was always on his email. But I thought that was completely normal and sociable. What did he tell you about himself? He told me that he had previously lived in Wellington, and that he had been in a long-term relationship down there which had turned sour and he'd gone on an overseas vacation and that it'd gotten very ugly. He said he was trying to make a clean break from Wellington and had moved up to Auckland to start a new life. He said that he was quite interested in trains and told me that he sometimes drove trains and worked in the management of them. Did he tell you he was seeing other people? I picked up that he was quite a social guy and that he had a lot of gay friends. I didn't have a problem with him sleeping with other people. I wasn't wanting a relationship, just a friend. How long had you been seeing him before the relationship turned sexual? Probably about two or three months. He was always interested, and I was always a bit standoffish. That was just my own defence. I wanted it to be more than sexual, as did he, and it was definitely working towards a relationship. But I was also treating it carefully. Having been in three long-term relationships that were over two years, I could see potential for a relationship there too. I knew that I wanted to be in a relationship, and I'd said to him that if we were to go into a relationship, I would need time... because I didn't want to just go from one relationship to another. I'd done that before and things come up that you don't expect. Feelings towards the previous partner and stuff. It gets quite complicated. So I wanted at least three to six months between relationships. Were you being 'wooed'? Yes. He asked me to move in with him, said he'd support me if I didn't want to work, he was quite happy to do all of that. But I wasn't really interested in moving in with him. He did try to push it a couple of times, he moved into a new apartment... I was tempted, but hesitant as well, I didn't want to just leap in. But it soon turned into a sexual relationship? It did. I'd just finished work, we'd had a couple of drinks, and I was interested that night. We were both comfortable with it, I had no problem. He had known my stance on safe sex... What did you know about HIV and safe sex? At the time I knew about HIV, not very in-depth but I knew the risks of catching STDs and that it was a possibility with unsafe sex. And I knew somebody who had caught STDs and HIV. So I had made a personal choice, previous to meeting Glenn, that it was my firm stance on sex. I wanted to have safe sex, I wanted to protect myself. Had you been as firm about safe sex in your existing, but failing, relationship? It was mostly safe, but there had been times where we'd had unsafe sex. Because I lost trust with my partner being faithful I had made it a safe sex relationship and we'd got tested for HIV together. So one night you and Glenn tumbled into bed together? Yeah. A can't remember the exact month, but it would have been around November or December [2008] and my relationship with my partner was pretty much dead by then. With Glenn it was like any other hook-up really, nothing was out of the ordinary. We were kissing. His exact words were 'Oh, do you mind if we don't use a condom, it hurts my dick'. I said 'No, I want to use a condom'. I didn't know enough about him to trust him like that. I've got this stance with new people, if we're hooking up for the first time, there's no way I'm going to have unprotected sex with them. What was his reaction when you said ‘No’? He pushed it a bit. He went on more about how it hurt his dick, and that he lost sensitivity and found it hard to maintain an erection. So I stood up to leave the room. Then he said 'OK, that's fine', and he put a condom on. And as far as I knew, we had protected sex. I was on my stomach so there was no way I could be 100% sure. But I saw the condom go on so I was quite satisfied that we were having protected sex. I had no suspicions or qualms about it. Afterwards, you still believed that a condom had been used throughout? Yes. I had no suspicions that I'd contracted anything, or that I had anything myself. How was your relationship with Glenn after having sex? We were friends - we only slept together that once. We had oral sex one time since that. I went out to dinner with him a few times, we went to the movies, we went to bars. But that's pretty much the depth of it. Why did you get an HIV test? A couple of months after I'd had sex with Glenn I came down with what I thought was the 'flu. I thought it was the worst 'flu I'd ever had. I couldn't shake it. It went on for two or three weeks and it was really intense. So I went to the doctor and they did complete blood tests. That's when I found out that I had HIV. How did you take the news of your infection? It was very traumatic. [Portion of interview withheld - Ed.] Had you had many other sexual experiences with other men around that time? I was faithful to my partner and had only cheated on him once. That was