Criminal sentences delivered in unusual body modification ring case culminating in castration

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published January 24, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • A judge sentenced several men involved in a UK-based extreme body modification ring to jail.

  • Videos of illegal surgical procedures, including the removal of men’s genitals, were hosted on a pay-per-view website.

  • Site owner and group ringleader Marius Gustavson consented to all procedures performed on him, adding complexity to this already-challenging case.

Metropolitan Police Service detectives watched hours of disturbing footage, originally posted on a pay-per-view website, as part of an investigation into an extreme body modification ring. The site was part of a subculture dedicated to genital nullification called “nullos.” The site’s owner, Norwegian-born Marius Gustavson, now 46, referred to himself as the “eunuch maker.” Video content showed illegal body modification procedures, including removing Gustavson’s penis and testicles, as well as removing part of his nipple and freezing his leg in dry ice.[][][]

Beginning in January 2016, the body modification ring took actions that have been described as a “wide-ranging conspiracy” by UK courts. Members, including Gustavson, have been charged not only with the removal of body parts and conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm but also with the trade and sale of body parts and the uploading of videos. In total, the group is estimated to have brought in around £200,000 (around $255,000) in profit between 2016 and 2022.[]

Further criminal counts in this complex case included charges related to individual procedures filed against individual participants. Gustavson was individually accused of numerous acts, including making and distributing an indecent image of a child and acquiring or possessing criminal property. Another participant, a nurse named Nathaniel Arnold, now 48, who partially removed one of Gustavson’s nipples on video in 2019, was charged with stealing anesthetic from his former employer, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and pleaded guilty to possession of extreme pornography.[][]

Dangerous home operations

Participant Damien Byrnes, now 36, castrated Gustavson on camera in February 2017. According to court documents, Byrnes originally agreed to perform the procedure for a £500 (about $637), but the amount was reduced to £50 (around $64). Gustavson then failed to pay Byrnes and threatened to report him to the police for threats, blackmail, and mutilation if he went to the police about his unpaid fee. In response to repeated threats to go to the police, Gustavson paid Byrnes multiple times over a period of two years. Court records show that, in total, Byrnes was paid over £1500 (around $1,912).[]

Byrnes later told law enforcement he was experiencing financial difficulty when he accepted Gustavson’s offer. Gustavson reportedly initially hired Brynes as an escort. Although Brynes agreed to perform the procedure, even saying on camera, “Well, that’s one off the bucket list. I never expected that one,” he reportedly vomited after cutting off Gustavson’s genitals and has since expressed remorse for his actions, telling a probation officer, “I could have killed him.”[][][]

Gustavson sought medical care after Byrnes performed the castration. He called emergency services and was treated at a local hospital. He was released after a couple of days before being referred to a psychiatric unit for assessment.[]

The 2017 castration wasn’t the only procedure that sent Gustavson to the hospital. In February 2019, ring participant Jacob Crimi-Appleby, now 23, used dry ice to freeze Gustavson’s leg, captured on camera. Gustavson subsequently sought treatment at Royal Free Hospital, where he required a below-the-knee amputation. Gustavson spent 2 months in the hospital. He now uses a wheelchair and has collected a reported £18,500 (around $23,580) in disability benefits. 

Arrest and trial

Arrests were first made in 2022. Legal authorities involved have described this case as complex and challenging, with Judge Mark Lucraft KC stating that, “This case is unique. It is quite unlike any other case I have dealt with.”[]

One of the factors that adds to the many layers of this case is Gustavson’s consent to having the procedures performed on him. In fact, he commissioned them, profited from them, and allegedly may have experienced sexual gratification from them. This couldn’t be ignored while sentencing Arnold, Byrnes, and Crimi-Appleby, all three of whom have since expressed remorse. Text messages between the men and Gustavson, however, demonstrated their agreement to participate in the illegal and dangerous procedures. Crown Prosecution Service specialist prosecutor for London, Kate Mullhound, stated, “Consent is not a defense to the illegal surgical procedures the men willingly took part in to remove their ringleader’s penis, leg and nipple, in non-sterile and on occasion life-threatening circumstances.”[]

Arnold, Byrnes, and Crimi-Appleby all pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent. On January 15, 2024, Judge Lucraft KC sentenced each to jail time. Arnold was given a two-year suspended prison sentence, Byrnes was sentenced to 5 years, and Crimi-Appleby was given a sentence of three years and eight months.[] 

Gustavson and several other men charged with involvement in the ring are set to be sentenced during hearings scheduled for March 4 and 5, 2024.[]

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