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Monday, 30 November 2009

New Zealand: Alleged 'HIV predator' dies in cell

The man at the centre of New Zealand's biggest ever criminal HIV transmission case died in his cell in the early hours of Monday morning. His death is not being treated as suspicious, but the Coroner is investigating the circumstances.

The post-mortem has already begun on the impact of his death, however., which first alerted the public to 40 year-old Glenn Mills, dubbing him the 'HIV predator', has already run several pieces, including an interview with the first complainant to go to the police.

The first young formal complainant was described as "incredibly brave" after he fronted up to Auckland's Adult Sexual Assault Team in May with details of his sexual relationship with Mills and his subsequent HIV diagnosis. His evidence was the break police needed to ramp up the case into a fully-fledged investigation which revealed many more allegations. He says he felt all along that Mills should have faced justice and "fronted up to what he had done."

The young man, who has preferred not to be publicly identified, says news of Mills death is sad but he feels a sense of relief. "The anxiety of knowing that sometime soon I would have to stand up in court and reveal so much to strangers and be cross-examined about intimate aspects of my life has been intense," he says, " times it has been overwhelming." He says even in recent weeks he had been feeling "overwhelmingly black thoughts" about his situation but has been receiving lots of support... so many professional people and organisations have been there when I needed them, I truly appreciate their help." He says he was dreading the possibility of Mills being released on bail. "Meeting him in the street or having him contact me directly or through others would have been terrible.

"I think I may get some closure on this now," the man said this morning just minutes after hearing the news of Mills' death, "I hope so anyway. But this is not the way I would ever have wanted it to happen."

Reactions have also come in from the main NZ HIV organisations. Another piece from quotes Body Positive Auckland chief executive Bruce Kilmister:
"We are deeply sorry to hear of the death of Glenn Mills," says [Kilmister]. "We realise that people may have mixed feelings about him but we also acknowledge the stigma associated with HIV which he was having to deal with after after his health status was publicly revealed." Body Positive has been supporting a number of young men who believe they contracted HIV from Mills. Kilmister says his team are working quickly to contact everyone they can to put in place professional counselling and peer support.
Mr Mills' death is a mainstream news story in NZ, too., which aired an uncomfortable in-depth report on the case in June, published a story on its website today also quoting Mr Kilmister:
He says the premature death of an HIV sufferer is sad but it will spare victims and their families from having to give evidence before the court. "That's the only positive aspect we can see. It will avoid any long trial and won't put any people through that ordeal."
Despite their use of the phrase 'HIV sufferer', I was heartened to see they included this quote from him, too:
With his death coming the day before World Aids Day, Kilmister says it reinforces the message that people need to continue to test themselves and to practise safe sex. "Each person has a responsibility to keep themselves and others safe from the transmission of this virus." He says public attitudes towards the disease have made some progress but there is still some stigma towards people with the disease.
A story from focuses futher on the 14 complainants (seven of whom had tested HIV-positive).
Head of the Auckland Adult Sexual Assault Team Detective Sergeant Andy King says some of the 14 people who came forward to complain about Mills are quite upset about his death. He says others are happy the matter is now behind them. "They all came forward knowing well and truly that they may have to give evidence at court. And some when I spoke to them, or when they were spoken to by police, indicated that they were sorry that they wouldn't get a chance to see justice being done."

The article ends with some rather mixed messages, however, from Hannah Jennings-Voykovich, editor of Express, NZ's gay mazagine.

Ms Jennings-Voykovich says this case has highlighted the need for people to have personal responsibility when it comes to safe sex.
But earlier in the piece
[Jennings-Voykovic] says as she relayed the news to staff this morning, there was sense of relief. However she says there are still many unanswered questions. "Whether there was the intent. Whether there could be proof that there was an intent in court. And I think there are going to be a lot of hurt people out there wondering what happened." [She] says there will now be no sense of justice for Mills' victims. "A person that we spoke to this morning said 'I believe he got off lightly'."
We shall never know whether the case of Glenn Mills, the alleged "HIV predator", was more hysteria than fact. Earlier this month, Mr Mills was in court faced with an order to provide a sample of his blood for phylogenetic analysis. This would have been compared with samples from the seven complainants who claimed he was the source of their infection, and that he "deliberately" infected them by not disclosing his HIV status when they had consensual unprotected sex. This test may have shown that he was not the source.

It's also interesting to read about the relief his death has brought, not just to some of the complainants, but also to some in NZ's gay and HIV community. His trial may have been difficult – and the media reporting would certainly have added to the stigma associated with being gay and living with HIV – but it may also have exonerated Mr Mills, or at least shown that he may not have been any kind of predator (as is the case with most people accused of such crimes).

Still, putting the boot in, is's content editor, Jay Bennie, who tells 3 News
“Right from the start we described Glen Mills as a predator, and that has been controversial – but I stick by it,” says Jay Bennie of “He has been manipulative, he has been cold and calculating, he has preyed on people who are vulnerable.”
Instead, his legacy has been sealed via trial by media – and he was found guilty in that domain long ago.

[This posting is the first to reveal the name of Mr Mills, even though it has been in the public domain since June. I hesitate to include it even now, but do so to help balance the reporting on his death and legacy.]

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