with Glenn. It was a revenge hook-up. So there were really only two men who could conceivably have passed HIV on to you. Who did you suspect? I thought it was my ex. He had had an unprotected sex experience, and I presumed I hadn't. So what did you do about that? I screamed at him for a few hours. And I had him go test himself as well. He thought he might have given it to me as well. It was shattering for him, and for me. I was feeling very vulnerable and lost. I didn't know what to do. Did you have anybody you could tell? As soon as I found out I told my younger sister, who is always supportive. She was there for me. She came to my rescue. She thought that it might be appropriate to involve my mother as well, so when they actually tested for the virus and that test came back positive, my mother was with me.  It was a very difficult time but they were there for support. When your ex tested, he came back negative? Yes, we saw the same doctor and he came back negative. I was baffled by it. Even the doctor also thought it was from my ex. She said that the HIV might not turn up in his tests for a couple of months. When you were diagnosed, did you tell Glenn? No, not at first. Did you continue seeing him socially? I did, but at that time I wasn't very sociable. I'd just found out that I had HIV - I didn't really want to go out into the scene or be around, I just really wanted to climb into a hole. You must have started to wonder if he was the source? I started to suspect that maybe I had caught it from Glenn, but as far as I knew, at that stage, we had had protected sex. I didn't actually broach the subject with Glenn until I heard on the grapevine in early May, just days before his situation went public, that somebody else had slept with him and had had a positive test back. That immediately sent up red flags. As soon as I heard that my firm belief that we'd had protected sex went out the window. I wanted to confront him personally and ask him... I didn't want to just leave it, not knowing. So I rang him and said that I had heard some things about him, and said I thought we should talk. He said 'sure' and we met up within an hour. I told him about what I had heard about the other guy, and that he was pretty convinced that Glenn was the source. He was gobsmacked. Couldn't believe it. Said that someone was out on a vendetta to get him, that it was a personal attack against his character. He told me that he'd been for a test two weeks ago and that test was negative. He said he had no knowledge of having HIV. At this stage, I was concerned about him as well. I did now think he was HIV positive, and that if he was he might not have known. I told him he should go and get a second test to find out. Did you come away from that chat reassured? I definitely wasn't reassured. Compared to previous encounters, I could tell that he wasn't himself, the person he usually was. He was very defensive, and overly dismissive of the possibility that he could have HIV and that he could have infected the other guy. I had not at this stage told him that I had HIV, but he kind of directed the conversation into 'Why did you care?' And 'Why it is really any of your business?' And that's when I told him that I was HIV positive. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to tell me. We tiptoed around the conversation probably for a good twenty minutes. I was getting irritated because I could tell he was holding something back. I was getting quite emotional. So I asked him straight up, 'Did we have protected sex?' And he pretty much just said 'No'. I don't remember his exact words but he said that he had ripped the condom. When he dropped that bombshell he seemed very, very sad. I felt dismay and disbelief... and then he said 'Well, maybe there is a possibility that I have something and I don’t know about it'. And that was the stance he took on it: 'Maybe I do have HIV, but I don't think I've got HIV'. Did you believe him? Yes, I actually believed him. But he had admitted that we had had unprotected sex, that was pretty clear cut in my mind. I realised I had been blaming the wrong person, my ex. Now I was pretty sure I had got it from Glenn. What did he say about how the protected sex became unprotected sex? He told me that he had broken the condom because the condom hurt his dick: 'I didn't think anything of it, it was only for about a minute or two'. So he didn't think that anything could have eventuated from that. I actually asked him 'Did you come inside of me?' and he was like 'Yeah I did'. So I knew there was a very high chance that I had caught HIV from him. What did you think of him at that point? Not very much. My opinion of him drastically changed. I knew that I quite possibly wanted to take him to the police, but I had reservations about doing that. I needed time to go away and process all the information. I was gobsmacked by it. Had he seemed like a person who could do that? No. Not at all. Nothing about his character really, except for when he was drunk, he was a