British woman accused of abusing parents of missing girl over Twitter found dead

LONDON (AFP) - A British woman accused by a television station of directing Twitter abuse at the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann has been found dead, press reports said on Sunday.

Ms Brenda Leyland, 63, was confronted on the street by a Sky News reporter who accused her of being in a group of online "trolls" who directed abuse at the McCanns, whose daughter has been missing since 2007. Asked by reporter Martin Brunt: "Why are you using your Twitter account to attack the McCanns?" Ms Leyland replied: "I'm entitled to do that."

Told that her activities had been reported to the police, Ms Leyland replied "That's fair enough". The filmed encounter was aired on British television on Wednesday.

The BBC reported that Ms Leyland was found dead in a hotel in Leicester, in the East Midlands of England on Saturday. A police spokesman said that officers were called "to reports of a body of a woman in a hotel room". "Identification of the deceased is a matter for the coroner. The death is not being treated as suspicious," the spokesman said.

The British press have reported that the police are investigating abuse over social media towards the McCanns.

The couple were initially named as suspects in their three-year-old daughter's disappearance while on holiday in Portugal, but were cleared of any involvement.

The unsolved disappearance of Madeleine, one of the most publicised in recent times, has given rise to numerous conspiracy theories.

On Friday, Madeleine's father Gerry McCann told BBC radio that his wife Kate and their nine-year-old twins had been threatened online.

"There have been other instances where people are threatening to kidnap our children. People are threatening violence against Kate and myself," Mr McCann said.

"I do think we need to make examples of people who are causing damage."

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