The purpose of this site is for information and a record of Gerry McCann's Blog Archives. As most people will appreciate GM deleted all past blogs from the official website. Hopefully this Archive will be helpful to anyone who is interested in Justice for Madeleine Beth McCann. Many Thanks, Pamalam

Note: This site does not belong to the McCanns. It belongs to Pamalam. If you wish to contact the McCanns directly, please use the contact/email details campaign@findmadeleine.com    

Brenda Leyland 1951-2014 *

MCCANN FILES HOME BACK TO GERRY MCCANNS BLOGS HOME PAGE PHOTOGRAPHS
NEWS REPORTS INDEX MCCANN PJ FILES NEWS MAY 2007
 

Brenda Leyland

 

Brenda Leyland is confronted outside her home by Sky News crime correspondent, Martin Brunt, in connection with an 80-page dossier sent to the Metropolitan Police - said to contain Tweets, Facebook posts and messages from online forums aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann. Ms Leyland was a regular contributor on the #McCann Twitter hashtag, under the pseudonym of 'sweepyface'.

Two days after the footage is aired, and her details published in national newspapers, Ms Leyland is found dead in a Leicestershire hotel. A post-mortem inquest fails to establish the cause of death and is adjourned to 18 December 2014.

McCanns Targeted By 'Venomous' Internet Trolls, 02 October 2014
'Evil' Trolls In Hate Campaign Against McCanns Sky News

Sky News reveals that campaigners are urging police and MPs to crack down on internet abuse directed at Madeleine McCann's family.

00:44, UK, Thursday 02 October 2014

Video: McCann Family Trolls Confronted [screenshot]

 

Video: Sky News Speaks To McCann 'Troll' [screenshot]

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By Martin Brunt, Crime Correspondent

The Metropolitan Police is investigating a catalogue of vile internet abuse targeting the family of Madeleine McCann including death threats, Sky News can reveal.

Officers are in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service after being handed a dossier of more than 80 pages of Tweets, Facebook posts and messages on online forums aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann.

Over the past few years hundreds of shocking messages have been posted by 'trolls' who believe - despite no evidence - that the McCanns had some involvement in the disappearance of their daughter in Portugal in 2007.

These include suggestions that the McCanns should be tortured and killed and calls for them to "burn in hell".

 
McCann Abuse: Special Report

Some messages are even directed at Madeleine's younger siblings, now aged nine.

Manipulated images involving the McCanns - many of them graphic - are also in wide circulation online.

Video: McCanns Abused On Social Media [screenshot]

 

Video: McCanns Targeted By Internet Trolls [screenshot]

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One troll - who uses the Twitter identity "Sweepyface" and has posted dozens of anti-McCann messages using the #mccann hashtag - was confronted by Sky News.

When asked about her use of social media to attack the couple, she replied: "I'm entitled to."

The dossier - compiled by members of the public alarmed at the online treatment of the McCanns and shown to Sky News - calls on police and MPs to act to crack down on such abuse.

The Met wrote to the campaigners: "In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and the McCann family the material will now be assessed and decisions made as to what further action if any should be undertaken."

Among the messages identified in the dossier is an exchange on a message board which reads: "These 2 should burn in hell"; "I will supply the petrol"; "I'll supply the lighter - happily".

Other posts include: "We need some numbers for some assassins on taps", "I hope that the McCanns are living in total misery" and "I want to see them smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses".

Video: Sky's Martin Brunt On McCann Abuse [screenshot]

Video: Sky's Martin Brunt On McCann Abuse [screenshot]

----------------

In one of her tweets "Sweepyface" called for the McCanns to suffer "for the rest of their miserable lives".

In addition to threats and abuse, several trolls have claimed to live nearby to the McCanns in Leicestershire and reported on their movements.

The campaigner spearheading the appeal - who has asked to remain anonymous - told Sky News: "We're very worried that it's only going to take somebody to act out of some of these discussions, some of the threats that have been made, and we couldn't live with ourselves if that happened and we had done nothing."

Author Anthony Summers, whose book Looking for Madeleine was published last month, said: "There is a campaign of hatred against the parents.

"It is venomous and vitriolic, most of it done by cowards. We are taken aback by the extent of the sheer evil behind it all."

Online abuse dossier directed at Kate and Gerry McCann is handed to police, 02 October 2014
Online abuse dossier directed at Kate and Gerry McCann is handed to police The Guardian

Scotland Yard is reportedly examining 80 pages of torture and death threats made to parents of missing girl Madeleine

Press Association
Thursday 2 October 2014 07.27 BST

Kate and Gerry McCann. One message board reportedly contained the comment: 'These 2 should burn in hell.' Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

A dossier of online abuse directed at the parents of Madeleine McCann is being examined by police.

Members of the public have handed to Scotland Yard a file stretching to more than 80 pages of tweets, Facebook posts and forum messages aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann, according to Sky News.

The material posted by online "trolls" is said to have included suggestions that the couple should be tortured or killed. One message board comment reportedly said: "These 2 should burn in hell."

Sky News said other posts in the dossier included: "I hope that the McCanns are living in total misery," and "I want to see them smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses." Some messages were said to have been directed at Madeleine's younger siblings, now aged nine.

The posts were gathered by people who are concerned about the abuse. One campaigner, who did not wish to be named, told Sky News: "We're very worried that it's only going to take somebody to act out of some of these discussions, some of the threats that have been made, and we couldn't live with ourselves if that happened and we had done nothing."

The material is being assessed by officers who are liaising with prosecutors and the missing girl's family. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "We can confirm we received a letter and documentation on 9 September which was passed to officers from Operation Grange. They are assessing its contents and consulting with the CPS and the McCann family."

Operation Grange is the name for the Metropolitan police's involvement in the search for Madeleine. She went missing in Portugal when aged three in May 2007.

So-called trolling is a mounting problem for the authorities. Scotland Yard said last year that about 1,500 additional crimes linked to internet abuse were being reported to the force each year.

'Evil' Trolls In Hate Campaign Against McCanns, 02 October 2014
'Evil' Trolls In Hate Campaign Against McCanns Sky News

Abuse uncovered by Sky News includes calls for the couple to "burn in hell" - while others want them "trampled by horses".

18:12, UK, Thursday 02 October 2014

Video: McCann Family Trolls Confronted [screenshot]

Video: McCann Family Trolls Confronted [screenshot]

---------------

By Martin Brunt, Crime Correspondent

The Metropolitan Police is investigating a catalogue of vile internet abuse targeting the family of Madeleine McCann including death threats, Sky News can reveal.

Officers are in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service after being handed a dossier of more than 80 pages of Tweets, Facebook posts and messages on online forums aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann.

Over the past few years hundreds of shocking messages have been posted by 'trolls' who believe - despite no evidence - that the McCanns had some involvement in the disappearance of their daughter in Portugal in 2007.

These include suggestions that the McCanns should be tortured and killed and calls for them to "burn in hell".

Some messages are even directed at Madeleine's younger siblings, now aged nine.

Video: Some Material 'Really Disturbing' [screenshot]

 

Video: Some Material 'Really Disturbing' [screenshot]

-----------------

Manipulated images involving the McCanns - many of them graphic - are also in wide circulation online.

One troll - who uses the Twitter identity "Sweepyface" and has posted dozens of anti-McCann messages using the #mccann hashtag - was confronted by Sky News.

When asked about her use of social media to attack the couple, she replied: "I'm entitled to."

The dossier - compiled by members of the public alarmed at the online treatment of the McCanns and shown to Sky News - calls on police and MPs to act to crack down on such abuse.

Video: McCanns Abused On Social Media [screenshot]

 

Video: McCanns Abused On Social Media [screenshot]

-----------------

The Met wrote to the campaigners: "In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and the McCann family the material will now be assessed and decisions made as to what further action if any should be undertaken."

Among the messages identified in the dossier is an exchange on a message board which reads: "These 2 should burn in hell"; "I will supply the petrol"; "I'll supply the lighter - happily".

Other posts include: "We need some numbers for some assassins on taps", "I hope that the McCanns are living in total misery" and "I want to see them smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses".

In one of her tweets "Sweepyface" called for the McCanns to suffer "for the rest of their miserable lives".

Video: Sky News Confronts McCann 'Troll' [screenshot]

 

Video: Sky News Confronts McCann 'Troll' [screenshot]

-------------------

Many social media users have expressed anger towards the internet trolls following news of the investigation into abuse of the McCanns.

However, a significant number have also voiced their support for 'Sweepyface', who has since deactivated her Twitter account.

In addition to threats and abuse, several trolls have claimed to live nearby to the McCanns in Leicestershire and reported on their movements.

The campaigner spearheading the appeal - who has asked to remain anonymous - told Sky News: "We're very worried that it's only going to take somebody to act out of some of these discussions, some of the threats that have been made, and we couldn't live with ourselves if that happened and we had done nothing."

Video: Sky's Martin Brunt On McCann Abuse [screenshot]

 

Video: Sky's Martin Brunt On McCann Abuse [screenshot]

---------------------

Author Anthony Summers, whose book Looking for Madeleine was published last month, said: "There is a campaign of hatred against the parents.

"It is venomous and vitriolic, most of it done by cowards. We are taken aback by the extent of the sheer evil behind it all."

Sara Payne has become a campaigner for parents' right to a controlled access to the Sex Offenders Register since her daughter, Sarah, was murdered in 2000.

Responding to the story of the abuse against the McCanns on Twitter, she wrote: "About time, they are certainly not the only victims but they are the most abused.

Video: Sept 7: 'Charity Worker' A Suspect? [screenshot]

Video: Sept 7: 'Charity Worker' A Suspect? [screenshot]

-------------------
"I hope this means this kind of disgusting abuse will finally be stopped."

A spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "Police have alerted us to this information and an early discussion has taken place."

Police Investigate Madeleine McCann Family Online Abuse, 02 October 2014
Police Investigate Madeleine McCann Family Online Abuse Sky News YouTube

Published on 2 Oct 2014

Sky News can reveal that the Metropolitan Police is investigating a catalogue of vile internet abuse targeting the family of Madeleine McCann, including death threats.

Leveson has changed nothing – the media still put 'stories' before the truth, 02 October 2014
Leveson has changed nothing – the media still put 'stories' before the truth The Guardian

As I know from experience, if papers tell lies about you, they'll be able to get away with it pretty much scot free. The public backs change – and editors must act

Gerry McCann

Gerry McCann
Thursday 2 October 2014 19.14 BST

Kate and Gerry McCann talking to the press earlier this year during a libel case against a former Portuguese police officer. 'Newspapers treat the people they write about as if they don't exist. Wild animals are given more respect.' Photograph: Mario Cruz/EPA

Nearly three years ago my wife, Kate, and I appeared before the Leveson inquiry to talk about the campaign of lies that was waged against us after our daughter Madeleine went missing. We described how our lives had been turned into a soap opera so that newspapers could make money, with no regard for truth, for the distress they were inflicting, or for the damage caused to the search for Madeleine. We asked Lord Justice Leveson to ensure that in future things would be different and that nobody would ever again have to endure the dishonest reporting we experienced, or at least that there would be some quick, effective way of correcting false reports in newspapers.

Nothing has changed since then. Big newspaper companies continue to put sales and profit before truth. The protection for ordinary people is as feeble as it always was.

A year ago, when Kate and I were experiencing a time of renewed hope as the Metropolitan police stepped up its new investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, we received an email late on a Thursday night from the Sunday Times. Its reporter asked us to comment on information he planned to publish. This turned out to be a claim that for five years Kate, I and the directors of Madeleine's Fund withheld crucial evidence about Madeleine's disappearance. We rushed to meet his deadline for a response. In the vain hope that the Sunday Times would not publish such a clearly damaging and untrue story, we sent a statement to the newspaper. We denied the main tenet of the story and emphasised that since Madeleine's disappearance we had fully cooperated with the police and that the directors of Madeleine's Fund had always acted in her best interest.

However, the Sunday Times went ahead and published the report on its front page, largely ignoring our statement. We tried to settle this matter quickly and without legal action. I wrote to the editor asking for a correction, but all we got in response was an offer to publish a "clarification" and tweak a few lines of the article – but still to continue to publish it on the newspaper's website. Indeed, further correspondence from the paper only aggravated the distress the original article had caused, created a huge volume of work and forced us to issue a formal complaint to get redress through our lawyers.

