Missing Madeleine: alleged online troll found dead

LONDON (AP) – A woman who was accused of sending Internet abuse to the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann has been found dead in a hotel room. Her death has revived debate about media responsibility and how best to respond to online “trolls.”

Television channel Sky News identified 63-year-old Brenda Leyland as a Twitter user who had attacked Kate and Gerry McCann under the name “sweepyface.” Last week a Sky News reporter confronted Leyland on camera about the alleged abuse.

Leicestershire Police said the body of a 63-year-old woman was found in a hotel in Leicester, central England, on Saturday. The force said the death is not being treated as suspicious.

Sky News said Monday it was saddened by Leyland’s death but that it would be “inappropriate to speculate or comment further.”

Madeleine McCann disappeared from a Portuguese vacation resort in May 2007 during a family holiday, days before her fourth birthday. The still-unsolved disappearance sparked intense media interest around the world.

The McCanns have complained about media intrusion, and are suing a former Portuguese detective over a 2008 book that alleged they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

Last week police said they were examining a dossier of material about the McCanns from social media and online forums.

On Friday, Gerry McCann said the family had been subjected to threats of violence and kidnapping.

“I think we probably need more people charged,” he told the BBC.

“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.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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