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Sky News ‘saddened’ by death of woman it exposed as alleged McCann ‘troll’

By Press Association and Press Gazette

Sky News said it was "saddened" to hear of the death of an alleged Twitter 'troll' the channel confronted on the air last week.

Brenda Leyland, 63, who was identified as one of the "trolls" posting hate messages aimed at the parents of Madeleine McCann, was found dead in a hotel.

Leyland's death came days after she was accused by Sky News reporter Martin Brunt of being one of the people behind an online campaign against the couple.

She was tracked down to her house in Burton Overy and confronted about her online activities. It was revealed that, using the Twitter handle @sweepyface, she posted messages attacking the family.

Following news of her death a Sky News statement said: "We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time."

The encounter was shown last week and days later, it was reported she had fled her home.

Asked why she was using her Twitter account to attack the couple, who live with their younger children, nine-year-old twins, in Rothley, Leicestershire, she said: "I'm entitled to do that."

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A Leicestershire Police spokesman said: "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 (Enderby, Leicester).

"Officers have attended the scene and a file is being prepared for the coroner. Identification of the deceased is a matter for the coroner. The death is not being treated as suspicious."

The father of Madeleine McCann called on Friday for an example to be made of ''vile'' internet trolls who have been targeting the family.

Gerry McCann said he had ''grave concerns'' about letting his twins use the internet after threats of violence and kidnapping.

The comments, in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, came after it emerged that police were looking at a dossier of abuse posted on Twitter, Facebook and chat forums.

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

He 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,'' 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 find 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.''

A Twitter who has been identified in reports as the dead woman's son, wrote: "I love you mum and I will miss you forever."

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