Eventually, two months after the article was published, a correction was printed, retracting all the allegations and apologising. But even then – and despite the grotesque nature of what it had falsely alleged on its front page – the apology was on an inside page and the word "apology" was absent from the headline. Since then, it has taken 11 months and the filing of a legal claim to get the Sunday Times to agree to damages, all of which we are donating to charity, and to get our right to tell the public that we had won the case. But the cost to the paper is peanuts – the fee for a single advertisement will probably cover it. And there will be no consequences for anyone working there.

Nothing will be done to ensure that in future reporters and editors try harder to get things right. And so the same people will do something similar, soon, to some other unfortunate family – who will probably not have our hard-earned experience of dealing with these things and who will probably never succeed in getting a correction or an apology.

So what has changed in the newspaper industry since the Leveson report two years ago? Absolutely nothing. Newspapers continue to put "stories" before the truth, and without much care for the victims.

They treat the people they write about as if they don't exist. Wild animals are given more respect. They hide behind talk about the rights of the press while they routinely trash the rights of ordinary people. They constantly claim to stand up to the powerful, but they are the ones with the power, and they use it ruthlessly.

Legal action should be a last resort. A final route when all else has failed. I don't blame Leveson. He recommended changes that would make a big difference. He wanted a press self-regulator that was not controlled by the big newspaper companies and that had real clout. If a paper told lies about you, you could go to this body and count on fast and fair treatment: it would not just let papers off the hook. More than that, Leveson wanted a cheap, quick arbitration service so that ordinary people did not need to resort to the law. Our experience shows this is a vital reform.

Parliament backed Leveson's plan. The public backs it. So do we, and almost all the other victims who gave evidence to Leveson. Only one group of people is opposing this change – the perpetrators themselves, the same editors and newspaper owners who were responsible for all that cruelty. Instead of accepting the Leveson plan, these people, including the owner of the Sunday Times, have set up another sham regulator called Ipso, which is designed to do their bidding just like the old, disgraced Press Complaints Commission.

If in another year's time the press still rejects the royal charter – itself already a compromise – then it will be time for parliament to deliver on the promises the party leaders made, and ensure that what Leveson recommended is actually delivered. Otherwise elements of the press will go on treating people with total contempt. This time, once again, it was Kate and I who were the targets. Next time it could be you.

Gerry McCann attacks 'disgraceful' Sunday Times after £55k libel payout, 02 October 2014
Gerry McCann attacks 'disgraceful' Sunday Times after £55k libel payout The Guardian

Payout follows allegations that couple deliberately hindered search for daughter Madeleine

Jane Martinson
Thursday 2 October 2014 19.22 BST

Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal in 2007. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Gerry McCann, the father of missing Madeleine, has accused the Sunday Times of behaving "disgracefully", after winning a libel payout from the newspaper in a case he believes proves how little the industry has changed following the phone-hacking scandal.

McCann and his wife Kate were handed £55,000 in libel damages from the Murdoch-owned paper over a front page story which alleged that the couple had deliberately hindered the search for their daughter, who went missing in Portugal seven years ago.

The McCanns said in a statement: "The Sunday Times has behaved disgracefully. There is no sign of any post-Leveson improvement in the behaviour of newspapers like this."

Writing in the Guardian, Gerry McCann repeats calls he made to the public inquiry into press intrusion, conducted by Lord Justice Leveson, for a "quick, effective way of correcting false reports in newspapers" and called on the next government to implement the proposals set out by Leveson but rejected by much of the industry.

After an 11-month battle for redress, the McCanns said the Sunday Times had failed to give them a proper opportunity to comment on what they called "grotesque and utterly false" allegations, failed to publish the full response they made and offered a "half-baked, inadequate response". Even when the paper agreed to retract the allegations and apologise two months after publication, this was "tucked away" on an inside page. After this, the couple hired libel lawyers Carter-Ruck to sue for damages, they said.

The revelation of the libel damages comes as the Metropolitan police are investigating an 80-page dossier of abusive tweets, Facebook posts and messages on online forums aimed at the McCanns. A spokesman for the couple said newspaper articles helped feed into the abuse from trolls, who felt "vindicated" by them.

In the statement, the McCanns said: "Despite the history of admitted libels in respect of my family by so many newspapers, the Sunday Times still felt able to print an indefensible front page story last year and then force us to instruct lawyers – and even to start court proceedings – before it behaved reasonably. But the damage to reputation and to feelings has been done and the Sunday Times can sit back and enjoy its sales boost based on lies and abuse.

"This is exactly why parliament and Lord Justice Leveson called for truly effective independent self-regulation of newspapers – to protect ordinary members of the public from this sort of abuse. The fact is that most families could not take the financial and legal risk of going to the high court and facing down a big press bully as we have. That is why News UK and the big newspapers have opposed Leveson's reforms and the arbitration scheme which is a necessary part of it."

Carter-Ruck agreed to act on a no-win, no-fee basis, a system threatened by proposed changes to the law. The £55,000 is to be donated to two charities for missing people and sick children.

The Sunday Times said: "We have agreed a settlement with Mr and Mrs McCann."

Much of the industry, with the exception of the Guardian, the Independent and the Financial Times, has set up its own regulatory body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso), which started life three weeks ago.

In the statement, McCann calls Ipso the "latest industry poodle". The McCanns have been involved in the Hacked Off campaign to tighten press regulation.

His latest experience underlined the need for change, said McCann. "The cost to the paper is peanuts – the fee for a single advertisement will probably cover it. And there will be no consequences for anyone working there. Nothing will be done to ensure that in future reporters and editors try harder to get things right. And so the same people will do something similar, soon, to some other unfortunate family, who will probably not have our hard-earned experience of dealing with these things and who will probably never succeed in getting a correction or an apology.

"So what has changed in the newspaper industry since the Leveson report two years ago? Nothing. Absolutely nothing."

A dossier of online abuse directed at the family is being examined by police. Members of the public have handed Scotland Yard a file stretching to more than 80 pages of tweets, Facebook posts and forum messages, according to Sky News.

The material is said to include suggestions that the couple should be tortured or killed. One comment reportedly said: "These 2 should burn in hell."

Scotland Yard said: "We can confirm we received a letter and documentation on 9 September which was passed to officers from Operation Grange [the Met's involvement in the search for Madeleine]. They are assessing its contents and consulting with the CPS and the McCann family."

Gerry McCann calls for example to made of 'vile' internet trolls, 03 October 2014
Gerry McCann calls for example to made of 'vile' internet trolls The Guardian

Father of missing girl Madeleine says police should target people spreading abuse after receiving violence and kidnapping threats

Press Association
Friday 3 October 2014 10.39 BST

Gerry McCann made his comments during an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Photograph: M Rio Cruz/EPA

The father of Madeleine McCann has called for an example to be made of "vile" internet trolls who have been targeting the family.

Gerry McCann said he had grave concerns about letting his nine-year-old twins use the internet after receiving threats of violence and kidnapping.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, came after it emerged that police were looking at a dossier of abuse posted on Twitter, Facebook and chat forums.

McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Praia da Luz in Portugal in 2007, said he and his wife Kate did not read such material because it was too upsetting.

He also blamed the press for inciting trolls, renewing his calls for the new industry-backed regulator Ipso to be scrapped and replaced by an official body established by royal charter.

"I think some of the internet trolling is fuelled partly by the newspaper reporting. If it was more responsible I think we would have less of the former," McCann said.

He has also condemned the Sunday Times for making the couple fight a libel battle over a story alleging that they had deliberately hindered the search for Madeleine.

The newspaper has reportedly now apologised and paid out £55,000 in damages, which the family are giving to charity.

McCann insisted they should not have been forced to go through an 11-month battle, saying the case showed there was "no sign of any post-Leveson improvement" in press culture.

He said the family would probably not have been able to bring the challenge if lawyers had not been willing to act on a no-win, no-fee basis.

He also said the police should target people who spread abuse on the internet. "I think we probably need more people charged."

Asked about one alleged female troll who uses the Twitter nickname sweepyface and was confronted by Sky News, McCann said: "I haven't read her tweets ... I think that is an issue, that our behaviour is modified by this.

"We do not have any significant presence on social media or online.

"And I've got grave concerns about our children as they grow up and start to access the internet in an unsupervised capacity.

"There have been other instances where people are threatening to kidnap our children. People are threatening violence against Kate and myself.

"Of course it's not just us. It is many other people who happen to find themselves in rather tragic circumstances.

"I'm glad to see the law around this area is being reviewed, but I do think we need to make examples of people who are causing damage."

'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland 'flees Leicestershire home' after being accused of targeting Madeleine McCann's parents, Kate and Gerry, 03 October 2014
'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland 'flees Leicestershire home' after being accused of targeting Madeleine McCann's parents, Kate and Gerry Leicester Mercury

By Yasmin Duffin | Posted: October 03, 2014

'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland, 63, of Burton Overy

A Leicestershire woman has apparently fled her home after being accused of targeting missing Madeleine McCann's parents, Kate and Gerry, via Twitter.

Brenda Leyland, 63, of Burton Overy, was yesterday confronted by Sky News, which claimed she was one of dozens of so-called trolls - people who post abusive messages online - targeting the Rothley couple over the internet.

Sky News reporter Martin Brunt visited Ms Leyland's home and asked her why she was using her Twitter account to attack the McCanns.

The conversation was caught on camera, with Ms Leyland, who apparently uses the identity Sweepyface on the social networking website, replying: "I'm entitled to."

Mr Brunt is then filmed telling Ms Leyland that she had been reported to the police, and that Scotland Yard was investigating a dossier of Twitter accounts which had apparently shown abuse against the McCanns.

Ms Leyland, who is believed to be a mother-of-two who has lived in the village for around 15 years, replied: "That's fair enough."

Police have confirmed that they are examining a number of trolls who have posted threatening messages online about Madeleine McCann, who disappeared while on a family holiday in Portugal, in May, 2007, and targeted at her parents.

Metropolitan Police received a "letter and documentation" last month containing a list of the online abuse.

They are investigating a series of messages, written on Twitter, Facebook, message boards and forums.

The dossier is reported to have been 80 pages long, and to stem back over the past seven years.

It was compiled by members of the public concerned about the abuse.

The Mercury visited Burton Overy yesterday, but on discovering Ms Leyland was not at home was told by a neighbour that she had "fled the village".

The resident, who would rather not be named said: "Somebody took a photo of her on Thursday afternoon and then she was gone.

"I haven't seen her since."

Accusations of Ms Leyland being involved with the internet attacks appears to have shocked many residents in Burton Overy, a small, idyllic village in south-east Leicestershire.

One resident said: "I was totally surprised.

"But while I wouldn't condone what Brenda is accused of doing, I am worried for her safety now she has apparently fled the village."

A fellow villager said: "We all have opinions on things but they should be kept to yourself."

Another person said: "I find it quite sad that people sit in their house all day just tweeting about stuff.

"I don't think what these people have done is nice at all, I think it's horrible."

Meanwhile Kate and Gerry have received a £55,000 in libel damages from the Sunday Times.

According to BBC News, the payout came after the newspaper claimed the couple had withheld details about their daughter's disappearance from authorities.

Kate and Gerry reportedly said the Sunday Times did not provide them with a proper opportunity to comment and chose not to publish key parts of their response.

The Sunday Times said it has agreed a settlement with Kate and Gerry.

The money will be donated by Kate and Gerry to two charities for missing people and sick children.

Madeleine McCann internet trolls are devoid of humanity – much like the people who abducted her, 04 October 2014
Madeleine McCann internet trolls are devoid of humanity – much like the people who abducted her Sunday Mirror

Carole Malone header

Sunday Mirror columnist Carole Malone says that whatever your opinions about the McCanns, sending them vile abuse and death threats is cowardly and depraved

Targets: Kate and Gerry McCann

Targets: Kate and Gerry McCann

Over the years I've had a lot to say about Kate and Gerry McCann. Like many people, I was angry at what I believed to be their ­irresponsibility in leaving young children alone while they went out drinking.

I could never forgive the fact that while holidaying in Portugal they left two-year-old twins and three-year-old Madeleine alone in an unlocked apartment not just for one night, but for many nights – even after Madeleine had cried and asked them not to leave her because she was scared.

And despite the fact there was a 10-quid ­babysitting service at their resort which they could have used, but chose not to.