little bit obnoxious. Did he drink a lot? Initially I didn't think he had a drinking problem. But I had actually brought it to his attention that he might be an alcoholic. Around the time we had sex he had been drunk around 80% of the time. Quite a lot of drink - around eight or nine or ten bottles of beer. He would start happy, but then he'd start to get into grumpiness. As he got more drunk, he'd get more distant. He didn't seem like himself. What did you say to your ex-partner? I didn't talk to him for about a week. He didn't really want to talk about it. He was a bit jealous. Our relationship was at an end, but there were still lots of feelings. [Portion of interview withheld - Ed.] What happened after you had told Glenn you had HIV and he admitted to engineering unsafe sex with you? When he was about to leave he asked me straight up if I was going to go to the police. Because I'd said the other person might go to the police. But he said he was quite comfortable - if he'd been in the wrong - to do that. I kinda thought that was a bit noble of him. But I didn't know where I was standing on it all at that point. I wasn't certain if he knew he was positive or not. I really did hope that he didn't know. Later that night, after our conversation, we corresponded by text. He went to West Auckland to visit a friend, and then he started texting me that he was suicidal. I was very worried for him. So I rang him a couple of times, I texted him, and I was trying to reassure him that it would be OK, and that he didn't need to do anything drastic. I didn't know that he knew he was HIV positive. How did you find out that he was the subject of widening concern in the gay community? After a friend showed me the story on about the police wanting to hear about a man who appeared to be infecting young guys with HIV I realised it was Glenn they were talking about and I spoke to the police. From that meeting and the way they were taking the matter so seriously I could tell he must be HIV positive. If he wasn’t HIV positive I was sure they would have known and they wouldn’t be pursuing the matter. What was your feeling about approaching the police? I had reservations. I didn't feel that I could come forward until I'd spoken to my family. At that time, my family - brothers and sisters, mum and dad - were the only ones that knew, along with my ex-partner. I felt that because there was the possibility that my name would be made public if I went forward, it could have ramifications for my the family. So I had to consult with them about it. I spent a day with them. They said to 'go to the police and see if you can learn anything or come to any decision'. Why did you want to tell your story to the police? In my conversations with Glenn, there was one comment which I think was the breaking point. It was something along the lines of me saying If you know that you have HIV, why would you give it to other people?' He kept on trying to reaffirm that he didn't know if he was HIV positive or not. I said 'You should go for a test'. And he said 'Even if I did have HIV, or I did give it to somebody, what's the big deal? We're all going to die anyway'. And that 'We're all going to die anyway' was what showed me that he really didn't have any compassion. I thought that comment was very dark and sinister. It really struck a nerve and opened his character to me. It chilled and shocked me, and that was the point when all the doubts, in my mind just clicked. I saw him in a completely different light. When he said that, it was cold. It was very cold. But even the day before I went to the police I still wanted to protect him. I thought he was a vulnerable person who might have contracted HIV and didn't know. Even after he had told me that he had done what he did, there wasn't any hate. I had forgiven him about it because in myself I had to forgive him for doing that to me... that's a product of my upbringing. My parents told me to turn the other cheek and to love everyone even if you have your fights. I had offered to go for a test with him, so he could get tested and I could be there for support. But he wasn't really interested. I spoke with [Detective Sergeant] Andy King and the gay community liaison officer, Brent Clark and that changed everything, in my book. They said to me that to rip somebody's condom without their consent is actually criminal activity. To do that, without your permission, is illegal. My mother said that if I knew in my heart that it was right to lay charges, 'We'll support you, but we'd prefer you keep the family name private. How did you feel, knowing that Glenn had gone out of his way to deceive you and place you at direct risk of getting HIV? That day, and the day previous to it, my mind was going like a bullet train. I had flipped through every possible scenario I could think of. I liked to believe initially that he was innocent and that there was no malice that he was out to get me. But from hearing more from the police and hearing about possible other people, my