￼Holding up his baby daughter for the camera, Gilberto Valle looked like any other loving family man.
A police officer and churchgoer, he’d won the heart of his wife, Kathleen, after they met online in 2009.
The perfect gentlemen, he opened doors for her and pulled out chairs.
A year after meeting, Kathleen fell pregnant and the pair decided to marry. But the mum-to-be noticed a change in him, and he didn’t seem interested in her hospital appointments.
By the time their girl was born, Gilberto was spending lots of time online, sometimes almost all night.
Curious and concerned, Kathleen took a look at what her husband was doing on the internet.
She discovered he’d been visiting adult sites, featuring fetishes such as bondage.
By now Fifty Shades Of Grey was topping bestseller lists around the world. But there was something darker about one of the websites.
It featured a picture of a dead woman.
Worried, Kathleen told her husband about what she’d seen. But getting her concerns out in the open didn’t help their marriage, and Gilberto became more withdrawn. So Kathleen turned detective herself.
Downloading spyware, software that can secretly monitor how a computer or phone is being used, she unearthed Gilberto’s hidden email account.
Inside were thousands of messages between her husband and some mysterious online contacts.
If she’d feared he might be cheating on her, the revelations in these emails were even worse.
Reading in horror, Kathleen saw messages describing her being tied up and having her throat slit by her husband and these ‘friends’.
If she cries out, don’t show her mercy, one of the contacts urged. Don’t worry, we’ll gag her, was his chilling reply.
As well as her own death, there were messages about Kathleen’s friends too. They talked about stuffing them into suitcases before raping, killing and roasting them on a fire. Her hubby had even shared photos of her with his online friends.
‘All of a sudden, I’m seeing pictures of me, pictures of our friends,’ Kathleen would later tearfully tell a court.
And she found photos of severed feet. Shaken and disturbed, Kathleen took her daughter from their apartment to her family home.
There, she handed her laptop and apartment keys to the FBI so they could investigate.
Examining Gilberto Valle’s computer, investigators found a chilling file.
Named Abducting and Cooking, it listed items that could be used to kidnap someone, such as rope and chloroform.And his Google searches showed he’d searched for recipes for ‘human flesh’.
Was Valle planning to kill and eat his wife?
They also found details belonging to women Valle knew, including former classmates.
He wrote about plans to ‘kidnap, rape, torture, kill, cook and eat body parts’.
One of his online user names was Girlmeat Hunter. But had Valle actually tried to turn any of these ideas into action?
Records showed he’d accessed the police database to get more information about a particular woman.
And he’d reached out to some other women, asking about their routines and jobs.
In February 2012, Valle appeared to offer to kidnap a woman for one of his connections. $5000 and she is all yours, he wrote, seeming to name his price.
Then FBI agents discovered Valle had been using his phone close to where the woman lived.
In October 2012, Gilberto Valle was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
When the sensational case hit the headlines, Valle was dubbed the ‘Cannibal Cop’.
Giving evidence for the prosecution, Kathleen sobbed in court, convinced her husband planned to kill her.
Prosecutors claimed that Valle had meticulously researched potential victims to live out his depraved fantasies of murder and cannibalism.
‘Make no mistake,’ lawyer Randall Jackson said. ‘Gilberto Valle was very serious about these plans.’
The defence team were adamant the messages were not signs of any real-life threat and just role-play.
Defence lawyer Julia Gatto told the court, ‘There is no actual crossing the line from fantasy to reality.’
However, in March 2013, a jury at Federal District Court in Manhattan found Valle guilty of conspiracy to kidnap and of an offence relating to his misuse of the police database.
Valle appealed against the decision, asking the trial judge Paul G Gardephe to overturn the verdict, or grant him a new trial.
While the judge’s decision was pending, Valle wasn’t sentenced.
And in July 2014, Judge Gardephe threw out the conviction, saying there wasn’t enough evidence that Valle was actually planning to harm real-life women.
Valle was released after spending 21 months in prison, and his conviction for accessing information was later overturned.
By March 2015, Valle raised eyebrows again when he set up an online dating profile, listing ‘cooking’ as a hobby.
And last year he defended his depraved messages in a TV interview. ‘It’s not a crime to fantasise about committing crimes against people you know. It’s action [that’s illegal],’ he told Inside Edition. ‘What I do at home is my business.’
Earlier this year, the so-called Cannibal Cop revealed he planned to cash in on his notoriety – by publishing a violent novel about sadists in New York.
‘You know [the] old cliché, make lemonade out of lemons,’ he said. One thing’s for sure, the book is bound to leave a bad taste in some people’s mouths.