These were mistakes that changed the McCanns' lives for ever because they cost them their beloved Madeleine.

They were also mistakes which have since cost them their peace of mind and possibly now, even their safety.

Their decision to leave those children alone has brought with it a retribution that will haunt them every day of their lives.

But as well as having to deal with that, they're now having to deal with a bunch of foul-mouthed trolls whose threats have become so vile, so dangerous, that Scotland Yard has an 80-page dossier on them.

And the threats aren’t just to Kate and Gerry McCann. Unforgivably, some of them are directed at their nine-year-old twins.

How sick, how twisted, how depraved do you have to be to keep bombarding an already broken family with hateful death threats – threats designed to throw more poison into their already poisoned lives.

The people making these threats are cruel and devoid of humanity – much like the people who abducted Madeleine. But they're also cowards, too scared to say to the McCanns' faces what they say anonymously on Twitter.

One of these trolls, Brenda Leyland, is a church-going 60-something divorcee who lives in a pretty village in the Home Counties. She looks like a perfectly respectable woman. But of course she isn't.

She's a cowardly bully who hides behind her smart front door and spews her bile in secret because she doesn't have the guts to do it in public.

This piece of work was sending up to 50 texts a day to the McCanns. But when Sky News cameras approached her she wasn't quite so brave.

She looked like a frightened rabbit (typical). But as she was running away (also typical) she said she thought she was entitled to do what she'd done.

Really? She thinks she's entitled to threaten, hound and bully the innocent? Is that because her own life is so lonely, so miserable, so poisoned that she wants others to suffer the same. Or is she just a twisted, fecked up bitch who gets her kicks from hurting people.

Well, newsflash for these sickos – you guys aren't the worst thing that's ever happened to Kate and Gerry McCann. The very worst thing that could ever happen to them already has. And they will for ever have to live with that. I truly hope all the people in that dossier are prosecuted and I hope Sky continue to confront and identify every one of them. We should all know what a black heart and a twisted mind looks like.

These idiots need to know they can no longer hide behind false names to peddle their bile.

Let's see how brave and opinionated they are when their evil is made public alongside their names and their faces.

Body found in hotel room thought to be of woman accused of McCann trolling, 05 October 2014
Body found in hotel room thought to be of woman accused of McCann trolling The Guardian

Brenda Leyland was confronted by TV reporter over claims she sent abuse on Twitter about Madeleine McCann’s disappearance

Kevin Rawlinson
Sunday 5 October 2014 19.31 BST

A body thought to be that of Brenda Leyland was found in a hotel on Saturday afternoon. Photograph: Screengrab

A body, believed to be that of a woman accused of trolling the family of missing schoolgirl Madeleine McCann online, was found in a hotel room in Leicester on Saturday, police have said.

Brenda Leyland, 63, was confronted by a television news reporter over the claim that she used Twitter to post a series of comments attacking the McCanns, whose daughter disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

She was said to have left her home after the exchange last week about the claims. But no direct link can be made between the incident and her death, which officers said was not being treated as suspicious.

On Facebook, her son Ben Leyland wrote: "I love you mum and I will miss you forever."

In an earlier exchange on the site, Ms Leyland wrote that her son was "the loveliest son and nicest person" she had ever met, asking, "How lucky am I?"

He responded: "I'd say pretty lucky, but then again, who'd have expected anything less of my mother's son?!"

In a report aired on Sky News last Wednesday, Ms Leyland was accused of being one of dozens of people to have aimed online attacks at Kate and Gerry McCann. She was confronted as she was getting into her car by Sky News' crime correspondent Martin Brunt, who asked her why she had done so.

Initially reluctant to answer, she eventually responded with "I'm entitled to". It was claimed she used her Twitter account – using the alias "sweepyface" – to send abuse to the family.

When she was told that a file of evidence had been passed to the police, she said: "That's fair enough."

Later, Leyland invited the reporter into her home and, off-camera, explained that she "had questions for the McCanns" but "hoped she hadn't broken the law" in her online posts.

In the Sky report, she was said not to be the worst of the alleged online abusers.

The next day, neighbours said they believed she had fled the small village in rural Leicestershire, where she has lived for nearly 15 years.

A neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Leicester Mercury: "Somebody took a photo of [Ms Leyland] on Thursday afternoon and then she was gone. I haven't seen her since." Others said they feared for her safety after it became apparent she had fled.

According to Sky News, the Metropolitan police said it was investigating claims of online abuse sent to the McCanns.

The force wrote to those accused of sending the messages: "in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and the McCann family, the material will now be assessed and decisions made as to what further action if any should be undertaken."

A Leicestershire police spokeswoman said: "Police were called at 1.42pm on Saturday 4 October to reports of a body of a woman in a hotel room in Smith Way, Grove Park.

"Officers have attended the scene and a file is being prepared for the coroner. Identification of the deceased is a matter for the coroner.

"The death is not being treated as suspicious."

A Sky News spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

'Twitter troll' who abused Madeleine McCann's parents found dead, 05 October 2014
'Twitter troll' who abused Madeleine McCann's parents found dead The Telegraph

Brenda Leyland, 63, was confronted about the tweets in an exchange broadcast on Sky News on Thursday

Brenda Leyland pictured with her son Ben. He has posted online "I love you, mum. I will miss you forever." Photo: Pixel 8000

Emily Gosden

 

By Emily Gosden
8:40PM BST 05 Oct 2014

A woman who was widely condemned in the media for allegedly writing abusive tweets about the parents of Madeleine McCann has been found dead.

The body of Brenda Leyland, 63, was found in a hotel room in Leicestershire on Saturday. Police are not treating her death as suspicious.

Her son, Ben Leyland, 30, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote on Facebook: "I love you mum and I will miss you forever."

Last week Sky News identified Mrs Leyland as the author of a Twitter account named @sweepyface, which had been used to post abusive messages about Kate and Gerry McCann.

The broadcaster confronted her in her home village of Burton Overy, in an exchange that was shown on air on Thursday.

Mrs Leyland, a mother-of-two, was asked why she was attacking the couple and responded that she was "entitled to".

She was informed by reporter Martin Brunt that she had been reported to the police and that officers were considering an apparent campaign of abuse against the couple by her and other online "trolls". She responded that was "fair enough".

Mr Brunt said he had later been invited into Mrs Leyland's home where she told him she had questions for the McCanns but hoped she had not broken the law.

Residents in Burton Overy told the Leicester Mercury that Mrs Leyland had "fled the village" after she was photographed on Thursday afternoon.

Villagers said they were "totally surprised" to learn that she had been sending the messages but said they were "worried for her safety".

Tweets from the @sweepyface account had said that the McCanns should suffer "for the rest of their miserable lives".

Sky News said the tweets from the account were "not the worst" of the abuse, with other social media users posting death threats.

sweepyface tweet

Mrs Leyland was widely condemned in the media.

Mr McCann told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that, while he had not seen the @sweepyface tweets, online abuse had caused his family "severe distress".

"I think we probably need more people to be charged," he said.

Kate and Gerry McCann (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Kate and Gerry McCann (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

"We do not have any significant presence on social media or online and I've got grave concerns about our children as they grow up and start to access the internet in an unsupervised capacity."

During a Twitter discussion session about the online abuse suffered by the McCanns, Mr Brunt was criticised by some for identifying Mrs Leyland.

sweepyface tweet

Mr Brunt responded that Sky News had done so through "normal, journalistic and legal methods" and denied he had "stalked" or "chased" her.

Among those who took to Twitter to comment on the circumstances of Mrs Leyland's death was businessman Lord Sugar.

Lord Sugar tweet

A Leicestershire Police spokeswoman said: "Police were called at 1.42pm on Saturday 4 October to reports of a body of a woman in a hotel room in Smith Way, Grove Park.

Madeleine McCann vanished from a holiday apartment on the Algarve in May 2007 (PA)

Madeleine McCann vanished from a holiday apartment on the Algarve in May 2007 (PA)

"Officers have attended the scene and a file is being prepared for the coroner.

"Identification of the deceased is a matter of the coroner. The death is not being treated as suspicious."

McCann 'troll' found dead after TV report, 06 October 2014
McCann 'troll' found dead after TV report The Guardian (paper edition)

McCann 'troll' found dead after TV report The Guardian (paper edition)
The Guardian, front page, 06 October 2014

McCann Abuser Found Dead In Hotel Room, 06 October 2014
McCann Abuser Found Dead In Hotel Room Sky News

09:01, UK, Monday 06 October 2014

Brenda Leyland was featured in a Sky News report on internet abuse

Brenda Leyland was featured in a Sky News report on internet abuse

A woman who abused the parents of Madeleine McCann on social media has been found dead in a Leicestershire hotel.

Brenda Leyland was featured in a Sky News report on internet abuse earlier this week.

A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said: "Police were called at 1.42pm on Saturday 4 October to a report of a body of a woman in a hotel room in Smith Way, Grove Park, Leicester.

"Officers attended the scene, and a file is being prepared for the coroner."

The body has now been formally identified as Ms Leyland.

Police said her death is not being treated as suspicious.

Does free speech give us the right to anonymously troll strangers?, 06 October 2014
Does free speech give us the right to anonymously troll strangers? The Guardian

The McCann abuse dossier shows that, without any sense of accountability, we create an antisocial media in which the same people get shouted down

Suzanne Moore

 

Suzanne Moore
Monday 6 October 2014 12.57 BST

'Social media reveals to us base impulses, ugly and aggressive. It merely channels what is already there. But anonymity is at the heart of this web of power.' Photograph: Creativeact/Alamy

The membrane that separates the online world from the real world is ever more permeable. What people say online has real consequences. They may end up in prison. They may be named and shamed, and this may be enough to make them suicidal.

We don't know and may never know what caused the death of Brenda Leyland. But Twitter does. And Twitter is certain that it happened because she was exposed as one of "the trolls" who was said to have been targeting the McCann family.

Conspiracy theories of all kinds abound, not just about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann – but now also about this tragedy.

Those who sent abusive messages about this case are seen by some to be warriors against the lies and evils of the mainstream media. Trolling, they say, is just another word for challenging.

Though social media is now so deeply embedded, we still don't seem to have any shared social definitions of what trolling is. It continues to be seen as somehow trivial, just silly insulting nonsense that should be ignored.

But you can only regard it this way if you have never experienced it. Trolling can be an orchestrated and concerted campaign to intimidate others into silence. Multiple threats of death, rape and mutilation, as well as the publication of addresses (as much as Twitter wants to refuse this role, platforms act as publishers) is the modus operandi that brought a lot of misogyny to the surface. Trolling can also be obsessive and highly personalised – a form of stalking.

Calls for action are often tokenistic. Twitter could never employ enough moderators to look at every tweet.

The police have often been slow to act but successful prosecutions have ensued, such as that of Stella Creasy's persecutor. Nonetheless a real unease exists over what is free speech, what is hate speech and the protection that anonymity offers.

It would be much more convenient if trolls all shared a single psychological profile, but they don't. Some who have sent the most awful abuse appear seemingly well-adjusted in other aspects of their life. Much has been made of Mary Beard's approach of befriending and even writing job references for some of her trolls. Laudable as this is, quite frankly it is simply too time-consuming for most people on the receiving end of pile-ons.

While there is a mute or block button on Twitter, in real life women end up installing panic buttons or going to stay at friends' houses because they are genuinely terrified by these threats. Not that this only happens to women of course – I have had male friends who have ended up on antidepressants because of vile female stalkers.

The bigger question is whether the democratisation that social media embodies, the sense of giving all a voice, can be consistent with a tolerant and forgiving space. Anonymity is often defended as though everyone was about to overthrow an evil dictatorship, but more typically it has become the "freedom" to call someone on Question Time unshaggable.

Anonymity is the troll's only real-life friend. It allows a disinhibition online. Combined with the fact that none of the normal feedback mechanisms of everyday life exist – no eye contact, no authority figures, no sense that behaviour is being monitored or reacted to by an actual person with feelings – all of this means people seem to think there is no going too far and there are no consequences.

Whenever there are, there is a huge yelp of rage, and that is currently being directed at the McCanns. How can they even be "trolled" if they have not seen these abusive messages, some are saying.

Trolling seems to now be viewed as an acceptable price to pay for having a voice, for the illusion of freedom. After years of social media and slightly more savvy policing, we are a long way from any consensus on how to deal with it. Ignore, prosecute, answer back, don't feed the trolls? All of us try different strategies.

