McCanns’ online abuser posted 3,000 tweets about couple

Brenda Leyland found dead in hotel after Sky News interview about her abusive tweets

Gerry and Kate McCann. British police are reviewing a file of the worst abuse directed against the couple. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

Gerry and Kate McCann. British police are reviewing a file of the worst abuse directed against the couple. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

 

The English woman who was found dead in a hotel room after being confronted by a TV crew about her online abuse of the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann had posted 3,000 tweets in a year.

Brenda Leyland (63) was asked by Sky News last week why she had directed online abuse at Kate and Gerry McCann before she invited the cameras into her home.

In some tweets, Leyland accused the couple of neglecting their daughter at the Portuguese holiday resort before she went missing in May 2007, or claiming they had used money raised for Madeleine.

Another message credited to the Twitter “sweepyface” account used by Leyland reads: “#mccann To Kate and Gerry, you will be hated by millions for the rest of your miserable, evil, conniving lives, have a nice day!”

She was filmed for the Sky News report, but not named, and nor was her home village identified, but she was named in later newspaper reports.

 

Persistent campaign

Leyland was one of a large number of people to have mounted a persistent campaign against the McCanns. When questioned by Sky, she said she believed she was “entitled” to do so.

 

Some of those involved – though not Leyland – have threatened over the years to kidnap the couple’s twins, or have threatened violence against the parents.

The Leyland report was cleared by lawyers for Sky News before being broadcast and observed the TV station’s rules, which justify “a significant intrusion” into an individual’s privacy. Sky News is confident, according to staff, that its conduct will be cleared by any regulatory authorities. So far, 60 people have complained since Leyland’s death to TV regulator Ofcom.

 

Calls for sacking

More than 1,000 people “liked” a Facebook page calling for the sacking of the Sky correspondent Martin Brunt, while others demanded that journalists should not be allowed to call to someone’s home to ask questions.

 

Brunt faced an increasing wave of criticism and abuse on social media yesterday. He is said to be very upset by Leyland’s death, but has yet to make a public statement.

In a brief comment, 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.”

British police are reviewing a file of the worst abuse directed against the McCanns, which was prepared by lawyers acting on behalf of the couple. The Metropolitan Police last week said the inquiry was in its early stages, adding that no one had yet been interviewed in connection with the investigation.

The local pub landlord in Leyland’s village, Dean Randall, told the Daily Mail that the dead woman had been “a perfectly pleasant person”, but the tweets she had posted about the McCanns were “absolutely wrong”.

“My locals are absolutely shocked by what has happened. No one is blaming the media. They have a job to do reporting the news, and she had admitted sending those tweets,” Randall told the newspaper.