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Internet ‘troll’ in missing girl case found dead after news report

LONDON — A woman accused of posting abusive messages on social media about the parents of missing British girl Madeleine McCann was found dead two days after a Sky News reporter confronted her on camera about the matter.

Brenda Leyland was questioned by the reporter last week outside her home in Leicestershire, central England, and was identified as one of the so-called “trolls” said to have posted comments about Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter vanished aged three while they were on holiday in Portugal in 2007.

Leyland, 63, was found dead on Saturday, two days after the broadcaster’s special report. Leicestershire police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

“We were saddened to hear of the death of Brenda Leyland. It would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further at this time,” a Sky News spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

British broadcasting regulator Ofcom said on Monday it was looking into the Sky report, adding it had received 34 complaints about it.

“No decision has been made as to whether an investigation will be opened at this point,” a spokesman said.

Madeleine McCann went missing from her bedroom at a Portuguese holiday resort while her parents were dining at a nearby restaurant. The girl’s fate remains a mystery.

Her parents were named as suspects by Portuguese police four months after her disappearance but in 2008 Portugal’s public prosecutor dropped the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Sky News had reported that police were in talks with British prosecutors over an 80-page file detailing online abuse aimed at the McCanns. Leyland said it was “fair enough” when told she was one of those who had been reported to the police.

In the video, which was on the Sky News website, Leyland initially declined to comment on the messages she was accused of posting, but then said she was “entitled” to her views. (Reporting By Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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