Social media reveals to us base impulses, ugly and aggressive. It merely channels what is already there. But anonymity is at the heart of this web of power. My identity is not hidden but you can choose to hide yours. This is the nature of old media versus new and one can see it played out as a kind of asymmetrical warfare. But anonymity is not of itself a noble virtue; its power can also be abused. The issue here is one of accountability. Without any sense of mutuality or accountability we create not an alternative to the mainstream media, merely an antisocial media in which the same hierarchies take hold and the same people get shouted down.

Facebook group urges Sky reporter's sacking after death of alleged troll, 06 October 2014
Facebook group urges Sky reporter's sacking after death of alleged troll The Guardian

Martin Brunt fronted the exclusive report alleging Brenda Leyland was one of those abusing the McCanns on Twitter

Tara Conlan
Monday 6 October 2014 13.04 BST

Sky News reporter Martin Brunt confronts alleged Twitter troll Brenda Leyland. Photograph: Sky News

A Facebook campaign is calling for Sky News reporter Martin Brunt to be sacked following the death of a woman the broadcaster alleged to be one of the internet trolls abusing the McCann family.

The woman, who was subsequently identified by the media as Brenda Leyland, was found dead in a hotel room days after she appeared on Sky News in an investigation into internet "trolling". The campaign, based at a Facebook page called Sack Martin Brunt, follows Brunt's exclusive report.

Sky News has a rigorous set of internal guidelines for its reporters but insiders say each story is handled on a case-by-case basis. Although she appeared on camera, Leyland was not named and registration plates on nearby cars were pixellated.

During the report, Brunt and his team took extra precautions such as not naming the village where Leyland lived and Brunt referred to her only by her Twitter name, @sweepyface. However, she was subsequently named in newspaper reports.

The Guardian understands the story was looked at closely by Sky's lawyers before it was broadcast and Sky is confident that proper procedures had been followed. The broadcaster is reviewing in the situtation in the wake of Leyland's death. Sky News' guidelines state: "Any grounds for an investigation that involves significant intrusion into any individual's privacy must be very strong. Before we start out we must be certain that any such intrusion is outweighed by the seriousness of the story and the amount of public good that will be delivered by its publication and/or broadcast."

The detailed guidelines also say: "People who are the subject of reports should not be treated unfairly. Where wrongdoing is alleged, they should be offered an opportunity to respond.

"Where there may be doubt or uncertainty over a legal issue – in the first instance check with the Head of Home News or Head of International News, as appropriate. Remember: if in doubt, do not proceed, broadcast or publish. Always refer upwards."

Brunt – who has himself become the subject of online abuse –- is said to be upset by Leyland's death but has not yet made any comment.

Sky News is not expected to comment further beyond a statement that said: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

Was Brenda Leyland really a troll?, 06 October 2014
Was Brenda Leyland really a troll? The Guardian

Accused of trolling the McCanns, Leyland didn't conform to our stereotyped idea of a troll – but those stereotypes quickly fail

Claire Hardaker

 

Claire Hardaker
Monday 6 October 2014 15.17 BST

'The McCanns have faced a barrage of online abuse, including threats of violence, murder and abduction of their other children.' Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

When three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from her hotel bedroom in Praia da Luz seven years ago, her parents could not have envisioned that, on top of the horror of their child’s disappearance, they might be faced with an unremitting barrage of online abuse, including threats of violence, murder and abduction of their other children.

Perhaps in hindsight it might seem obvious. Every major case – Princess Diana's death, 9/11, even the birth of President Obama – seems to have its contingent of those who believe that a conspiracy of silence has descended on the police and the media, and that people high up are actively engaged in a whitewash so that the real facts never emerge. Those individuals spend hours of their time campaigning to have the "truth" recognised.

One of those individuals was Brenda Leyland. A well-spoken, middle-class, 63-year-old mother of two, who lived in a picturesque village. Leyland regularly took to Twitter to draw attention to what she felt was an appalling miscarriage of justice. Last week, she found herself revealed to the nation by a television news team who exposed her as a "troll". But was she really a troll?

The first problem is the use of the word. It has become a catch-all term for everything from minor disagreements through to annoying incivility through to criminal behaviour such as death threats. When we think of trolls, the stereotype is of angry, unemployed, disenfranchised young men who exist in a miserable, hermit-like darkness that is void of compassion or loving relationships – young men like John Nimmo, for instance, who was jailed for sending abusive messages to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. We assume stupidity, alcohol abuse, and social issues. We like to think that they must be so obviously damaged that we would spot them in the street.

However, when we look at cases that have resulted in convictions, the stereotype quickly fails: Peter Nunn was a 33-year-old father; Isabella Sorley was a 23-year-old university graduate; Frank Zimmerman was 60. Even if we could create a troll stereotype from these cases, about the only common theme is that those who get caught are likely to be less than savvy about keeping themselves unfindable online.

Alternatively, they may be so impassioned about a "cause" that they cannot see how their behaviour has escalated out of control. Both convictions and the data show that stereotypes mislead us dangerously because they encourage us to focus only on those who fit the bill, when in reality, the genteel elderly man who moved to let you sit next to him on the train could be sending vile rape threats to his employer via his smartphone. Those who troll can be any age, any gender, anyone at all, and so it begins to look as though the label would fit Leyland too.

The second problem is that the word "troll" has become shorthand for describing any behaviour online that may cause offence. It conjures up strong feelings of repulsion and disgust, and doubtless some watching a bewildered Leyland trying to escape the TV news team last week will have felt a grim satisfaction, and thought to themselves: "She shouldn't dish out what she can't take."

But what was she actually dishing out? Looking over the 5,000-plus tweets from her @sweepyface account, there is clearly a fixation – even an unsettling obsession with the McCanns. She describes them as neglectful parents, objects to their ongoing media appearances, and complains that they are profiting from their daughter's disappearance. And when people challenge her, she calls them unpleasant names, disputes their evidence and blocks them. In short, her conduct would aggravate some and deeply offend others – but much the same could be said of select comedians, journalists and celebrities who can reach millions. Leyland's account had a mere 182 followers by the time it suddenly vanished. The crucial question is: did she incite others to harm the McCanns? Or threaten to abduct the McCanns' other children? Or pose any clear menace?

On Twitter at least it doesn't seem so. She regularly tweeted the Metropolitan police and Crimewatch, demanding they do more. She would highlight what she felt were untruths in the stories of major press outlets such as the Daily Mail. She railed at media outlets such as LBC for not airing what she felt was the other side of the story. And at the same time, she ensconced herself within a small network of other Twitter users who supported her, agreed with her, and perhaps gave her a sense of identity and importance as a figurehead campaigning for what she believed was justice for Madeleine.

Ultimately, individuals who troll or become obsessed with conspiracy theories can be driven by many factors – boredom, loneliness, a need for validation – and we cannot discount the possibility of mental health problems. At times, their behaviour may border on loathsome, but a news team with a high-profile journalist at the helm is not the way to bring about justice.

Sky News 'saddened' over death of alleged McCann troll, 06 October 2014
Sky News 'saddened' over death of alleged McCann troll The Guardian

Reporter had challenged Brenda Leyland over claims she abused parents of missing child on Twitter

Kevin Rawlinson and Matthew Weaver
Monday 6 October 2014 16.13 BST

Sky reporter Martin Brunt confronts Brenda Leyland at her house in Leicestershire.  Photograph: Screengrab

Sky News says it is "saddened" by the death of a woman it confronted with allegations of targeting internet abuse at the family of Madeleine McCann.

Brenda Leyland, 63, was found in a hotel room in Leicester on Saturday, after being challenged outside her home by the broadcaster over claims that she used Twitter to post a series of comments attacking the McCanns, whose daughter disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

She was said to have left her home after the exchange last week. But no direct link can be made between the incident and her death, which officers said was not being treated as suspicious.

In a brief statement, Sky News said: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

Video footage of Leyland being confronted by Martin Brunt, Sky's crime correspondent, about the allegations of trolling the McCanns is still available on Sky's website and it is also on Sky's Vine account.

In a broadcast aired last week and widely followed up by the press, Leyland was accused of being one of dozens of people to have attacked Kate and Gerry McCann via the internet. At first, Leyland refused to answer Brunt's questions. She then said "I'm entitled to" after it was claimed she used a since-deleted Twitter account – "sweepyface" – to send abuse to the McCanns.

In Sky's reports about what it described as "a catalogue of vile internet abuse", Leyland was said not to be the worst of the alleged online abusers. When she was told that a file of evidence had been passed to the police, she said: "That's fair enough."

Leyland explained that she "had questions for the McCanns" but "hoped she hadn't broken the law" in her online posts.

On Facebook, Leyland's son Ben wrote: "I love you mum and I will miss you forever."

In an earlier exchange on Facebook, Leyland wrote that her son was "the loveliest son and nicest person" she had ever met, asking, "How lucky am I?" He responded: "I'd say pretty lucky, but then again, who'd have expected anything less of my mother's son?!"

Neighbours said they believed Leyland had fled the small village in rural Leicestershire, where she had lived for nearly 15 years.

A neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Leicester Mercury: "Somebody took a photo of [Leyland] on Thursday afternoon and then she was gone. I haven't seen her since." Others said they feared for her safety after it became apparent she had fled.

A Leicestershire police spokeswoman said: "Police were called at 1.42pm on Saturday 4 October to reports of a body of a woman in a hotel room in Smith Way, Grove Park.

"Officers have attended the scene and a file is being prepared for the coroner. Identification of the deceased is a matter for the coroner. The death is not being treated as suspicious."

Last Friday, Gerry McCann, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had not read the alleged abusive messages, and did not intend to. But he added: "Clearly something needs to be done about the abuse on the internet. I think we probably need more people charged."

Sky News report on McCann 'troll' prompts complaints to Ofcom, 06 October 2014
Sky News report on McCann 'troll' prompts complaints to Ofcom The Guardian

Regulator receives 60 complaints about reporter confronting woman over abusive tweets about McCann family

Tara Conlan
Monday 6 October 2014 17.51 BST

Brenda Leyland, who was found dead in a hotel room days after being featured in a Sky News report. Photograph: Sky News

The regulator Ofcom has received 60 complaints about Sky News' report about the woman alleged to have tweeted abusive messages about the McCann family.

Brenda Leyland was found dead in a hotel room days after she appeared on Sky News as part of an investigation into internet "trolling" of the McCanns.

She was not named by the Sky News report but was interviewed by reporter Martin Brunt as someone who "uses Twitter to attack the parents of Madeleine McCann".

Brunt and his team took precautions such as not naming the village where Leyland lived and Brunt referred to her only by her Twitter name, @sweepyface. However, she was subsequently named in several newspaper reports.

Most of the complaints to Ofcom are understood to have been made in the last couple of days, rather than in the immediate aftermath of Brunt's report on 2 October.

An Ofcom spokesman said: "It's important to stress that we've not reached a view as to whether an investigation will take place."

Meanwhile on a Facebook page called Sack Martin Brunt, a petition has been launched calling on prime minister David Cameron to "launch a public inquiry" into what it claims is "trial by television" had gained 325 signatures.

The case of Brenda Leyland and the McCanns is a thoroughly modern tale of internet lawlessness, 06 October 2014
The case of Brenda Leyland and the McCanns is a thoroughly modern tale of internet lawlessness The Independent

Grace Dent

 

GRACE DENT
Monday 6 October 2014

You can't accuse a TV reporter of 'hounding' someone who is guilty of trolling

 





----------------

Brenda Leyland

The circumstances around the death of Brenda Leyland, whose body was found in a Leicester hotel room this weekend, are all at once sad, complex, divisive and thoroughly modern.

Ms. Leyland, I cannot help but feel, is yet another victim of what I've termed "the internet wild west era" in which we're living. The rules of civility are yet to be established. We're naught but electronic guinea pigs. One man's "troll" is another man's prophet of truth. One woman's systematic campaign of abuse is another woman's brave battle to be heard.

Ms Leyland was doorstepped last week by Martin Brunt from Sky News over her alleged obsessive and relentless Twtter campaign to expose what she felt was "the truth" about Madeleine McCann's parents Gerry and Kate.

A Twitter account by the handle @sweepyface had tweeted over 4,300 times supporting its firm - albeit incorrect - view that the McCanns are implicated nefariously in their daughter's disappearance. The account's contempt and anger for the McCanns was multi-faceted, inexhaustible, and at times breathtakingly unpleasant.

