UK woman accused of harassing Madeleine McCann family found dead

Updated 9:21 AM EDT, Mon October 6, 2014
Scotland Yard is investigating alleged online abuse of the family of missing girl Madeleine McCann.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Scotland Yard is investigating alleged online abuse of the family of missing girl Madeleine McCann.

Story highlights

A UK woman is found dead days after being accused of being a "troll" by Sky News

Sky confronted her over claims of online attacks against the family of Madeleine McCann

Madeleine disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007, aged 3

British police reopened their investigation into her disappearance in July 2013

CNN —  

A British woman has been found dead in a hotel room, days after being confronted by a television reporter who accused her of online attacks on the family of missing girl Madeleine McCann.

Madeleine was a few weeks shy of her fourth birthday when she disappeared from her family’s holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, on Portugal’s Algarve coast, in 2007.

Her parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, launched a massive publicity campaign to find their daughter and say they continue to believe she is still alive.

On Thursday, Britain’s Sky News reported that London’s Metropolitan Police Service – also known as Scotland Yard – had launched an investigation into alleged online abuse of the McCanns.

It showed video of Sky reporter Martin Brunt approaching Brenda Leyland, who it said went by the Twitter handle of “Sweepyface.”

The footage shows Brunt asking Leyland why she “was attacking (the McCanns) so regularly.”

Leyland excuses herself and walks away before turning and saying “I’m entitled to do that.”

When Brunt asks if Leyland is concerned that Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service is considering investigating the alleged “campaign of abuse,” she replies, “No.”

Read: Internet trolls – what to do about scourge of Web

Leicestershire Police said in a statement on Monday that police had been called on Saturday after Leyland’s body was found in a hotel room in Grove Park, on the southwestern edges of the English city of Leicester.

“Ms Leyland’s death is not being treated as suspicious and a file is being prepared for the Coroner. Officers acting on behalf of the Coroner will look into the circumstances surrounding and prior to her unexpected death,” it said.

A spokeswoman for Sky News said Monday: “We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time.”

Scotland Yard confirmed that its officers were looking into allegations of malicious communications with the McCann family, having received a letter and other documentation on September 9.

“They are assessing its contents and consulting with the CPS and the McCann family,” it said. “Nobody has been interviewed by MPS officers in relation to this matter.”

Kate and Gerry McCann left Madeleine and her younger twin siblings asleep in the apartment on May 3, 2007, while they went for dinner with friends at a tapas restaurant nearby. Her mother checked on the children about 10 p.m. and discovered her daughter missing.

Scotland Yard reopened its investigation into Madeleine’s disappearance in July 2013 after a two-year review of the original probe. Portuguese police reopened their investigation last October.

Read: No new evidence found during Portugal dig

Read: Four suspects questioned in Portugal

An eight-day search of the resort town in June this year uncovered no new evidence, Scotland Yard said.