UK

'McCann Troll' Brenda Leyland Found Dead In Leicestershire Hotel

05/10/2014 21:50 BST | Updated 06/10/2014 11:59 BST

UPDATE: Katie Hopkins Sets Off Firestorm With 'How Many More Must Die?' Tweet Aimed At McCanns

The death of Brenda Leyland, the 63-year-old 'troll' who reportedly directed a campaign of online abuse at the parents of Madeleine McCann, has sparked a backlash across social media.

Sky News reporter Martin Brunt confronted Leyland last week over her role in the vitriol, with the pensioner refusing to answer questions from the broadcaster. A local newspaper reported that Leyland left her village of Burton Overy, Leicestershire shortly after the exchange with Sky News.

It was revealed that, using the Twitter handle @sweepyface, Mrs Leyland posted messages attacking Kate and Gerry McCann family. Police are now looking at a dossier of abuse posted on Twitter, Facebook and chat forums.

She was found dead in a hotel room on Saturday, according to police, who are not treating the death as suspicious.

Following news of the death, many Twitter users focused on Sky News, questioning whether the broadcaster was right to doorstep Leyland rather than leave the matter to the police.

A Facebook page was quickly set up entitled Sack Martin Brunt. The introduction to the page reads: "Martin Brunt should be sacked after stalking and hounding an innocent woman, leading to her tragic untimely death. RIP Brenda Leyland."

Confirming the death, a police spokeswoman said: “Leicestershire 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.”

The death is not being treated as suspicious.

A Twitter user called Ben Leyland, who was identified in reports as the dead woman's son, wrote: "I love you mum and I will miss you forever."

sky

Gerry McCann said on Friday that he had ''grave concerns'' about letting his twins use the internet after threats of violence and kidnapping by trolls who have been targeting the family.

He said he and wife Kate did not read such material because it was too ''upsetting''.

Mr McCann 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,'' Mr McCann said.

''Clearly something needs to be done about the abuse on the internet. "

He added: ''I think we probably need more people charged.''

Asked about the @sweepyface tweets, he said he had not read them.

''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 fund 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.''

If you've been affected by the issues in this article, please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

McCann's outside court in Lisbon

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