McCann family 'troll' found dead after Sky interview

63-year-old Brenda Leyland was alleged to have abused the parents of missing girl Madeleine via Twitter

Brenda Leyland
(Image credit: Sky News)

Brenda Leyland, who admitted sending abusive messages to Kate and Gerry McCann, has been found dead in a Leicester hotel, days after she was confronted by Sky News about her 'trolling'.

Leyland, 63, was found dead on Saturday, says The Guardian. Police are not treating her death as suspicious.

She was said by neighbours to have left her home last week after she was 'doorstepped' by Sky. The Guardian points out that no direct link can be made between the interview and Leyland's death.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Sky broadcast its encounter with Leyland last Wednesday, claiming she was one of dozens of people who attacked the McCanns, whose daughter Madeleine went missing from Praia da Luz in 2007, via online forums including Twitter.

Crime correspondent Martin Brunt confronted Leyland as she got into her car outside her home in the Leicestershire village of Burton Overy. He asked her why she had sent abusive messages to the couple.

After initially refusing to answer, Leyland said: "I'm entitled to." When she was told a file of evidence had been passed to the police by Sky, she said: "That's fair enough."

Leyland later invited the reporter into her home without cameras and explained she "had questions for the McCanns" but "hoped she hadn't broken the law" in her posts.

Sky said Leyland had used the Twitter alias 'Sweepyface' to send abuse. It said she was not the worst of the several alleged abusers. Police are said to be investigating the allegations.

The BBC says Sky has issued a statement saying: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

Madeleine McCann's parents subjected to 'venomous' web abuse

02 October

An 80-page dossier of "venomous" internet abuse directed at the family of Madeleine McCann has been handed to the Metropolitan Police, reveals Sky News.

Detectives are in discussion with the Crown Prosecution Service after receiving the dossier, which includes graphic images, death threats and groundless suggestions that Kate and Gerry McCann were involved in the disappearance of their daughter in Portugal in 2007.

Included in the catalogue of Tweets, Facebook posts and messages from online forums are suggestions that the McCanns should be tortured or killed, and calls for them to "burn in hell". Some of the vitriolic postings are directed at Madeleine's younger siblings.

In a typical exchange on an internet forum, one poster writes: "These 2 should burn in hell". The replies it received include: "I will supply the petrol" and "I'll supply the lighter - happily". Another poster writes that they would like to see Madeleine's parents "smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses".

The campaigners who compiled the dossier are calling on police and MPs to act against the trolls. The head of the appeal 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."

In response, Scotland Yard said: "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."

Earlier this week another internet troll, 33-year-old Peter Nunn, who sent abusive Twitter messages threatening to rape Labour MP Stella Creasy after she campaigned to put Jane Austen on the £10 note, was jailed for 18 weeks.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.