A police worker who shared an image of a decapitated head via WhatsApp has been jailed for two years. British Transport Police control room worker Joshua Tilt erroneously received images of 18-year-old RAF Cadet Lewis Williams, who died by suicide on June 21 this year, while he was working as a contact handler. Birmingham Crown Court heard Mr Williams died after he stepped onto train tracks on Slough following a struggle with mental health issues.
Tilt, 31, took pictures of Mr Williams’s remains and sent them to his partner and friends via WhatsApp.
Prosecutor Ben Close said the images depicted “severed body parts” and “an image of Mr Williams’s decapitated head”.
The police worker first showed the image to a colleague in the control room who responded with horror and asked “why he would do that”.
Tilt replied: “Things like this don’t really bother me.”
Judges condemned his actions after he distributed the pictures before Mr Williams’ family learned of the teens’ death.
He sent the images to his partner, justifying his behavior by claiming she had complained he never sent “anything juicy from work”.
He also sent them to a WhatsApp group of 12 people named Merks Wolverhampton.
Mr Close said that Tilt did not say the image of Mr Williams’s head was “confidential” or “that they should keep it to themselves and not share it with anyone”.
He added: “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.”
Michael Duck, defending, said that during a police interview, Tilk was “frank” and admitted to what he had done while demonstrating “regret”.
Mr Duck added: “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 in November and was given an immediate sentence of two years and two months on Wednesday, December 14, while appearing at Birmingham Crown Court.
Judge Dean Kershaw branded his actions “truly disgusting”, telling Tilt he was “in a trusted position” and “should not have taken the photograph at all, let alone forwarded it to anybody”.
He added: “It goes without saying, your actions have had a grave effect on that family. It demonstrated behavior incompatible with what is expected of the police service.”
Mr Williams’s father Paul Williams described the pain of having the images of his son’s remains distributed in a statement read outside the court.
He said: “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.”
Call the Samaritans free on 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the suicide prevention charity Papyrus: 0800 068 4141.