Mr Brunt took pains in his report to say that @sweepyface was not the worst offender. This I believe, as over many years I've noticed the anti-McCann conspiracy theory lobby to be some of the most furious, combative and unsettling message-propellers one might come across.

The McCann conspiracy theory is the perfect tinderbox for internet trolls. It involves a child's disappearance, a possible paedophile bogeyman, a £2m fund with accusations of misuse, plus handily placed daft foreigners open to accusations of fecklessness and corruption. But more than this the McCann case appeals to firmly entrenched class war tensions that these evil middle class folk are able to pull strings or use their money or power to cover something up. I cannot remember blame and spite directed at Jamie Bulger's mother or Sarah Payne's grandparents alleging that it was flaws in their attention which had led to utter woe. In these cases, empathy and compassion were abundant.

Yet there is something about doctors eating patatas bravas within metres of sleeping children which drove Twitter accounts like @sweepyface to a bleak place. The @sweepyface account begged for attention endlessly - from like-minded people, from detractors, from journalists and from TV people. Matthew Wright received many tweets, Matin Brunt also – and with this in mind Brunt approached Ms Leyland to allot her just this - attention.

But, as I say, we're in the wild west. While @sweepyface was desperate for exposure, Ms Leyland did not welcome it at all. While @sweepyface may have been in her element flinging around accusations, gossip and provoking ill-will, the real life Ms. Leyland met Mr Brunt's request for a comment with a firm No and an attempt to disappear into her car.

Mr. Brunt is now being accused by some sections of "hounding" Ms. Leyland to her death. This seems extreme. Reporters have been doorstepping people and requesting answers on British television for the past 50 years. Are we now saying that in this new internet age, any person who draws attention to themselves vehemently but anonymously online is out of bounds for reporters?

Are we saying that we must accept that internet users working anonymously to spread misery are most probably mentally delicate and fuelled on their own shortcomings, so let's leave be? Should a person's privacy be respected even if their modus operandi is disrespecting privacy? The only certainty this incident has underlined is we have no strong idea how to tackle harmful internet unpleasantness, aside from "ignore".

There should be more help, support, understanding and escape routes offered to people living angrily behind keyboards. Their numbers are growing. In our ever web-dependent, fresh-air lacking, screen-chained world, we're all more powerful, more superhuman behind our laptops in bed at midnight than we ever could be in real life.

And being an internet idiot, even just momentarily, is in all our sights. When we're safely miles away from our target, we feel righteous, war-like, invincible and remorseless over our ability to wound. Ms. Leyland's meeting with Mr Brunt was a reminder that when human beings propel anger electronically, the last thing they want is to be greeted with is a human face.

What is online trolling, is it a crime and was Brenda Leyland trolling the parents of Madeleine McCann?, 06 October 2014
What is online trolling, is it a crime and was Brenda Leyland trolling the parents of Madeleine McCann? The Independent

Brenda Leyland

A look at the definition of online trolling and the guidelines for deciding when it becomes an offence

------------

JAMES RUSH
| Monday 06 October 2014

-----------------

Brenda Leyland was accused of "trolling" the parents of Madeleine McCann after she was identified as being one of a number of people posting hate messages aimed at the couple online.

In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Gerry McCann last week said he had "grave concerns" about letting his twins use the internet after threats of violence and kidnapping.

The comments came after it emerged that police were looking at a dossier of abuse posted on Twitter, Facebook and chat forums.

Here we look at the definitions of what online trolling is and the guidelines for deciding when it becomes an offence.

What is online "trolling"?

Online "trolling" is currently most widely regarded as a modern phenomenon which sees users of social media, forums and micro-blogging sites post offensive, upsetting and inflammatory comments where they can be seen publicly. The term can also be applied to those who post opinions and comments, which they may not actually believe, to online discussions in order to throw the debate into disarray.

Is it a criminal offence?

In some cases, yes it can be. Although there is a number of pieces of relevant legislation in connection with sending abusive messages online, in 2011 the CPS brought more than 2,000 prosecutions under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. This piece of legislation creates an offence of "sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character". There have been a number of high-profile prosecutions of "trolls", including that of Peter Nunn who was jailed last month for sending abusive messages on Twitter to Labour MP Stella Creasy.

What happened in that case?

Between July 28 and August 5 last year, Nunn sent a barrage of online abuse to the MP, who had backed a campaign to put Jane Austen on the £10 note. In one post he wrote: "If you can't threaten to rape a celebrity what is the point in having them?" The 33-year-old denied using Twitter to advocate violence or rape and claimed he sent the messages to exercise his right to freedom of speech and to "satirise" the issue of online trolling. He was found guilty of sending indecent, obscene or menacing messages by a public electronic network following a trial at City of London Magistrates' Court in September. Later that month, on September 29, Nunn, who also denied the messages were part of a "campaign of hatred" against the MP, was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail.

Are there guidelines for deciding when trolling becomes an offence?

Last year new guidelines were issued by the CPS in relation to prosecutions for communications sent by social media. The guidelines distinguish between different levels of communication, from threats of violence, stalking or harassment cases, those breaching a court order and those which do not fall into any of the above categories but may be grossly offensive or indecent, for example. In the latter case, the guidelines envisage that prosecutions would involve a "high threshold" and in some cases social media users might be able to avoid being prosecuted altogether by apologising and swiftly removing the remark. Under the guidelines, in some cases the public interest may not require a prosecution, if for example, the person who posted the offensive post "has expressed genuine remorse" or has taken "swift and effective action" to "remove the communication in question or otherwise block access to it". A prosecution could also be avoided if the communication "was not intended for a wide audience, nor was the obvious consequence of sending the communication" or did not go beyond "what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in an open and diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression."

Was Brenda Leyland trolling Kate and Gerry McCann?

Brenda Leyland was accused of trolling the McCanns, but questions have been raised over whether her Twitter posts fall into that bracket as they were not sent directly to the McCanns, who are not on Twitter. Louis Reynolds, social media and internet culture researcher at cross-party think-tank Demos, told The Independent that while her comments were anti-social, he did not believe they would fall into the formal definition of "trolling". He said: "This is kind of a further movement from what online trolling really is because while this person was saying absolutely horrible things, they were just saying horrible things on the hashtag on this topic. The McCanns aren't on Twitter, so they were saying horrible things about the McCanns but not directly to them. The question is - that's anti-social behaviour, but is that trolling? I think the answer would probably, by the formal definition, be no it's not, it's just anti-social behaviour online."

It's never OK to troll anyone – even a troll, 06 October 2014
It's never OK to troll anyone – even a troll The Telegraph

Cyberspace is medieval - we no sooner take in an event than put the people at the heart of it in the stocks, be they the McCanns, Brenda Leyland or Sky News

It is telling that when Brenda Leyland was confronted by a TV reporter, she didn't seem to know what she had done wrong Photo: Pixel

It is telling that when Brenda Leyland was confronted by a TV reporter, she didn't seem to know what she had done wrong Photo: Pixel

By Bryony Gordon
9:00PM BST 06 Oct 2014

On so many levels, the story of Brenda Leyland, the church-going Twitter troll who said some ungodly things about the McCann family, makes my heart ache. It is one of the saddest indictments of our time. I can't stand the idea of this lonely woman with her pathetic double life under the pseudonym of "Sweepyface"; one minute attending church, the next rushing home to spill on to the internet noxious bile about a couple with a missing child. But nor can I bear that she was treated in some quarters as if she herself had abducted Madeleine McCann, and not just acted like a deluded moron with broadband and access to some of the web's crazier conspiracy theories.

Within moments of the television report in which she was confronted by a journalist, people were posting comments on Twitter about her hair and her looks, about how – har har! – she looked like an actual troll, even though trolls only exist under bridges in children's bedtime stories. You'd have thought that once Leyland's death had been reported, the trolling of the troll might have stopped. But this morning I read a post by someone on Facebook who said that she deserved to die because, if she couldn't take it, she shouldn't have dished it out. Scores of people agreed. Had I not been fearful of a digital lynching, I might have said that Sweepyface didn't deserve to be held to account by Sky News in such a public way. But I am what is known online as a "good-for-nothing coward" – or, offline, as a pacifist.

Reading this sorry tale, I was struck by how medieval the future sometimes seems – and by the future, I mean the internet. We no sooner take in an event than put the people at the heart of it in the stocks, be they the McCanns, or Leyland, or even Sky News, which is now being ripped apart for confronting Leyland when no one could ever have known it would lead to an apparent suicide. In cyberspace, nobody can hear you scream, if only because everyone is too busy shouting.

We all know that the anonymity the internet provides makes some people do odd things. Whereas most would never dream of insulting someone face to face, many have no problem doing it on the web. But even Twitter users who post under their real names seem desensitised to conflict in a way you just couldn't imagine them being in real life. If some of my friends were as argumentative in person as they are on social media, I wouldn't hesitate to delete them from my phone book. How strange it is that centuries of learning about morals and manners can be undone in the time it takes someone to compose and post 140 characters on Twitter. How frightening it is to realise that from time to time, all of us can behave like trolls. Who could honestly say that if they found themselves living alone in their sixties, divorced, with one son estranged and one in America, they wouldn't end up like Leyland, spewing out the thoughts in their head in the belief that they constitute free speech?

Because the interesting thing about trolls – the thing that nobody ever says – is that they are not always sad old men who still live with their mothers. They are often pretty normal. They live in our towns and villages and they go to our churches. Confront them – and I have done this, replying to abusive tweets or emails – and they are, nine out of 10 times, madly apologetic. "I'm so sorry," said one man when I eventually replied to his messages about how ugly and stupid I was. "I've never thought of you as real."

It is telling that when Leyland was confronted by that TV reporter, she didn't seem to know what she had done wrong. Only when she invited him into her house and had a long chat with him did she start to understand that she might have broken the law. It was right that the police took the case of Stella Creasy MP seriously enough to imprison her Twitter stalker, Peter Nunn, for 18 weeks, after he threatened her with rape for daring to campaign to put the face of Jane Austen on banknotes. But most people who behave appallingly online do so without any thought that their actions might have consequences for the target of their vitriol or for themselves.

In this respect, the internet resembles the Wild West with – as reported last week – children as young as 11 becoming victims of revenge porn and the perpetrators getting away with it. Police claim they don't even have the resources to deal with all the images of child abuse they come across, let alone the numerous reports of trolling they are now receiving.

But it simply isn't good enough for the authorities to shrug their shoulders and refuse to deal with the digital world. If something is a crime offline, then why is it not a crime online, too? And why, when so many young people spend so much of their time on the web, should they be expected to do so in a lawless environment, unsure whether their iCloud is about to be hacked, or if the bully in the chat room will make good on their threats to hurt them?

We can all do our bit to make the digital world a nicer one. We should remember that even though we can't touch it, that doesn't mean we can't feel it, or the effects of something said in it. We shouldn't address anyone online any differently than we would if we were to encounter them in person. We need a new, empathetic internet. Above all, we need to be kinder.

Sky News may face Ofcom inquiry after complaints over death of McCann 'troll', 06 October 2014
Sky News may face Ofcom inquiry after complaints over death of McCann 'troll' The Guardian

Brenda Leyland found dead after reporter confronts her over online criticism of parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann

Robert Booth and Tara Conlan
Monday 6 October 2014 21.25 BST

Brenda Leyland in the Sky film. One of her tweets read: 'Q "how long must the McCanns suffer" answer "for the rest of their miserable lives".'

The broadcaster Sky is facing a possible Ofcom investigation after a woman was found dead in a hotel just days after a news team confronted her on camera over suspected online attacks on Kate and Gerry McCann. Sky said it was "saddened" by her death.

The TV regulator said it was assessing 60 complaints about Sky News's doorstepping of Brenda Leyland, mostly made after news of her death broke on Sunday.

Leicestershire police on Monday confirmed that the death of the 63-year-old mother in a Marriott hotel was not being treated as suspicious and announced that "officers acting on behalf of the coroner will look into the circumstances surrounding and prior to her unexpected death".

According to a record of her now-deleted Twitter account, which appears to be genuine, Leyland, from the Leicestershire village of Burton Overy, had stated that she "hated" the McCanns, whose three-year-old daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal in 2007.

