Man serving 27 years for plot to kidnap, eat children seeks release over COVID-19 concerns

HOPEWELL, Va. — A British man serving time in a Virginia prison for plotting to kidnap and eat children is asking to be released out of concern over his COVID-19 risk behind bars.

Geoffrey Portway, 47, of Worcester, Massachusetts, is housed at the Petersburg Medium Security Federal Correctional Institution in Hopewell, Virginia. Portway, who pleaded guilty in May 2013 to solicitation to commit a crime of violence (kidnapping of a child) and distribution and possession of child pornography, is seven years into a 27-year prison sentence.

Portway was part of a large-scale pornography ring that led to the arrest of 51 people worldwide and the identification of more than 160 child victims.

Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details and excerpts of conversations about cannibalism.

In his handwritten motion for compassionate release, Portway stated that he is obese and has diabetes and hypertension. There is currently an outbreak of COVID-19 in the prison, he said.

“It is impossible for me to practice social distancing or other recommendations made by the CDC,” Portway’s motion stated. “Because of my health and my conditions of confinement in the midst of a pandemic, I cannot provide self-care that would ensure my safety.”

He wrote that camera footage from inside the prison would show that staff and inmates are improperly wearing masks or not wearing them at all. He also pointed to the multiple post-sentencing rehabilitation programs — mostly art programs — that he has participated in as evidence of his eligibility for compassionate release.

He would be deported back to England if released.

“If released and upon my arrival in England, I have a nonprofit organization as identified in this request to help me find a viable residence,” Portway’s motion stated. “I also have many members of the agency who are each willing to help me to also find employment and financial resources and support.”

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Medical records show that, as of June 2019, Portway weighed 283 pounds. They also confirm his ongoing treatment for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as glaucoma and bladder dysfunction.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman denied Portway’s request on Tuesday, according to court records.

“Reviewing Mr. Portway’s medical records, his health appears fair, and he has not alleged any lack of medical care which has increased his susceptibility to COVID-19,” Hillman wrote in his ruling. “Indeed, since the onset of the pandemic he spends most of his time confined to a cell and is thus more able to social distance than inmates in lower-security facilities with open, barracks-style housing.”

The judge wrote that Portway’s medical issues are common chronic conditions and that the inmate “has not shown why his conditions are uniquely compelling among the prison population.”

He also pointed to the seriousness of Portway’s crimes.

“He possessed and distributed thousands of images of child pornography, solicited others to help him kidnap, rape, murder and cannibalize young children, and speculated with others about targeting children who were known to him, and with whom he was close. To date, he has not served even a third of his sentence,” Hillman wrote. “Furthermore, if I release him and he is deported to the United Kingdom, I have no way of ensuring that he will comply with the special conditions of supervised release that I imposed at his sentencing.”

If released, Portway would have to register as a sex offender and would have restricted or monitored access to internet-capable devices like computers and smartphones.

Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details and excerpts of conversations about cannibalism.

‘Fat Longpig’

Federal court records dating back to 2012 offer a chilling look into what was found on Portway’s computer, as well as inside his home, at the time of his arrest. Agents executing a search warrant found a dungeon in Portway’s basement.

The dungeon was “lined with acoustical sound-deadening material and contained a chair, television and what appeared to be cable access to the internet,” federal prosecutors said in 2013.

“The room also contained a child-sized homemade coffin (with large speakers covered in wire mesh at one end) with exterior locking devices, a steel cage with multiple locking devices, and a steel tabletop (with steel rings at six points, presumably for restraints),” according to a 2013 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

The agents also found knives, disposable scalpels, syringes, leather restraints, gloves and handcuffs. Outside Portway’s dungeon were a cabinet freezer and an upright freezer.

Portway owned multiple books and DVDs about cannibalism, including a film about Albert Fish, an American man suspected of killing and eating as many as 10 children. Fish, then 66, was arrested in 1928 for the murder and dismemberment of 10-year-old Grace Budd in Westchester County, New York.

Fish was executed Jan. 16, 1936, in the electric chair at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

Federal prosecutors said Portway, who went by the username “Fat Longpig” online, used the internet to chat with people, predominantly Michael Arnett of Kansas, and seek their help in abducting a child. He was also tied to Ronald William Brown, an avid churchgoer and professional puppeteer who, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “acted out Bible stories with puppets at his church while musing online about carving and cooking the body parts of a young parishioner for Easter.”

Arnett later pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child for the purposes of producing child pornography and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. Brown, who pleaded guilty to five counts of receiving child pornography and three counts of possessing child pornography, was sentenced in July 2013 to 20 years in prison.

Portway used Skype and other programs to communicate with Arnett as far back as 2010. They shared child pornography, including images of dead children, while chatting about what they would like to do to future victims.

“Over months, Portway repeatedly solicited Arnett to kidnap a child for him, with the intent that Portway would ultimately rape, kill and eat that child,” prosecutors said.

Federal agents found tens of thousands of images and videos of violent child pornography on Portway’s computer. They also recovered graphic chat logs of Portway talking with others about cannibalism.

A psychological evaluation submitted at the time of Portway’s 2013 sentencing indicated that Portway, who was born in Spain of British parents, suffered multiple head injuries as a child. He also had difficulty making friends.

Portway told the doctor that, at the age of about 8, he “became fascinated” with two stories: Hansel and Gretel and In the Night Kitchen. Hansel and Gretel is a story of a brother and sister captured by a witch, caged and “fattened up” so the witch can eat them, the doctor wrote in his report.

In the Night Kitchen is a “vividly illustrated narrative of a little boy who dreams of falling through the floor naked into a bowl of batter that is going to be baked into biscuits by cooks who are working in the night kitchen,” the report stated.

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Portway began fantasizing about being eaten and was compelled as he grew up to overeat so he’d be more desirable for consumption, the psychologist wrote. In his report, the doctor said Portway’s wish to be eaten “fulfilled a more basic desire to be wanted, valued and incorporated by another person.”

In his everyday life, Portway was involved in playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, as well as participating in live-action role play, attending LARP events on occasion. He also socialized with his siblings and attended events with their children.

The psychologist found that aside from his aberrant fantasies, Portway had “lived an upright life and a brother to his siblings, as an uncle to their children and as a productive member of society.”