1. This is the moment last Thursday when Brenda Leyland was confronted by Sky News about her alleged online abuse of Gerry and Kate McCann, parents of the missing child Madeleine.
2. Reporter Martin Brunt went to her home in Burton Overy, Leicestershire, to ask if she was worried that a dossier of evidence of her allegedly abusive tweets had been handed to the Crown Prosecution Service. She said “no”.
She also said, very softly, “I’m entitled to,” referring to her tweets about the McCanns.
3. Three days later, at 1.42pm on Saturday, she was found dead at the Marriott hotel in Leicester.
Her Twitter account – @Sweepyface – was deleted last week, but her tweets can still be seen via this archive which was being shared on Twitter on Monday morning and is purportedly all the tweets from that account.
So what was in the dossier that Sky News said was being handed over to the Crown Prosecution Service? What did @Sweepyface actually say?
4. Her first tweet, from December 2010, was about the McCanns and accuses others of “unhelpful and uninspired trolling”. Over the next four years she sent 4,625 tweets, very rarely on any other subject.
Leyland was part of a subculture of people on Twitter who vociferously ask questions of the McCanns on Twitter – up to and including the conspiracy theory that they were somehow involved in Madeleine’s disappearence.
5. Leyland’s account went mostly dormant in 2011 and 2012 but returned with gusto in 2013, some days posting more than 50 tweets, most beginning with the #McCann hashtag.
Leyland normally started early in the morning, often before 9am and sometimes as early as 7am, and would tweet throughout the day, sometimes until midnight.
11. To say she was obsessed with the McCanns would be an understatement. She would tweet about the couple’s various court and select committee appearances for more than three hours straight.
She would spend entire mornings or evenings conversing with other sceptics, arguing with McCann supporters, or just spouting her views on the latest angle to the case.
19. Before her encounter with Brunt, Leyland was a keen Sky News viewer. On 29 September, five days before she died, Leyland tweeted that Brunt had started following her on Twitter.
This was the day she stopped tweeting and appears to also have been when the @Sweepyface account was deleted.
20. Leyland was different in many ways from others who have come to public attention through sending offensive or malicious tweets.
Most observers would agree she was offensive, angry, and bent on causing harm. And there are far worse tweets than the ones listed here – you them read them at this link.
But Leyland’s language was polite and measured. She rarely swore (out of more than 4,500 tweets, only 16 contained the word “fuck”).
There were none of the physical threats and sexual violence that have typified other high profile “Twitter troll” cases, such as the campaign of abuse targeted at Stella Creasy MP and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez (which led to the jailing of Peter Nunn last week).
Between bursts of anger and invective aimed straight at the McCann family and what she saw as a cadre of blinkered supporters, Leyland occasionally showed a sense of fairness, and was often keen to stress that a child had gone missing.
Leyland saw her tweets as a public service – she clearly believed that an injustice was taking place. “I’m committed to (finding) the truth of Maddie’s death,” she said on 15 August this year.
The tweets also give the impression that tweeting about the case was her hobby and that she enjoyed it.
There was a social side to it too. The same names keep cropping up in her timeline, and although she mentioned blocking several “vicious pro supporters”, she engaged in some robust Twitter debate, such as the time she called an opponent “an old biddy with huge teeth who tells lies on social media”.
21. She did not fit the usual profile of a malicious speech offender.
Whereas most people convicted of “trolling” offences so far in the UK have been young and misguided, some with drug or alcohol problems, Leyland was a 63-year-old divorcee with two children who had attended Goldsmiths University and a Catholic convent school, the Daily Mail reported.
22. Her sudden death – plus the footage of her being challenged by Sky News, which has spread like wildfire online – caused an outpouring of sympathy on Twitter this morning, with many blaming Sky News for its perceived role in her death.
25. A question remains of how the McCanns (who say they don’t use social media) were alerted to Leyland’s tweets. In a Twitter Q&A on 2 October, the day he visited Leyland’s home, Brunt said:
27. Sky said in a statement on Monday:
We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time.
29. Her son, Ben, posted this on Facebook yesterday.
You can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90, or click here to find out more about its services.
Sky News did not reveal the name or location of Brenda Leyland in its initial report. An earlier version of this post said it did name Leyland