She also said she believed Kate McCann "lies compulsively, every detail, every emotion is a lie".

She posted using the pseudonym Sweepyface, and last November tweeted the BBC programme Crimewatch: "I think you and the Met know as millions of us do that the McCanns may be complicit in Madeleines fate, don't let us down !!"

In the same month she tweeted: "Q 'how long must the McCanns suffer' answer 'for the rest of their miserable lives'."

A Sky News reporter, Martin Brunt, confronted Leyland about her attacks after a dossier on the internet activity of an anti-McCann group, including Leyland, was passed to the Metropolitan police. She told Brunt she was "entitled" to attack them and said she was not worried about her case being examined by prosecutors. Brunt, who is understood to be upset at the news, has not commented since, but denied any form of harassment last week. He said in an online question-and-answer session: "Show me where I stalked, chased. There was none of that."

Scotland Yard said on Monday that detectives leading Operation Grange, an investigation into Madeleine's disappearance, were assessing the evidence in the dossier about the anti-McCann web users and they were "consulting with the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] and the McCann family". Neither Leyland, nor any other individual named in the dossier, has been interviewed.

A spokesman for the CPS said: "Police have alerted us to this information and an early discussion has taken place." The Guardian understands the story was looked at by Sky's lawyers before it was broadcast and Sky is confident proper procedures had been followed.

A Sky spokesperson said: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

Sky News' guidelines state: "Any grounds for an investigation that involves significant intrusion into any individual's privacy must be very strong. Before we start out we must be certain that any such intrusion is outweighed by the seriousness of the story and the amount of public good that will be delivered by its publication and/or broadcast."

Ofcom said it would study the footage of the broadcasts before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation. Relevant sections of the broadcasting code are thought to include whether Sky has caused harm and offence, or breached standards of fairness and privacy.

Gerry McCann told the BBC's Today programme last week that he wanted to see more people charged over internet abuse, but said he had not read Leyland's tweets. That has raised questions about whether she should be considered a "troll". The McCanns have declined to comment on Leyland's death.

The case has exposed a bitter online war between supporters of the McCann family and others who use social media to claim there has been a cover-up over the disappearance of Madeleine.

Supporters of Leyland, with whom she exchanged hundreds of tweets about the McCann case in the weeks before she was confronted, claimed on Monday that she was the victim of a "snitch dossier" compiled by supporters of the McCann family. They even listed more than two dozen Twitter users who they described as "known trolls who support Kate and Gerry McCann".

A Facebook group has been set up demanding the sacking of Martin Brunt and Leyland's supporters deny that she is a troll. Most of the tweets in her now-deleted account appear to be about the behaviour of other Twitter users who support the McCanns rather than the McCanns themselves. But most are tagged #mccann, which means that anyone searching under that term would see them, and several amounted to direct attacks. One questioned why Kate McCann didn't look "haunted, grief stricken" days after her daughter went missing. Another said: "I 'hate' cruelty, liars, those who profit from an others tragedy, ergo my 'hate for Kate and Gerry' is justified.

Claire Hardaker, a researcher in flaming, trolling, cyberbullying, and online grooming at Lancaster University, questioned whether Leyland should be considered a troll at all. "She describes [the McCanns] as neglectful parents, objects to their ongoing media appearances, and complains that they are profiting from their daughter's disappearance," she said. "And when people challenge her, she calls them unpleasant names, disputes their evidence, and blocks them.

"In short, her conduct would aggravate some, and deeply offend others, but much the same could be said of select comedians, journalists and celebrities, who can reach millions. Brenda Leyland's account had a mere 182 followers by the time it suddenly vanished. The crucial question, however, is: did she incite others to harm the McCanns? Or threaten to abduct the McCanns' other children? Or pose any kind of clear menace? On Twitter at least it doesn't seem so."

Inquest Opens Into Brenda Leyland Death, 08 October 2014
Inquest Opens Into Brenda Leyland Death Sky News

Police tell the hearing there "did not appear to be foul play" involved in the 63-year-old's death.

14:05, UK, Wednesday 08 October 2014

Brenda Leyland was featured in a Sky News report on internet abuse

Brenda Leyland

The inquest into the death of a woman accused of directing online abuse at the McCann family has heard how the first post-mortem examination could not establish a cause of death.

Brenda Leyland was found dead at a hotel outside Leicester two days after she had featured in a Sky News report on internet "trolling" of Kate and Gerry McCann.

Further tests are now being carried out to try to work out how Ms Leyland died.

The 63-year-old, from Burton Overy, Leicestershire, had been accused of posting thousands of online messages directed at the McCanns.

Sgt Kevin Taylor, of Leicestershire Police, told the inquest he was on duty on Saturday when he received a call to go to the Marriott Hotel in Enderby, where paramedics told him there "was a deceased female within the room".

Sgt Taylor said the hotel room was immediately made secure and that his initial assessment was that there "did not appear to be foul play".

Ms Leyland was formally identified by a relative at the Leicester Royal Infirmary the following day.

Senior Coroner Catherine Mason said: "I am not in a position to conclude this today. This is because the cause of death is still not known and police inquiries are still, rightly, ongoing."

The inquest was adjourned until 18 December.

Police await postmortem tests after death of alleged McCann troll, 08 October 2014
Police await postmortem tests after death of alleged McCann troll The Guardian

Inquest at Leicester crown court told postmortem examination failed to establish cause of Brenda Leyland's death

Press Association
Wednesday 8 October 2014 14.49 BST

Screengrab of Brenda Leyland, 63, on a Sky News report on 2 October

Police are awaiting the result of postmortem tests carried out on the body of a woman who was accused of directing online abuse at Madeleine McCann's parents.

An inquest at Leicester coroner's court was told a postmortem examination conducted on Tuesday had failed to establish the cause of Brenda Leyland's death.

The body of Leyland, 63, was discovered in a Leicester hotel room last Saturday, two days after she featured in a Sky News report exposing the internet "trolling" of Kate and Gerry McCann.

Opening the inquest, the Leicester coroner Catherine Mason was told there was no evidence of foul play or third-party involvement in the death.

Police Sgt Kevin Taylor told the coroner he was informed that Leyland was dead after being sent to the Marriott Hotel in Enderby.

The officer said: "At the scene I was joined by another officer and a county ambulance first responder unit.

"I was then informed by the paramedic and the other officer that there was a deceased female within the room."

Taylor added that officers were awaiting the results of additional postmortem tests and were still undertaking inquiries into the death.

Adjourning the inquest until 18 December, Mason said: "It's quite clear from the evidence before me that I am not in a position to conclude [the inquest] today.

"The cause of death is still not known and police inquiries are rightly ongoing.

"Therefore, with the sergeant still tasked to complete the police inquiries and the pathologist still to provide a cause of death, I am adjourning the inquest."

Leyland, from Burton Overy, Leicestershire, allegedly posted thousands of messages on Twitter attacking the McCanns, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007.

Officers from Leicestershire police, who are not treating the death as suspicious, were alerted to the discovery of Leyland's body at 1.42pm on Saturday.

Post mortem fails to identify McCann Twitter troll's cause of death, 08 October 2014
Post mortem fails to identify McCann Twitter troll's cause of death The Telegraph

Inquest hears that post mortem failed to establish cause of death for Madeleine McCann 'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland

Brenda Leyland pictured with her son Ben. He has posted online "I love you, mum. I will miss you forever." Photo: Pixel 8000

By Victoria Ward and Agencies
3:10PM BST 08 Oct 2014

A post-mortem failed to establish how an alleged Twitter troll who targeted Madeleine McCann's family died.

Brenda Leyland's body was found at a hotel a few miles from her home just two days after she was exposed as one of a number of critics who had published thousands of abusive tweets online about Kate and Gerry McCann.

The divorced mother-of-two, 63, had apparently sent messages calling them the "worst of humankind" and tweeting that they should "suffer" for the "rest of their miserable lives".

An inquest, which was opened at Leicester Town Hall, heard that Mrs Leyland's body was discovered at 1.42pm on Saturday October 4.

However, Police Sergeant Kevin Taylor told the coroner that further tests were needed to establish the cause of death.

"I was on duty on October 4 and was notified of the call and dispatched to the scene," he told Coroner Catherine Mason during the brief eight-minute hearing.

"At the scene I was joined by other officers and the county ambulance response unit.

"I was informed by a paramedic that there was a deceased female in the room.

"The room was immediately made secure with no other persons allowed into it.

"There didn't appear to be any foul play or third party involvement in the death.

"We are still awaiting the results of further tests. The police inquiry hasn't been completed at this time."

Sergeant Taylor confirmed that Mrs Leyland, from Burton Overy, Leicestershire, was formally identified by her former husband, Michael Leyland, on October 5.

Adjourning the inquest until December 18, Mrs Mason said: "It's quite clear from the evidence before me that I am not in a position to conclude (the inquest) today.

"The cause of death is still not known and police inquiries are rightly ongoing.

"Therefore, with the sergeant still tasked to complete the police inquiries and the pathologist still to provide a cause of death, I am adjourning the inquest."

Ms Leyland's death came three days after she was confronted on her doorstep by Sky News reporter Martin Brunt who quizzed her about tweets she made under her username @sweepyface.

During the footage, Mr Brunt asked her why she had been targeting the family, to which she replied: "I'm entitled to do that."

It was not stated at the inquest if Mr Brunt would be called to give evidence at the inquest.

McCann Twitter troll Brenda Leyland likely died from drug overdose, 08 October 2014
McCann Twitter troll Brenda Leyland likely died from drug overdose Daily Star

The McCanns' troll "sweepyface" is likely to have died from a drug overdose, it was revealed today.

By Jerry Lawton / Published 8th October 2014

OVERDOSE: Brenda Leyland's body was found in a hotel days after she was revealed as a McCann troll [Sky News]

 

Police are now waiting for the result of a toxicology report into the death of mum-of-two Brenda Leyland, 63, to confirm their suspicion.

An inquest hearing heard that a post mortem examination found no other explanation for her death.

Sgt Kevin Taylor, told the inquest : "There was no evidence of foul play or third party involvement in the death."

Brenda fled form her village home to a hotel room after being outed by Sky TV News as an online tormentor of Madeleine McCann's parents Kate and Gerry.

Sky News chiefs now face a police probe over the apparent suicide of a housewife they unmasked as the Twitter troll.

They may question Sky's veteran crime reporter Martin Brunt who quncovered her activities.

The inquest was adjourned to allow police to probe the 'relevant events' leading up to the discovery of her body on Saturday.

Brenda, from Burton Overy, Leics, had made 4,220 postings about Kate and Gerry, both 46, on her Twitter account under the name @sweepyface.

She was told she was among a number of anti-McCann trolls whose abuse was contained in a 67-page dossier under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

TARGETED: Brenda made postings about Kate and Gerry McCann on Twitter under the name @sweepyface [PA]

Asked why she had targeted the couple she replied: "I'm entitled to do that."

The day before her body was discovered at the Marriott Hotel in Enderby, Leics, heart specialist Gerry told the BBC trolls who posted 'vile nonsense' about his family should be prosecuted.

Divorcee Brenda's ex-husband Michael identified her body on Sunday.

None of Brenda's family or friends attended the seven-minute hearing at Leicester Town Hall.

The inquest was adjourned until December 18.

Brenda's messages accused the McCanns of neglect and a cover-up over the disappearance of their then-three-year-old daughter during a 2007 family holiday in Portugal.

The McCanns, from Rothey, Leics, have been cleared of any involvement by Met Police probing the case.

The couple have been consulted by Scotland Yard over the troll dossier but declined to comment on Brenda's death.

McCann tweets journalist told to reveal source, 17 February 2015
McCann tweets journalist told to reveal source The Times

A coroner has demanded that Martin Brunt divulge his source - Rex Features
A coroner has demanded that Martin Brunt divulge his source - Rex Features

Fiona Hamilton Crime Correspondent
Published at 10:01PM, February 17 2015


A coroner has demanded that a Sky News reporter divulge his source for a story about a woman who was found dead after the broadcaster revealed that she had "trolled" the parents of Madeleine McCann.

The demand has raised fresh concerns about the state encroaching on journalists' rights to keep their sources confidential, in the wake of revelations that police forces looked into their phone records on hundreds of occasions.

Martin Brunt, Sky's crime correspondent, is due to give evidence next month at the inquest of Brenda Leyland, 63, whose body was found in October.

