A Burton Overy woman who fled to a hotel after being outed as a Twitter ‘troll’ by a Sky News investigative team died of asphyxiation after inhaling helium, an inquest heard this morning (Friday).
The body of Brenda Leyland was found on Saturday, October 4, last year at the Marriott Hotel in Enderby, Leicester, two days after a Sky News report exposing internet “trolling” of Kate and Gerry McCann.
Mrs Leyland, the woman at the centre of the McCann Twitter abuse storm, committed suicide, the coroner confirmed today.
The 63-year-old Mrs Leyland, from Main Street, Burton Overy, took her own life by inhaling helium, causing asphyxiation, Coroner Catherine Mason ruled at Leicester Town Hall.
Mrs Leyland had been accused in a Sky News report on TV of being one of the ‘trolls’ writing abusive messages on Twitter about the parents of missing Leicestershire girl Madeleine McCann.
When asked about her criticism of the McCanns, she told Sky News reporter Martin Brunt on camera “I’m entitled to do that”.
The coroner told the inquest Mrs Leyland had been “recently upset by public exposure in the media and had been researching ways to take her own life”.
Mrs Mason said she would be writing to the relevant authorities about regulating the sale of helium, which is commonly used to inflate party balloons.
Police confirmed at the inquest that more than 400 messages from Mrs Leyland’s ‘Sweepyface’ Twitter account had been about the McCanns in the ten months before her death.
Sgt Kevin Taylor said he was one of the first people on the scene of Mrs Leyland death in the hotel.
Mrs Leyland’s youngest son, Benjamin Leyland, told the inquest via written statement that his mother had been “completely destroyed” by the subsequent exposure on Sky News.
Giving evidence at the inquest, Sky News reporter Mr Brunt said he had received a dossier about Twitter abuse against the McCanns from a third-party who he did not name.
Mr Brunt said his research had led him to confront Mrs Leyland outside her home in Burton Overy.
He said he had also spoken to her off-camera inside her home.
Sky News had made the decision not to name Mrs Leyland in their report although her face was clearly shown, he told the inquest.
Of her subsequent suicide, Mr Brunt said: “I was devastated and I still am, and the enormity of what happened will always be with me.”
Psychologist Dr Kajetan Zakrzewski told the inquest Mrs Leyland had previous psychiatric problems mainly relating to depression.
Coroner Mrs Mason recorded a verdict of suicide.
Story by Alex Dawson.