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6 Oct, 2014 15:53

Sky News faces online backlash after death of McCann ‘troll’

Sky News faces online backlash after death of McCann ‘troll’

Sky News faces a social media backlash after a woman suspected of ‘trolling’ the parents of Madeline McCann was doorstepped by reporters. Users allege Sky News is responsible for the woman’s death after her body was found hours later.

Brenda Leyland, 63, was found dead in a hotel room on Saturday, according to police. Hours before, Sky News reporter Martin Brunt had confronted Leyland over her role in a campaign of online abuse.

Leyland, who used the Twitter handle @sweepyface, reportedly posted messages attacking Gerry and Kate McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in Portugal in 2007.

Sky News tracked Leyland down to her home in Burton Overy, Leicestershire. When Brunt asked Leyland why she was using Twitter to attack the McCanns, she said, “I’m entitled to do that.” Although her village and name are not mentioned in the news report, newspapers later revealed her identity.

Following her death, critics of the coverage took to social media to question whether Sky News was right to doorstep Leyland, or whether it should have left the investigation to the police.

The tragedy of #BrendaLeyland is another example of trial by media who feel free 2 expedite justice according to THEIR own rules @SkyNews

— nature (@Natureroots72) October 5, 2014

A Facebook page was quickly set up calling for journalist Martin Brunt to be fired. The page reads: “Martin Brunt should be sacked after stalking and hounding an innocent woman, leading to her tragic untimely death. RIP Brenda Leyland.”


Police say they are not treating the death as suspicious, and are waiting for the coroner’s report.

Sky News released a statement, declining to comment on Leyland’s death.

“We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time,” it read.