Farhan Mirza: The fake doctor who targeted Muslim women
As a sexual predator who pretended to be a doctor on marriage websites is found guilty of blackmailing and threatening to shame Muslim women with intimate videos, does the case show the vulnerability of women searching for a husband online?
On Muslim marriage websites he sounded like the perfect catch - an unmarried surgeon who was rich and owned property across the UK.
A profile photo of "Stylish Farhan" showed him dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck. He told women he was a virgin not looking for "fun", but a wife.
In reality Farhan Mirza, 38, was a three-time divorced part-time taxi driver going by the name "Frank" and living with his mother in a run-down terraced house in the south Wales valleys, owned by his one of his ex-wives.
He was a sexual predator who secretly filmed women before using the intimate videos to extort money from them.
The threat of shame and bringing dishonour to their families was devastating for the women, who feared they might be disowned by loved ones.
Some women he was in contact with genuinely believed Mirza wanted to marry them. But as his mask slipped the promises of £25,000 diamond rings and a future together turned into demands for money.
He started threatening and blackmailing them with videos and photos he had secretly taken of them in his house.
Some were of sexual activity, others were topless, all of them would have been compromising to each woman's reputation if sent to other people.
During this time Mirza got married for the fourth time to a woman in Pakistan. Despite this he kept meeting women, and carrying out his campaign of blackmail while his new wife studied in Lahore.
One of his victims, a doctor who he met after she gave his mother health advice as a favour has spoken of fearing for her life because of the threats he made to circulate a video of them having sex - taken without her knowledge.
His scam was uncovered when she found the video along with "hundreds" of photos and videos of other women on his computer and £70,000 in a box in the wardrobe of his house in Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent.
After the discovery, she found herself the target of blackmail as he threatened to send the video to friends and family.
She told Cardiff Crown Court: "He said: 'I'm a very bad person, you have messed with very bad guys.
"These things are to keep women like you on a straight path. I can send it to anybody, to your family members, if you don't comply with my demands.'"
She was worried if the video got out the Taliban would kill her on her visits home to Pakistan to visit family, and that her family would disown her.
For six months she was at Mirza's beck and call. Unknown to her he had switched on location services on her phone so he always knew where she was.
He forced her to give him £2,000, buy him groceries and clothes for his mother, as well as regularly paying for his family to eat out at restaurants. He also tried to get her to buy him a £14,000 BMW as a "gift".
This was on top of thousands of pounds she gave him to help him pay bills and university fees during the course of their relationship.
Eventually, after receiving a lengthy video from Mirza featuring people apparently dying from heart attacks and in car crashes, she was so terrified he was threatening her life that she went to the police.
Officers discovered two other women who had been targeted by Mirza.
Mirza was found guilty at Cardiff Crown Court of nine charges of sexual assault, voyeurism, blackmail, fraud and theft.
During his trial, he broke down in the dock when talking about making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, but, despite professing to be a devout Muslim, swore on the Bible rather than Koran before giving evidence.
He declared the women were just upset and seeking revenge as he had ended their relationships, and said any intimate videos he had filmed were taken at their request.
Mirza also claimed he only had copies of the woman's identity documents as he was concerned she was "affiliated with the Taliban", despite the fact she was very liberal and lived in the UK, and that the photo of him in scrubs was an "April 1 prank".
His threats started from the modest three-bedroom terraced house he lived in with his mother.
The college IT worker was born in Sargodha, Pakistan, one of four children. He claims to have a studied for a BSc in Maths from a government college in Pakistan, before obtaining a Masters in Maths and Business from the National College of Business Administration and Economics in Lahore.
He has claimed his mother had a philosophy degree, his father was an executive and his brother was head of security at a major airport. Jurors heard these were all lies and his brother was actually an airport porter.
Mirza claimed he got a job in marketing with a civil engineering company in Pakistan. But in 2001 he moved to Glasgow as his maternal grandparents lived there.
He married a woman from Abertillery in 2002, and they had a child. He became a part-time student at Glamorgan University, now the University of South Wales, studying for a BSc in Information Technology.
When his marriage broke down after six years and ended in divorce, Mirza quickly moved on.
He boasted to police he had "loads and loads" of one night stands. He added: "I don't know what you think, I'm not a desperate guy. Touch wood, girls like me."
Texts from Mirza to his victims
- I work with surgeon. I am in training to be a surgeon, not looking for fun. In one year I will be a surgeon
- Get ready, I will make you famous. Your naked pictures, filmed you when you were naked in the living room
- I make you famous in the UK
Mirza had two arranged marriages in Pakistan, one which ended after a week, another lasted a day.
He said he started looking for his fourth wife because of pressure from his mother.
However, his use of marriage dating websites proved to provide a lucrative sideline enabling him to target Muslim women who were looking for a husband.
On his dating profile, he claimed he was a doctor. The reality was at that time he worked as a health and safety officer for catering company, later becoming an IT worker at a further education college.
He would start by asking his targets for gifts of money, which he said was a cultural tradition.
Explore a series of stories looking at the use of private or sexually explicit images to threaten, blackmail and shame young people, mainly girls and women, in some of the world's most conservative societies. Explore all the stories and join the conversation here.
But Mirza was said by his victims to be very convincing. Whenever he stepped over the line he would beg for another chance and for them to trust him.
One victim told the court: "I was told he was single, never married and that he was a virgin."
She believed the "very manipulative" Mirza was a surgeon and gave him £3,500 as a gift to buy a motorbike after he pressured her for a gift to show she was serious about marrying him.
"He was always apologising," she said. "Every time he makes a mistake he puts on this innocent face where you just feel sorry for him."
She added: "It is like he has got two sides to his personality, one side he was very rude and very sex-driven, the other side he is being so polite and angelic, you just look at his face and you believe everything he says - and I believed him."
She said he repeatedly tried to get her to have sex with him, promising they would marry after that. She now believes he was waiting to get her in a situation where he could film her and then threaten her.
On the one occasion, she stayed the night at his house believing they would sleep separately, he refused to leave her room and removed her top against her wishes. She believes he did this expressly to try to get more money from her.
"I felt he only built a relationship with me in order to get money and after I gave that to him, he wanted to get more money," said his victim.
"I was scared I didn't know what he was planning and what sort of pictures he had of me."
Faeeza Vaid, Executive Director at Muslim Women's Network UK, said: "Matrimonial sites are used across the UK.
"That's the same in the Muslim community. I think what's common to this case is that there are men who are seeking to manipulate women. They do that by entrapping them into relationships, taking photographs of them either during sexual activity like in this case it was secretly recording images and then trying to use those images to blackmail the women in the case.
"I think it's really important to know that in the Muslim community and in Asian communities, shame and honour are added factors which are used to emotionally blackmail the victim in these cases."
She added: "On the Muslim Women's Network helpline we have received a number of calls like this case, of victims who have been defrauded, on matrimonial websites, by individuals who have actually sought them out, sought the victims out, to manipulate and commit these crimes against these victims."