Christopher Harkins: Tinder swindler who 'preyed on women looking for love' jailed for rape and £214,000 scam

A "manipulative and violent" Tinder swindler who "preyed on women looking for love" has been jailed for 12 years for a spate of offences including rape.

Christopher Harkins, 37, used the dating app to meet women and would coerce them into giving him hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Police Scotland said Harkins used "manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence" to fund his "very lavish lifestyle".

He would portray himself as a successful businessman before claiming to be experiencing issues with his bank account being frozen.

Harkins then asked some of his victims to lend him money for a short period of time.

He also persuaded a number of the women to transfer him money for holidays, sending them screenshots of the alleged destinations.

Despite the women parting with half of the cost of the trips, they were never booked.

Harkins' offences, which took place between 2013 and 2019, involved 10 women across Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Stirling, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire.

A court heard how nine of the women were defrauded of sums of money exceeding £214,000 - almost none of which has ever been repaid to the victims.

One woman was also raped by Harkins while she slept.

Judge Alistair Watson told Hawkins: "You targeted single females on dating websites and worked to gain their trust portraying yourself as a successful businessman before then inventing stories as to why you needed short-term loans of cash.

"Some of these women had to borrow the money in order, they believed, to help you out in a crisis.

"Others lent you their personal savings. Very little of that money ever appears to have been recovered.

"Once you had achieved your aim with each victim you moved on to the next, and you repeated the process, leaving a trail of emotional devastation and financial distress in your wake."

Judge Watson said Harkins' "romance scams" were "calculated ploys designed to take advantage of the decent nature of those women".

Victims had described feeling "shame, humiliation, stress and exhaustion suffered as a consequence of your course of criminal conduct", the judge added.

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Harkins found himself in the dock after Police Scotland's domestic abuse task force launched a major investigation into his crimes in October 2019.

Harkins, from Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, pleaded guilty to the 11 fraud charges in January.

He denied multiple violent and sexual offences - including filming two of the women in intimate situations without their consent before sending them the graphic content - but was found guilty by a jury at the High Court in Paisley in May.

He was sentenced at the High Court in Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

As well as the 12-year prison sentence, he was also added to the sex offenders' register indefinitely and banned from contacting his victims.

Judge Watson said Harkins would have been facing a 14-year sentence had he not pleaded guilty to the financial offences.

Detective Inspector Iain Renfrew branded Harkins a "violent and contemptible individual who preyed on women looking for love and companionship".

He added: "Harkins met the women through a dating app and once he had formed relationships with them, he turned to manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence to obtain thousands of pounds which he used to fund his very lavish lifestyle."

Katrina Parkes, Scotland's procurator fiscal for high court sexual offences, said Harkins "clearly poses an extreme danger to women through his calculating, manipulative and violent behaviour".

"His many victims have shown immense bravery in coming forward and reporting him to the authorities," she said.

"This conviction will hopefully bring some comfort to the women he targeted while protecting others from his deplorable schemes and depraved actions."