“I was just trying to help lonely men like myself find true love,” says thirty five year old Ed Wangler, former proprietor of the Desperately Seeking Someone Introductions Agency, who is facing a lengthy jail sentence following his conviction for kidnap, stalking and sexual harassment. “Not all of us are confident enough to pull women just by looking at them, we have to resort to desperate measures, and are easy prey for the con artists who run lonely hearts ads, dating agencies and speed dating scams. I just wanted to end the exploitation of the lonely single male by these sharks.” During the three week trial, Cosham Crown Court heard how the one time IT adviser had abducted women to order for his agency’s clients. “When we raided his offices we found several gallons of chloroform, hundreds of feet of rope, numerous manacles and thousands of rolls of duct tape there,” says Detective Chief Inspector Fred Fondler, who led the investigation into Wangler’s activities. “It was clear that he stalked his victims, gathering details about their daily lives, for months before matching them up to a client and snatching them.” Indeed, during his testimony, Fondler told the jury of the huge database of single women found on Wangler’s computer – all their data obtained through illegal surveillance, and all cross-referenced against his clients. “His surveillance even extended into the victims’ homes,” explained the policeman. “His office was the hub of a network of hundreds of secret surveillance cameras he’d installed in the bedrooms of unsuspecting women across the south of England.” Obviously, there was still no guarantee that the kidnapped women would be perfect matches for Wangler’s clients. “He had a complete homemade brainwashing centre in the attic of his house – it was like something out of the Ipcress File,” says Fondler. “He’d been using the water tank to subject his victims to sensory deprivation – he’d play them all sorts of weird noises and try to implant subliminal messages in their minds, telling them how much they secretly desired his client. If that wasn’t successful, he’d use drugs, hypnotism, the lot, to break them down and ‘persuade’ them to go out with his ‘clients’, instead!” Fondler admitted that the police have no idea how many women were subjected to this process, although he fears the number could run into the hundreds. “We’re going through his database to try and identify his victims, but the trouble is that if they’ve been brainwashed, there’s no way they’ll give evidence against him,” he says. “We were only alerted to his activities after a complaint from a woman who’d managed to escape from the boot of his car before undergoing the treatment.”

During the trial, Wangler had claimed that these methods had only been employed in a handful of extreme cases. “For most of my clients, just watching is enough – it’s like having a virtual girlfriend. Somehow it doesn’t seem so lonely wanking off to a live feed of some girl down the street, as it does whacking off over a lingerie catalogue,” he explains, pointing out that these were men too severely traumatised by rejection to even speak to women, let alone have physical relationships with them. “Either they’d give me the details of some woman they’d become fixated on, but were too shy to speak to, or, on the basis of the requirements they’d outlined in their application, I’d find someone suitable for them from our extensive database.” In order to compile this database, he told the court, he’d spent literally thousands of hours cruising the streets, secretly following attractive women and logging their movements and details. “Let’s face it, no attractive sane woman was ever going to knowingly sign up to an agency in order to meet men like my clients,” he told the jury. “Obviously, a degree of subterfuge was required.” Wangler objected to the prosecution’s use of the term ‘brainwashing’ to describe the final stages of his ‘selection process’. “All I was doing was making them aware of my clients’ best attributes – qualities that they ordinarily wouldn’t recognise in the kind of men they’d usually either dismiss out of hand as being repugnant, or simply ignore,” Wangler claimed. “In many ways I was actually doing these women a favour – what would they have done otherwise? Fallen for the superficial charms of some shallow git with fashionable shoes, who’d undoubtedly ditch them for the next bust size up within six months?” Wangler also claimed that his stalking of the women on his database had actually made them safer. “What’s better, that they’re monitored by a well-adjusted responsible citizen like me, or stalked by the kind of maladjusted misfits who sign up to my agency?” he asked the jury. “Also, while I was watching over them they couldn’t fall prey to any other random sexual predators who might be lurking out there.” This defence suffered a blow when the prosecution produced evidence linking Wangler to an online ‘stalking site’, where potential stalkers could check the whereabouts of various minor female celebrities and local television presenters. Site users were encouraged to suggest new subjects for stalking, with the promise that their movements and details would be posted within forty eight hours. The prosecution also claimed that Wangler was behind a number of DIY ‘Stalking Kits’ being offered for sale on EBay. Each kit included a bottle of chloroform, a selection of gags, handcuffs and an illustrated guide book.

Damning though this evidence was, most observers agreed that what finally lost the case for Wangler – who defended himself throughout, declaring that he wasn’t going to be easy prey for the con artists who ran the legal profession and exploited the guilty – was his declaration that he simply wanted to “remove the stigma from rohypnol and make its use in dating socially acceptable” during his closing arguments. “Look, some men need all the help they can get when it comes to establishing meaningful relationships with women,” he told the jury. “It’s not that I blame women for this situation – day in, day out, the media bombards them with images of what their perfect partner should be like. Have you seen those women’s magazines? Declaring that hairy backs, bow legs, bald spots or mullets are either in, or out, this month when it comes to defining male desirability – what’s the average man meant to do? I mean, they’re even laying down desirable average penis lengths now!” Wangler also argued that men’s magazines were fuelling the problem by creating unrealistically high expectations in men of their potential partners. “Even the spottiest, most buck toothed youth thinks the only women worth pulling are blonde goddesses with perfect breasts and pert bottoms,” he declared. “They don’t see why they should settle for some fat slapper from the local council estate, and end up coming to my agency in frustration. And why shouldn’t they? Why should sexual inadequacy, lack of confidence, poor social skills or just plain ugliness condemn such men to a life of loneliness? If only the government would legalise that so-called date rape drug, these men would have no need of my services and we wouldn’t all be here today wasting the court’s time.” After five minutes deliberation, the jury unanimously returned a guilty verdict.