Web trolls target Hillsborough families

22 November 2011 01:01
Evil internet 'trolls' are mocking the families of Hillsborough victims by offering bogus cash and support.

Police are now investigating the sick hoax which led to people still grieving the 1989 tragedy being befriended online and then cruelly dumped. The probe will look into the complex trick, which involved fakers promising a £250,000 donation to the justice campaign and even getting romantically involved with a victim’s sister. Anne Williams, who lost teenage son Kevin in the disaster and set up the Hope for Hillsborough charity, was one of those taken in. She said: “I thought these people were genuine. Now I think, how could they be so cruel? “Many survivors of Hillsborough helped them and gave their time and emotions.” The scam began when a Facebook user named “Sean O’Connor” befriended Amanda Tootle, sister of Peter, who died at Hillsborough. Claiming his brother “Max O’Connor” was a survivor, the two became close and often chatted online. But suddenly, as the pair planned to meet in person, news came through that Sean had unexpectedly died. That led to “Max” starting to chat with Hillsborough survivor John Herbert. He described losing a leg serving in the Army, but considered the football semi-final tragedy a “far worse experience”. Another Facebook user “Zoe” was then introduced as Max and Sean’s sister and Max told Mrs Williams his late brother had left £250,000 for her campaign. He even produced a convincing document which mentioned an executor, the charity number and tax details. But friends grew suspicious that the “O’Connors” were really trolls – people using the anonymity of the internet to intrude on others’ grief – and Julie Brannigan said: “I told a pal, ‘You watch, something tragic will happen to Max soon’.” “Max” started to talk of trying to attend a football match in October – his first since being driven away from the game by the mental scars of the events of 22 years ago. After encouragement from real Hillsborough survivors, “Max” boasted online: “Had a GREAT day today, bit of a panic in the morning, but I did it!” Friends were delighted for him, responding: “Proud of you, Max!’ and ‘Well done… Knew you’d make it”. But days later “Zoe O’Connor” informed his followers that “Max” had died from cancer, even producing a supposed order of service from his funeral. Others had seen enough and publicly accused the fraudsters and police have asked for those duped to report their allegations after the accounts of those involved suddenly disappeared.


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