Mrs Leyland, of Burton Overy, Leicestershire, had been confronted days earlier as part of Mr Brunt's expose of a vitriolic online campaign against Kate and Gerry McCann. Their daughter, Madeleine, was three years old when she vanished from their holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007.

Mrs Leyland, a divorced mother of two, was said to have used the Twitter handle @sweepyface to post thousand of tweets about the McCanns, describing them as the "worst of humankind".

Leicestershire police wrote to Sky on behalf of the coroner, Catherine Mason, asking a series of questions including the identity of the person who was behind the dossier of tweets. Sky has said that it will protect its source, arguing that its rights are protected under European law. It is understood that neither the police nor the coroner have responded since.

Mr Brunt and Jonathan Levy, director of news gathering operations at Sky News, are expected to be called to give evidence as witnesses on March 20.

Coroners were given extra powers to question witnesses in new rules issued 18 months ago. Gavin Millar, QC, a prominent media lawyer, said: "I don't think coroners really understand the limits of their powers in terms of trying to force journalists to reveal their sources. It's a specialist area of law and they are not media lawyers. As the investigations of coroners become more forensic and more determined, and they are given extra powers to require information from witnesses, they are going to have to start confronting these issues and acquire some learning about the rights of journalists."

Bob Satwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said that it was "always worrying" when a journalist was asked to reveal their source because they should "obviously" remain confidential. He said that there had been a drive by the authorities to know journalistic sources, which had previously been "sacrosanct". He added: "Its almost like they think the media is a fair game, and that's a highly dangerous position."

The demand comes after the government promised to change legislation so that police must gain a judge's agreement before they can snoop on journalists.

Police admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to obtain email and phone communications between 82 journalists and 242 sources across 34 investigations in the past three years.

Gas KO of 'troll', 28 February 2015
Gas KO of 'troll' Daily Star (paper edition)

Gas KO of 'troll' Daily Star (paper edition)

 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

AN alleged Twitter troll found dead after she was confronted over claims she abused the parents of Madeleine McCann died of a helium overdose.

The body of Brenda Leyland, 63, was discovered in a Leicester hotel room last October, two days after being challenged over online abuse directed at Kate and Gerry McCann.

Leicester Coroner's Court recorded the "nature of the case" as a helium overdose in its list of hearings.

The full inquest into the death of Mrs Leyland, of Burton Overy, Leics, will take place on March 20 at Leicester Town Hall.

----------------

Twitter exchange in relation to this article

 
Twitter exchange in relation to Daily Star article of 28 February 2015

Brenda Leyland - Completed Inquest, 20 March 2015
Brenda Leyland - Completed Inquest Leicester City and South Leicestershire Coroner's Service

 
Brenda Leyland - Completed Inquest, 20 March 2015

Case No: 2686/14

Name of Deceased: LEYLAND, Brenda Kathryn Gabrielle

Gender Female

Date of Birth: 09/06/1951

Age: 63yrs

Town Burton Overy, Leicestershire

Medical Cause of Death

1a. Asphyxia
1b. Inhalation of helium

2. Citalopram toxicity

Circumstances

Brenda Leyland was found deceased in a hotel room at the Marriott Hotel, Leicester on the 4th October 2014. She had recently been upset by public exposure in the media and had been researching ways to end her life.

Inquest Status Held

Date Inquest Open 08/10/2014

Hearing Date 20/03/2015

Hearing Time 10.00

Type of Hearing Final ( HMC Mrs C.E.Mason ).

Date Inquest Closed 20/03/2015

Conclusion Suicide.

Inquest: McCann Troll's Death Was Suicide, 20 March 2015
Inquest: McCann Troll's Death Was Suicide Sky News

15:18, UK, Friday 20 March 2015

Brenda Leyland had tweeted under the name Sweepyface

By Ashish Joshi, Sky News Correspondent

A Leicester coroner has concluded a woman found dead days after she featured in a Sky News report into online trolling took her own life.


Brenda Leyland was found dead in a Leicester hotel room in October 2014.

An inquest into her death at Leicester's Coroners Court heard witness testimony from a toxicologist, two police officers, Mrs Leyland's former psychiatrist and two Sky News employees.

A written statement from Mrs Leyland's youngest son, Benjamin, was read to the court.

He said: "I have no doubt in my mind that the panic and fear that I heard in her voice after the Sky News interview was the final straw that pushed my mum to do what she did.

"She was broken, destroyed."

Mr Leyland, who lives in America, described his mother as a woman who "felt it hard to connect with people".

He wrote: "She struggled with depression. She had undergone psychiatric treatment and medicated for anxiety. The court was also told that there had been a previous suicide attempt."

Sky News' Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt, who challenged Brenda Leyland about her alleged online trolling in a report for the channel, said he had talked to Mrs Leyland on the telephone after approaching her but before the report had been broadcast.

He said: "I asked her how she was and she said 'Oh, I had thought about ending it all but I'm feeling better, I've had a drink I've spoken to my son who has told me I've been a silly, stupid woman."

Mr Brunt was asked by Coroner Catherine Mason if he thought it was a throwaway line.

He replied: "Yes".

Detective Sergeant Steven Hutchings told the court that Mrs Leyland had posted more than 2,000 tweets under the name Sweepyface.

Of these, 424 mentioned Gerry and Kate McCann. The couple's three-year-old daughter Madeleine was taken from the family's Portugal holiday apartment in 2007.

In recording a verdict of suicide, the coroner said: "I'm satisfied although Mrs Leyland had a mental health history, that others would not necessarily have known that she was suffering from mental health (problems).

"She had mentioned wanting to take her own life but then dismissed it. I don't think it could have been known to anybody that there was a definite intention for her to take her own life."

A Sky News statement issued after the coroner's verdict said the broadcaster was confident that no editorial guidelines were breached.

"The team at Sky News followed its editorial guidelines and pursued a story in a responsible manner that we believed was firmly in the public interest," the statement said.

"Brenda Leyland's tragic death highlights the unforeseeable human impact that the stories we pursue can have, and Sky News would like to extend its sincere condolences to her family."

Inquest into the death of Brenda Leyland at Leicester's Coroners Court, 20 March 2015
Inquest into the death of Brenda Leyland at Leicester's Coroners Court Twitter - Jerry Lawton

Jerry Lawton is the Daily Star chief crime reporter

 
Jerry Lawton tweets, 20 March 2015

Text version of above, in chronological order:

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:09 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Brenda Leyland, 63, killed herself with helium overdose after being outed as troll who targeted Madeleine McCann's parents, inquest hears

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:11 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Mrs Leyland found dead in Leicester hotel room with 2 helium canisters 2 days after being exposed as internet troll by Sky News

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:15 PM - 20 Mar 2015
She posted 424 tweets about Madeleine McCann's parents in 10 months. Son said exposure left her 'broken wreck & completely destroyed'

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:18 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Mrs Leyland's son told polcie she had long-standing mental health issues, had been admitted to a psychiatric unit & attempted suicide before

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:24 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Police: Mrs Leyland's tweets were not criminal but some messages she was sent by trolls after her TV exposure still under investigation

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:28 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Psychiatrist: Mrs Leyland had depression, unstable emotional personality, mood changes, was sensitive to stress & reacted unpredictably

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:33 PM - 20 Mar 2015
TV company: Saw no indication of Mrs Leyland's mental health issues, phoned to tell her of broadcast in advance, withheld her name/address

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:35 PM - 20 Mar 2015
TV company: Mrs Leyland was concerned McCanns left their child night she vanished & about Find Madeleine fund. Had questions for them,

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:36 PM - 20 Mar 2015
TV company: Mrs Leyland 'thought Twitter was a means to express opinions' and 'hoped that she had not done anything unlawful'

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:38 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Coroner: Sky News 'followed all proper guidelines' re investigation. Mrs Leyland invited reporter into her house. They then kept in touch

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:42 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Coroner: Mrs Leyland researched suicide on laptop & iPad found next to her. 'It could not have been known to anybody' what she was planning

Jerry Lawton@JerryLawton
4:43 PM - 20 Mar 2015
Coroner: No evidence of 3rd party involvement. Verdict - suicide. Plans to call for sale of potentially fatal helium gas to be regulated

Madeleine McCann: Sky News journalist 'devastated' after being told internet troll killed herself following TV report, 20 March 2015
Madeleine McCann: Sky News journalist 'devastated' after being told internet troll killed herself following TV report Daily Mirror

15:34, 20 March 2015 By Martin Fricker

Brenda Leyland, 63, was found dead in a hotel room after being exposed on Sky News for sending vile tweets to Kate and Gerry McCann

Inquest: Brenda Leyland checked into a hotel before taking her own life

Inquest: Brenda Leyland checked into a hotel before taking her own life

Respected Sky News journalist Martin Brunt has told how he was left "devastated" after an internet 'troll' who targeted Madeleine McCann's parents killed herself after he confronted her.

Brenda Leyland, 63, was found dead in a hotel room days after the long-serving crime reporter approached her outside her home.

The mum-of-two had been identified as the person behind the anonymous @sweepyface account - who posted comments about Gerry and Kate McCann.

The divorcee, who had a history of mental health problems, accused the pair of neglect and a cover-up over the disappearance of their daughter.

An inquest into Mrs Leyland's death was told she sent more than 400 tweets related to the tragic case in just 10 months - more than one a day.

Targeted: Kate McCann and her husband Gerry McCann

Targeted: Kate McCann and her husband Gerry McCann

Her messages featured in a dossier of evidence given to Scotland Yard about suspected online hounding of the McCanns.

She was confronted at her home in Burton Overy, Leics, by Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt last September.

After her face appeared in a broadcast on the TV channel two days later, Mrs Leyland checked into a Leicester hotel and killed herself.

Mr Brunt told her inquest today he was left "devastated" after being told about her death by his boss, Sky News head Jonathan Levy.

"I was devastated and I still am," he added. "The enormity of what happened will always be with me."

Her son Ben Leyland, who lives in America, said her 'outing' as @sweepyface left his mother "a broken wreck".

He added: "She was completely destroyed by what had occurred. It was the final straw that pushed my mum to do what she did."

Mr Brunt told the hearing at Leicester Town Hall how he discovered Mrs Leyland's identity after being handed the dossier by a third party.

He went to her home with a cameraman on September 30 last year and confronted her about the tweets - which were later found to not be unlawful.

Mrs Leyland invited him into her home after the initial confrontation and seemed "calm" and rational, he added.

She told him she was "entitled" to tweet her concerns the McCanns had left their children alone on the night Madeleine disappeared in 2007.

Mr Brunt, a respected veteran journalist, said he ended the conversation by telling her: "I hope I have not ruined your day".

She replied: "I don't know yet if you have ruined my day or my life."

Madeleine McCann: Mrs Leyland had sent tweets to the missing girl's parents

 

Madeleine McCann: Mrs Leyland had sent tweets to the missing girl's parents

Mr Brunt said he spoke to her again on the phone before his report was broadcast and she told him she had "thought about ending it all".

"It was a throw-away remark," he said. "She said she was feeling better. I had no idea about her mental background or history."

The Sky News broadcast was aired on October 2 and showed Mrs Leyland's face but did not name her or identify where she lived.

She later rang her son in Los Angeles before asking a neighbour to look after her cats while she "lay low", the inquest was told.

Mrs Leyland drove to the four-star Marriott Hotel on the outskirts of Leicester the following day.

Horrified staff discovered her body inside her £120 room the next morning and alerted police.

Sgt Kevin Taylor, from Leicestershire Police, said she was found lying on the bed.

Police discovered an iPad alongside her body which was open on a website giving instructions on how to commit suicide.

Coroner Catherine Mason said "all proper guidelines" had been followed by Sky News in their coverage of the story and gave a conclusion of suicide.

----------------

Troll suicide 'devastated' Sky's Brunt Daily Mirror (paper edition)

 
Troll suicide 'devastated' Sky's Brunt - Daily Mirror (paper edition)

Outed McCann critic gassed herself

BY MARTIN FRICKER
Saturday 21.03.15


A MUM of two killed herself after being exposed as an internet troll who targeted Madeleine McCann's parents, am inquest heard yesterday.

Brenda Leyland, 63, who posted hundreds of tweets, gassed herself and tried to overdose on pills after Sky News confronted her.

Her death left TV crime correspondent Martin Brunt "devastated" with him telling the inquest: "The enormity of what happened will always be with me."