perception of his character changed dramatically. I saw that he was capable of going to extreme lengths to deceive. Things that I'd brushed off previously started to add up. I saw more of the reality in everything that had happened. Things in his past started to make a bit more sense. A fight on a cruise ship on holiday. A previous relationship in Wellington that turned violent. And it made me wonder why would these things have happened? Where they a result of unsafe sex or that person catching HIV? I thought that if he'd done this it wasn't the first time, that I wasn't a one-off. I was probably the fourth or fifth person that I knew of at this stage - and he was capable of going to lengths to deceiving me... I tried to switch roles with Glenn in my head and thought that if I was in his position and I had done all of this, would I lie? And I thought yes, because he's trying to cover his arse. What did you hope to achieve? The police told me that if no one laid a formal complaint, all the info would go into a box, and nothing would happen. I couldn't have that. I thought about the 18-year-old who had just been diagnosed with HIV. The police had told me that they had already had quite a lot of complainants, who'd had sex with Glenn, but nobody was willing to take the risk of being identified as being positive in the community, and the media. There was a possibility of every single person in the country knowing that they were HIV positive. I was completely petrified. But in myself, my conscience, the whole thing disgusted me that somebody could go to those lengths to deceive - and do it with no conscious guilt. That he had no guilt or remorse or concern about me. I didn't want anyone else to go through what I was going through. There was a possibility that he was still doing it, which was a big concern for me - knowing that he may still be seeing other people. They were always young people, much younger than me. He actually thought I was 23 or 24. I never actually told him I am 27. Did you have any more contact with Glenn after laying the formal complaint with the police? Two days after, we had text correspondence... nothing really relevant. I was trying to reassure him that I wasn't going to be laying a compliant.. I had seen what he was capable of, and I knew that he was manipulative. I thought he had been trying to manipulate and control me, and put me into a false sense of security so I thought I would put him into a false sense of security so he had no suspicion around me or what I might be doing. Manipulative? Saying 'I love you' and 'I could never do that to you intentionally'. He kept saying 'I can't believe that I gave you HIV, I can't believe I have it, I can't believe you would have to go through that, I'm so sorry'. I was thinking 'Oh, whatever'. And then he said 'You can come live with me, I'll look after you, I love you, you're so good to me'. Previously I'd been dismissive of it as flattery, but now I could see it as manipulative. I could see that he wanted to have control of the situation and control of me. He was trying to pull me in. Then I completely cut ties. The police suggested that I stopped corresponding with him and that I have no further communication with him. What did you feel when he was arrested? I didn't really know what I felt that day. What was it like seeing the numbers of complainants start going up after you made the first complaint? It was a very emotional time for me. I was in shock. I was expecting maybe five or six. Maybe seven, if he was a quite sexually active person. I wasn't expecting the numbers to go up as high as they did. But then I wasn't surprised either. Once I knew what his character was like, I thought it was quite possible and I actually expected it to keep going up. Another reason why I wanted to come forward was the possibility of people being out there who are HIV positive that didn't know. And that concerned me as well. So I thought it was best for the community to know. And then everyone could take it from there. At least people would know. Knowledge is power. What was your reaction a few weeks ago when you read that he was applying for bail? That was a really bad day for me. An epically bad day. I hit rock bottom low. I had gone through counselling, and had got a grip on things and put things in place to protect myself. There was the fear of him possibly trying to contact me. I had actually received an email from his email address the day before. It didn't say anything... it had just three letters - 'RDB.' But it was from his email address. I wondered how I was getting an email from his email address when he's in jail. The timing of it was pretty creepy. I got extremely anxious. I went for a walk, and things turned very dark, my anxiety got the better of me. My barriers came down and every emotion from the very beginning of my infection came to a head. It was extreme. After about half an hour of the anxiety escalating, I started getting suicidal thoughts. I called a social worker at Auckland