The advent of dating apps means it’s never been easier for us to make intimate connections with complete strangers. While this can open up exciting romantic possibilities, online dating platforms have tragically been exploited by those with dark, even lethal, agendas.
1. Stephen Port
Stephen Port carried out a string of murders to indulge in a malevolent fetish: having sex with unconscious young men. Luring victims to his home in Barking, he would spike them with the drug GHB and then assault them, unconcerned with the potentially fatal consequences. Four of his targets died between 2014 and 2015.
Port used gay dating apps to bring victims into his orbit, and he cast his net widely. Grindr, Fitlads, Gaydar, Daddyhunt and Sleepyboy were just some of the sites he stalked, using profile photos that were either immensely flattering (utilising a wig and savvy camera angles) or outright fake (he would sometimes use stock photos of handsome young men).
Often emphasising that he was looking for ‘twink types no older than 25 please’, Port was particularly explicit on one kink-focused site called Slaveboys, where he called himself ‘Domboss4twink’.
2. Khalil Wheeler-Weaver
When New Jersey university student Sarah Butler was approached by a guy calling himself ‘LilYachtRock’ on the dating platform Tagged who offered her $500 to meet him for sex, she asked, ‘You’re not a serial killer, right?’
Tragically, ‘LilYachtRock’ – real name Khalil Wheeler-Weaver – was exactly that. Before he murdered Butler in November 2016, he’d already preyed on other young women that same year, beginning with Robin Daphne Michele West. He’d raped Robin, then strangled her and set her body on fire. He then killed Joanne Brown, who was found with her mouth and eyes taped up and her jacket tied around her neck.
Another victim was Tiffany Taylor, whom – as with Sarah Butler – he’d propositioned with money on Tagged. Fortunately, she managed to escape the attack, but – incredibly – police didn’t believe her story even though she had handcuffs hanging from her wrist.
Fittingly, Khalil Wheeler-Weaver was finally caught through the dating app, when Sarah Butler’s sister found her online messages with him and concocted a fake profile herself to entrap him. When he showed up at the date, he was met by detectives, and his ruthless crimes were slowly unravelled. He was sentenced to 160 years in prison and has since been linked with at least one other murder.
3. Wade Ridley
Back in 2010, before the advent of swipe apps like Tinder, Hinge and Bumble, millions of singletons were seeking love on Match.com. One of them was Las Vegas real estate agent Mary Kay Beckman, and she thought she’d struck gold when she started exchanging messages with Wade Ridley, whom she found handsome and charming.
But, after a few promising dates, Ridley’s true nature – controlling, paranoid, possessive – began to reveal itself. When Mary Kay Beckman ended the relationship, reasonably assuming that it wouldn’t have huge repercussions because they’d only been seeing each other for a matter of days, Ridley was overcome by fury.
He attacked her outside her home, stabbing her repeatedly with a butcher knife. When the blade broke, he started stamping on her head. Miraculously, she survived the savage attack, but another woman wasn’t so lucky. Anne Simenson of Phoenix, Arizona, whom Ridley had also met on Match.com, was stabbed to death in her home, another victim of his jealous rage. Disturbingly, it transpired that Ridley had drawn up a ‘kill list’ of other people who had ‘wronged’ him.