A man has been given a lifelong restriction order after targeting a vulnerable woman on a pro-suicide forum and offering to help her to take her own life.
Craig McInally has been jailed for a minimum of two years and three months after being convicted of culpable and reckless conduct, with a sexual element.
The 31-year-old, described as a “calculated and dangerous individual”, lured the 25-year-old to his flat in Glasgow to “practice” taking her own life by choking her until she lost consciousness.
McInally is believed to be the first person in the UK to be jailed for a crime linked to a site that has been taken down in several European countries following the trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
The Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR), means that if he is ever released he will be subject to conditions and monitoring for the rest of his life.
‘Brave’ victims helped bring justice
The woman, who was a student at the time, began receiving messages from McInally, then 30, after meeting through the website.
They met at his home in Ibrox but the woman became distressed and wanted to leave after the incident.
The court heard the woman then returned on December 1 and he gave her a diazepam pill he claimed to help her sleep.
When she awoke, McInally suggested they should “practice”. This included him manually choking her, which she initially agreed to.
But, prosecutor Paul Kearney KC, explained: “She began struggling and he stopped.
“He tried to hug her and kiss her on the forehead. She was extremely upset and said she was going to leave.”
The traumatised woman walked several miles late at night before getting a taxi.
She later sought medical help and reported the matter to Police Scotland.
When McInally was arrested at his home in December 2019, it was found he had offered similar “advice and assistance” to other suicidal young women.
The detective who led the two-year investigation praised the bravery of those who spoke out to expose his actions.
Detective chief inspector John Stewart, major crime division said: “Craig McInally is a dangerous individual. Through the investigation, it was clear his intentions were to harm an individual who was at that moment in time was in mental health crisis and required support.”
The court was told McInally had been a member of the site since November 2018, while the woman joined around a year later.
Police also found a large haul of sketches and animations including images of naked women being strangled.
DCI Stewart added: “I would like to thank those who were identified and did came forward, and their families who supported them, for their bravery.
“I would like to stress to anyone accessing these sites, the support is there through charities and health care professionals.
“In the future, if there is criminality then law enforcement agencies now have a benchmark case to work from.”
‘My son did not deserve to die’
Two mothers campaigning to shut down the online forum used by McInally warn this type of predatory behaviour is rife.
Catherine Adenekan’s son, Joe Nihill, was 23 when he died in 2020.
His mother says she had no idea about the site Joe had been accessing, which detailed ways to hide suicidal thoughts from family and friends.
In a note found after his death, Joe had written: “Please do you best in closing that website for anyone else.”
“Honestly what they have gone through is horrendous,” she told STV News.
“It has destroyed them. We have only seen some of the messages and texts McInally sent and it disturbs us. Craig McInally is a monster.”
Angela Stevens’ son Brett died in 2019 after accessing the same site.
The 28-year-old was found dead in a house in Scotland, which he had travelled to from his home in Stoke.
Ms Stevens said: “I didn’t know anything about this forum until my son took his own life and I was informed by Police Scotland that he was on this suicide forum.
“It is a very murky world. I believe this type of behaviour is rife on these sites.”
She added: “Suicidal people and others with mental health issues are easy pickings for predators like McInally.“
Desperate for others to be saved from similar heartache, the two mothers started their campaign, along with Ms Adenekan’s daughter-in-law, Melanie Saville.
They say they have been contacted by many families who have lost loved ones to suicide from all over the world.
Ms Stevens said: “There is no accountability on these forums. The ethos of moderators is that you are an autonomous adult and you take responsibility for yourself.
“How can you do that when you are in a mental health crisis?”
Both now say they are determined to keep going with their campaign until these forums are shut down and owners are prosecuted.
Ms Adenekan said: “So many people are in despair and in need of real protection which is why we must keep fighting. My son didn’t deserve to die.”
Ms Stevens added: “This site has caused so much pain and trauma to so many families not just in the UK but across the world.
“I also believe there is very clear message to be send out here with the conviction of Craig McInally.
“The next time there is a suicide, the police shouldn’t just be saying no suspicious circumstances because in some cases, there could be.”
‘No automatic release’
Sentencing, Lord Mulholland stressed McInally would not automatically be released when he had completed the minimum jail-term.
The judge told him: “You got in contact with the victim, engaged in conversation with her and by messaging her.
“You encouraged her to come to your home to practice suicide.
“You derived sexual gratification from this. This is very serious crime.
“Instead of helping a vulnerable person you sought to school her into taking her own life.”
The Samaritans can be contacted any time, from any phone, free on 116 123. You can also speak to Victim Support Scotland on 0800 160 1985 who offer free and tailored support. In an emergency, always dial 999 if within the United Kingdom.