Hospital and said 'help, I can't handle it. It's too much. I want out'. She knew something was really wrong. She picked me up and helped pull me back. [Portion of interview withheld - Ed.] But he didn't get bail. It was a relief. But I met again with the Community AIDS Resource Team and talked through a lot of the issues I had with him. They taught me new techniques I could use to lower my anxiety levels. That helped a lot, and within two or three days of my really bad experience, I was grounded again. And then on Monday morning he was found dead in his remand jail cell. My first feeling was relief. I know that's a little bit selfish, but the relief was that I wouldn't have to put myself through this big black hole in my future. My life had been on pause. And then there was a bit of sorrow and grief for him. I didn't like the fact that he'd died the way he did and I felt sorry for him that he was in that place in his mind. He must have felt cornered, caged, caught, nothing he could do about it, couldn't get bail. I heard he was being harassed in jail a bit. I put myself in his shoes and I felt sorry for him, I really did. I felt a bit of guilt as well. I felt that if I hadn't said anything, that he might be alive today. But then I had a conversation with my mother and she counterbalanced that with 'If he wasn't in jail today, how many more people would be infected?' He obviously didn't have regard for other human beings. He was quite carefree, in fact, about giving me HIV. He didn't care, 'We're going to die anyway.' 'Death is part of life' is another thing that he'd said. When you hear or read people say that in this whole affair 'the young guys should have known better, that they are equally to blame for contracting HIV' what do you think? Those people have no idea. I think they're so far off track. The place that he put me in was very comfortable. His whole behaviour was just like a brother. Somebody that you could confide in and be around. Someone who you thought would be there when you needed help. He seemed down to earth and normal. I had no clue what he was really like until it was too late. I started to get some suspicions but it was after the fact. It was way too late when I realised I'd been wrong all along. I feel like I got played. I don't know if he was out to get me, if he just wanted to give me HIV, or if that didn't even cross his mind and he just wanted to have unsafe sex. I didn't know. I can't get into his mind and I can't ask him what he was thinking. But he was definitely capable of deceiving and putting people into a false sense of security. I was older and had been through a lot, but still had no clue. I honestly think that at eighteen years-old fresh out of home with not much worldly experience, you've got no chance. He would have done what he did with me - showered me with flattery, gifts, take them out to dinner, and what 18-year-old isn't going to enjoy that? They would believethey're falling in love with him. I could quite possibly have seen myself falling in love with him. It wasn't hard. He was very easy to get along with. It's scary because I had no idea. Has that affected your trust in people? The whole thing's put me off wanting a relationship. In fact, I've completely detached. I've had no sexual encounters since I've been HIV positive, and I'm not really interested. I've completely switched off, which is kind of sad. What would you say to the other guys who are still struggling over their relationship with Glenn? One thing that helped me get through it myself was to 'find yourself'. Find your inner peace. It's quite easy to focus on the relationship and what we had and did, and I dwelled on that a bit too much. Then I let go. I found part of moving on with it was firstly to forgive him in my mind. So I forgave him, and that was a personal choice. It might be difficult for others to forgive. But I thought that he deserved a chance at redemption. And then I got to know myself, first and foremost. Because at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, the only person who's going to be there is yourself. And if you can't be friends with yourself and love yourself, then you can't really be a friend to others or love someone else. I understand how much some of those guys were in love with him. I've been in love and been through two years of grief after breaking up with my first boyfriend, of trying to go backwards. Time will heal wounds eventually. It will change, and it will pass, and life does go on.     Glenn Mills eventually faced 28 charges relating to knowingly exposing 14 young sex partners, 12 of them young gay men including teenagers, to HIV. It may never be known how many young men he actually infected with HIV. Early Monday morning Mills was found dead in his remand jail cell, police have not sought anyone in relation to his death.                 Jay Bennie - 2nd December 2009

Credit: Jay Bennie

First published: Wednesday, 2nd December 2009 - 4:22pm

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