Mrs Leyland was identified in a dossier given by a third party to Mr Brunt as being behind the @sweepyface account. The divorcee, who had a history of mental health issues, sent 400-plus tweets in 10 months accusing Gerry and Kate McCann of neglect and a cover-up over the 2007 disappearance of their daughter.

When confronted by Mr Brunt at her home in Burton Overy, Leics, she told him she was "entitled" to tweet her concerns, the inquest at Leicester Town Hall heard.

She later told him on the phone she "thought about ending it all".

The broadcast aired on October 2 but did not name Mrs Leyland, whose tweets were later ruled not unlawful.

She was found dead from "asphyxia" two days later in a hotel room. Coroner Catherine Mason said Sky had followed "all proper guidelines". Verdict: Suicide.

McCann 'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland 'killed herself', 20 March 2015
McCann 'Twitter troll' Brenda Leyland 'killed herself' BBC News

20 March 2015 Last updated at 17:34

Brenda Leyland was said to use the handle @sweepyface on Twitter

Brenda Leyland was said to use the handle @sweepyface on Twitter

A woman who "trolled" Madeleine McCann's family on Twitter killed herself days after she was challenged by reporters, an inquest concluded.

Brenda Leyland, 63, from Leicestershire, was found dead after she was confronted by Martin Brunt from Sky News over the abuse.

Mr Brunt told the inquest in Leicester he had been "devastated" by her death.

Coroner Catherine Mason concluded she had killed herself and called for sales of helium to be regulated.

Confronted at home

The inquest heard that divorcee Mrs Leyland, of Burton Overy, posted 400 tweets about the McCann family between November 2013 and September 2014.

Madeleine went missing while on a family holiday in Portugal in 2007.

Mr Brunt told the inquest he and a cameraman confronted Mrs Leyland after Sky News obtained a dossier of alleged Twitter "trolls" handed to police.

She initially told him she was "entitled" to send the messages, later inviting him into her home for an interview.

Gerry McCann, with his wife Kate, previously told the BBC more needed to be done about online abuse

Gerry McCann, with his wife Kate, previously told the BBC more needed to be done about online abuse

He told the hearing he kept her informed of his plans - which included picturing but not naming her - because he was aware it could have an impact.

Asked by the coroner if there was anything which indicated a concern for her life, Mr Brunt said: "No, but when I asked her how she was, she said 'oh I have thought about ending it all but I am feeling better - I have had a drink and spoken to my son'".

He said he thought her comments were a throwaway remark and had no idea about her history of depression or a previous attempt at suicide.

She was found dead in a Leicester hotel after an overdose on 4 October.

"I was devastated, I still am and the enormity of what's happened will always be with me," Mr Brunt added.

'Panic and fear'

The court also heard evidence from her son Ben, who said he believed the confrontation had been the final straw.

In a statement, he said he believed she was "completely destroyed" by what had occurred.

He said he heard "panic and fear" in her voice when he spoke to her after the Sky interview.

A Sky News spokesman said the news team had followed its editorial guidelines "in a responsible manner", adding the story was "firmly in the public interest".

"Brenda Leyland's tragic death highlights the unforeseeable human impact that the stories we pursue can have, and Sky News would like to extend its sincere condolences to her family," the Sky statement said.

None of the messages sent by Mrs Leyland were directed personally at the McCanns, who have "no significant presence" on social media.

That was a hoax!, 20 March 2015
That was a hoax! Martin Brunt Twitter

 
Martin Brunt tweet, 20 March 2015

That was a hoax!

Martin Brunt @skymartinbrunt
5:42 PM - 20 Mar 2015


[Note: This is the only tweet on Martin Brunt's account since 17 March 2015 and there is no obvious indication, elsewhere on Twitter, to indicate what Mr Brunt is specifically referring to here as being a 'hoax'.]

Sky News man 'devastated' by suicide of Twitter troll, 20 March 2015
Sky News man 'devastated' by suicide of Twitter troll The Independent

Brenda Leyland

The Coroner said Mrs Leyland had been 'recently upset by public exposure in the media' but there had been a number of issues surrounding her death

CAHAL MILMO - Friday 20 March 2015

For the Sky News television crew it was the "fronting-up" necessary to conclude a journalistic investigation. For Brenda Leyland, it was the beginning of a public exposure for distasteful conduct which she could not endure.

The mother-of-two had for at least four years been posting anonymous tweets about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and for much of that time that the messages had included abuse targeted at the missing child's parents.

On 30 September last year, Mrs Leyland’s behaviour, which had seen her sending up to 50 "trolling" Twitter messages a day, caught up with her when she was confronted by Sky News' crime correspondent Martin Brunt at her Leicestershire home.

Mrs Leyland, 63, a divorcee with a history of mental illness, initially appeared defiant, telling Mr Brunt she was "entitled" to use her Twitter account to attack Gerry and Kate McCann. She later told Mr Brunt she had thought of "ending it all" as a result of her exposure.

The precise role of the mother-of-two's public outing as a Twitter troll in a subsequent Sky News report in what happened next cannot be known. But four days after she was doorstepped by the camera crew her body was found in a room in a nearby Marriott Hotel.

In a statement read to the inquest, her younger son Ben said: "My mother had always struggled with depression and was prone to anxiety and physical health issues she had been told were effectively untreatable. There is no doubt in my mind that the Sky News interview was the final straw that pushed her do what she died."

A coroner today ruled that Mrs Leyland had taken her own life by taking an overdose.

Catherine Mason, the Coroner for South Leicestershire, said Mrs Leyland had been "recently upset by public exposure in the media" but there had been a number of issues surrounding her death. The coroner added: "I am satisfied that no-one could have known what she was going to do and how she was going to do it."

Mr Brunt, a respected veteran broadcaster, spoke of his personal trauma at the suicide of the subject of one of his reports and said he had considered the comment from Ms Leyland she had considered "ending it all" a throwaway remark.

The journalist told the inquest: "I was devastated, I still am and the enormity of what's happened will always be with me."

The hearing was told that the Sky News team had approached Mrs Leyland twice on 30 September last year after Mr Brunt was passed a dossier containing evidence that she was one of a number of trolls targeting the McCanns with unpleasant messages arising from the disappearance of Madeleine in 2007.

In the ten months leading up to her death, Mrs Leyland, from Burton Overy, Leicestershire, sent 400 tweets relating to the couple. One message attributed to her @Sweepyface account read: "Q 'how long must the Mccanns suffer' answer 'for the rest of their miserable lives'."

Mr Brunt approached her after she emerged from her house to get into a waiting car. The journalist said: "I was rather surprised that she did speak to me and did engage with me. The first question was 'Why are you using your Twitter account to attack the McCanns?' She didn't say much but she did say 'I am entitled to'."

The inquest heard that Ms Leyland declined the offer a more considered interview later that day, insisting that her actions were not unlawful. She then contacted Mr Brunt the following day after he had given her his number and asked her to call if she had any concerns.

The journalist said he had explained his plans for his report to her, which showed her face but did not name her or identify her village.

Asked if there was anything in Ms Leyland's voice which gave rise to "real and immediate" concern for her life, he replied: "No, but when I asked her how she was, she said 'Oh I have thought about ending it all but I am feeling better - I have had a drink and spoken to my son'."

Mr Brunt said he had not considered the remark to be serious and had had no idea of Ms Leyland's history, which included a previous suicide attempt.

Sky News said it had pursued the story which it considered to be in the public interest in a "responsible manner". A spokesman for the channel said: "Brenda Leyland's tragic death highlights the unforeseeable human impact that the stories we pursue can have, and Sky News would like to extend its sincere condolences to her family."

Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, said it had received 171 complaints concerning the original report. It is understood it will now consider those complaints in the light of the coroner's verdict.

McCann Twitter troll killed herself after being exposed on TV, 20 March 2015
McCann Twitter troll killed herself after being exposed on TV Daily Star

AN INTERNET troll who posted hundreds of abusive tweets attacking Madeleine McCann's parents killed herself after she was exposed on national TV.

By Jerry Lawton / Published 20th March 2015

INQUEST: Brenda Leyland was unmasked after Sky News after 10 months tweeting abusive messages to the McCanns [SWNS]

Mum-of-two Brenda Leyland, 63, spent 10 months firing off messages about former GP Kate McCann, 47, and her heart specialist husband Gerry, 46, using the Twitter account @Sweepyface.

She was unmasked after Sky News was handed a dossier of offensive social media posts about the McCanns – including her's - which were under investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

Journalist Martin Brunt confronted Mrs Leyland on camera outside her home and asked why she was tweeting about the couple whose then-three-year-old daughter vanished while on holiday in Portugal in 2007.

She told him: "I'm entitled to."

After inviting him in she explained she was 'particularly concerned' the McCanns had left their daughter in their apartment the night she disappeared and had 'concerns about fund-raising' for the Find Madeleine campaign.

She told him she had 'questions' for the McCanns, thought Twitter was a 'means to express opinions' and 'hoped she had not done anything unlawful'.

The TV news channel broadcast its investigation unmasking her as a troll 48 hours later.

Two days later she was found dead in her room at the Marriott Hotel, Leicester, with two canisters of helium gas – used to blow up party balloons – at her side.

An iPad nearby showed a website describing how to commit suicide using the gas, which can prove fatal in large quantities.

Police said she had used the tablet and her laptop to research how to kill herself.

Yesterday an inquest in Leicester heard she died from an overdose of helium and anti-depressants.

Her son Ben told police his mum, from Burton Overy, Leics, had a history of mental illness, had spent a long period in a psychiatric hospital and previously attempted suicide.

When he viewed her Twitter account he was shocked to see her profile picture was of his dog and she stated she lived in Los Angeles.

He said she was 'proud but stubborn', was worried about how she was viewed by others in her 'social circle’, and her exposure as a troll was the 'final straw'.

"She was a broken wreck and completely destroyed by what had happened," he added.

Mr Brunt told the inquest he had no knowledge of nor saw any sign of her mental health issues and was 'devastated' by her death.

"The enormity of what happened will always be with me," he said.

McCann troll suicide after TV news shame, 21 March 2015
McCann troll suicide after TV news shame The Sun (paper edition)

 
McCann troll suicide after TV news shame - The Sun (paper edition)

By ANDREW PARKER
Saturday, March 21. 2015


AN internet troll who targeted the family of missing Madeleine McCann killed herself after being exposed on TV news.

Brenda Leyland, 63, called Kate and Gerry McCann "the worst of humankind" and said they should "suffer for the rest of their miserable lives".

Her body was found in a hotel four days after she was unmasked by Sky News, an inquest heard yesterday. Mrs Leyland had a history of mental illness, but her family said the TV report was the "last straw".

Reporter Martin Brunt told how he confronted the divorced mum at her home in Burton Overy, Leics, over her 424 abusive tweets sent under the name @sweepyface. She told him he had "ruined her life".

Mr Brunt later rang to tell her how Sky would run the story. He told the inquest in Leicester: "When I asked how she was, she said, 'I have thought about ending it all but I am feeling better now'.

"I felt it was a throwaway remark. I was devastated when I found out she had died. The enormity of what happened will always stay with me."

Coroner Catherine Mason said Mr Brunt did not breach Ofcom broadcast guidelines, but Mrs Leyland was upset by her media exposure. She died from asphyxia.

The coroner said: "She researched ways to take her own life, then purchased the items required. She was found in a scene that mirrored the research." Verdict: Suicide.

Suicide threats are always serious, 23 March 2015
Suicide threats are always serious The Independent

Will Gore

WILL GORE
Monday 23 March 2015







----------------

A coroner ruled on Friday that Brenda Leyland, who was confronted last year by a Sky News TV crew and who killed herself some days later, had intended to take her own life. Her son said that being challenged by a reporter was the "final straw" for a woman who had long struggled with depression.

Ms Leyland had for two years been posting anonymous and hateful messages about the parents of Madeleine McCann. She was a legitimate subject of journalistic inquiry. What came next could not have been foreseen.

Sadly, the threat of suicide is occasionally raised by people who find themselves the subject of media interest and want to keep something out of the public glare. There are few more troubling situations for journalists to find themselves in and, despite the perception that hacks are uncaring fly-by-nights, no such threat is ever dismissed lightly.

Will Gore is Deputy Managing Editor of The Independent, i, Independent on Sunday and the Evening Standard

With thanks to Nigel at McCann Files

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