True crime

Man guilty of blackmailing closeted grandad he met on Grindr

A worried and depressed older man
Photo posed by model (Photo: Shutterstock)

A 25-year-old man has been found guilty of attempting to blackmail a grandfather he met on Grindr.

The case took place in the UK. Kieran George Thurling, who lives in Uffculme, Devon, met his victim via the gay hookup app in September 2018. They met around eight times for sex before Thurling threatened to out him via a message sent in January this year.

The older man, now divorced, has children and grandchildren. His ex-wife and kids knew nothing about his sexual activity with other men.

Thurling told him that if he didn’t give him £400 ($506), he would put posters up around the local area outing him, reports Devon Live.

The older man told Thurling he’d have trouble finding the money. Thurling then raised the extortion amount to £600 ($760).

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He told his victim to drop the money off in an envelope at a specified location.

Instead of doing so, the old man – who has not been named – went to the police. He was unable to give them Thurling’s name as he did not know it and was unable to offer identifying details. He said the younger man had always worn a hooded top and it had been dark when they met.

The police suggested the victim drop of an envelope stuffed with paper at the designated drop-off point. He did so, and when Thurling went to retrieve it, the police swooped in to arrest him.

Thurling admitted blackmail. He told police he planned to use the money to go abroad and take his own life.

Appearing at Exeter Crown Court this week, Thurling was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for 20 months, 150 hours of unpaid community work and 25 days of rehabilitation activities. He is also barred from contacting the victim or identifying him publicly.

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Sentencing Thurling, Judge David Evans said of the plan to blackmail the older man, “Having met initially on the internet, you threatened to expose his sexuality in a way calculated to cause him the utmost anxiety and fear.”

“With his family background, such a revelation would have turned his life upside down at a relatively late stage in his life.

“The psychological misery that would have resulted for him and others doesn’t bear calculating.”

The judge said he was suspending the sentence as Thurling had admitted the crime and shown remorse for his actions.