A POLICE control room worker who shared an image of a teenager’s decapitated head with his partner and friends on WhatsApp has been jailed for more than two years.
Joshua Tilt was working as a British Transport Police contact handler when images of 18-year-old RAF Cadet Lewis Williams were sent erroneously to his work computer.
Mr Williams had struggled with mental health issues and had taken his life by stepping onto a train track in Slough on June 21, Birmingham Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Ben Close said: “These explicit images depicted severed body parts and most importantly an image of Mr Williams’s decapitated head.
Tilt, 31, photographed the image of Lewis’s head from his computer and showed it to his colleague in the control room who was horrified and asked why he would do that, to which he replied: “Things like this don’t really bother me.”
Mr Close said Tilt also shared the photo with his partner and justified his behaviour by saying she had complained that he never sent her “anything juicy from work”.
Two-and-a-half hours before Lewis’s parents had learned of their son’s death, Tilt also sent the image of Lewis’s decapitated head to a WhatsApp group of 12 people called Merks Wolverhampton.
Mr Close said: “He did not, when he sent the image to the WhatsApp group, say that it was confidential or that they should keep it to themselves and not share it with anyone.
“The members of the group do not appear to have shared it with anyone else. Three members did not know about it. One member said he thought the image was a fake.”
During a police interview, he said it was “silly” of him to send his partner the image and described his actions as a “moment of madness”.
He added: “I acted out of order, there was no real purpose. I hold my hands up, I shouldn’t have done that.”
Michael Duck, defending, said: “During the course of the interview, Mr Tilt answered questions and your Honour will have noticed his frankness.
“Not only did he admit what he had done and demonstrated regret, he also volunteered that he had distributed the image beyond his immediate partner.
“The dissemination of material was to a limited audience.”
Tilt, of Bartley Green, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct in public office last month and was given an immediate sentence of two years and two months on Wednesday at Birmingham Crown Court.
Judge Dean Kershaw said to him: “I consider what you did, albeit on one day, to be truly disgusting.
“You were in a trusted position, one way or the other you worked for the police force. You should not have taken the photograph at all, let alone forwarded it to anybody.
“Presumably, out of some weird sense of curiosity, you opened it but you did not go looking for it.
“But it was not only one image. You looked at all the images and chose to take a photograph of what I can only assume is the most horrific.
“It goes without saying, your actions have had a grave effect on that family. It demonstrated behaviour incompatible with what is expected of the police service.”
Reading from a prepared statement in court, Lewis’s father, Paul Williams, said: “The reason I am here today is not because of the tragic death of my son but what happened after.
“Lewis suffered from emotionally unstable personality disorder. He lost that battle and died under a train.
“What followed made it unbearable. The last image I have of my son has been violated.
“It has been replaced by the image of his severed head. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. “Lewis was popular, funny and we were a close family and he shared his heart with us. He would always put people’s problems ahead of his own.”