Jailed: Man who robbed and blackmailed men he met on Grindr

Anouar Sabbar, who used the dating app Grindr to target and then rob and blackmail men after having sex with them

Anouar Sabbar, who used the dating app Grindr to target and then rob and blackmail men after having sex with them - Credit: Met Police

A man who used a dating app to rob and blackmail men he had sex with was caught after being identified by an officer investigating one of the robberies in Tower Hamlets.

Anouar Sabbar, 28, of Cole Street in Borough, was sentenced to five years' in jail at Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday - January 20.

He had pleaded guilty to robbery, theft, five counts of blackmail and five counts of fraud at the same court in November.

Detectives are now appealing for others who may have been exploited by him to come forward.

Sabbar sought out men to meet up with for sex on Grindr, a dating app for gay, bi and trans people.

After consensual sex, Sabbar would claim he was an escort and demand money from the victims.

He threatened to use violence or blackmail to intimidate the men, whose ages ranged from 25 to 57-years-old; between April 2019 and June 2021, he stole £2,360 from his victims.

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Once he got the money, Sabbar would block the victim’s profile on the app, which automatically removed the online conversation for both parties, making it difficult for him to be traced.

He would swap his SIM cards and mobile phone number regularly, alongside often changing his hairstyle to avoid being recognised.

After one of the victims refused to pay Sabbar, he told him someone would visit his home and beat him up.

In another incident, Sabbar threatened to tell the victim’s girlfriend about their sexual encounter and disclose their chat history and photographs if he did not make payments.

A police officer in Tower Hamlets managed to identify Sabbar as a suspect, going on to compare similar offences and the various phone numbers, addresses, aliases and usernames used.

Once it was determined Sabbar was the culprit, a manhunt began to arrest him.

Detectives were given his phone number by his work colleagues, and when the officer called him, Sabbar swore at her and said the police "would never catch him".

He was arrested in Southwark later that day.

Sabbar gave a no comment interview and was charged with 23 offences including robbery, theft, blackmail and fraud.

Det Insp Arif Sharif said: “The victims in this case have been incredibly brave in coming forward and reporting the offences Sabbar committed against them.

“Sabbar is a nasty and spineless individual who used Grindr to target victims and used their vulnerabilities against them.

“It is with thanks to the officer who diligently carried out the investigation that this dangerous offender has been taken off the streets."

He added: “There may be others who were exploited by Sabbar who until now have felt unable to tell anyone.

"Please get in touch with us – we are here to listen to you and will take what you say incredibly seriously. You will be treated with sensitivity and in confidence."

Supt Martin Kirby - the Met’s lead for hate crime - added: “We do not tolerate the targeting of victims based on their sexuality or gender, or perceived sexuality or gender.

“We are working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to protect the identities of victims in these cases, recognising that some victims may not identify as gay or bisexual or be "out" to friends or relatives, perhaps because of cultural reasons."

The lead promised the Met is doing everything in its power to "give victims the support that is right for them".

If you believe you or someone you know has been a victim, please call 101 quoting Op Fardella.

Alternatively contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the charity Galop on their LGBT+ hate crime helpline on 0207 704 2040.