— Neil Wallis (@neilwallis1) February 12, 2013
For more than 18 months now, I have been subjected to sporadic online abuse and personal intrusion by Dennis Rice, aka the sockpuppet Twitter account @tabloidtroll. Comments made by Rice have included goading and unpleasant references to my loved ones (who have absolutely nothing to do with my blog), as well as grotesque and nasty allegations projected from his own behaviour, and from that of a collaborator (this man). Recently, his campaign has escalated to crank phone calls to my mother, and repeated threats – both as Rice under his own name and as @tabloidtroll – to visit her address. The most recent incident was yesterday (Monday 16 July) morning.
Why this is important
While I doubt I’m of much interest to anyone, Rice is not just a “basement troll” – as can be seen from the above, he enjoys the support and collusion of Neil Wallis, the former Deputy Editor of the News of the World. Wallis has been a familiar face in recent weeks opining on the outcome of the hacking trial and the plight of unjustly accused journalists.
Meanwhile, Rice’s own journalistic career includes stints as Chief Reporter at the Daily Express and Investigations Editor at the Mail on Sunday. My experience of his reckless dishonesty therefore has significant repercussions at a time when the morality and integrity of tabloid journalism in the UK is under close scrutiny.
Rice created the Tabloid Troll Twitter account in December 2011, apparently to fire off bile against witnesses to the Leveson Inquiry and other critics of the behaviour of tabloids – as can be seen above, a more recent target is Peter Jukes, whose upcoming book about the hacking trial, Beyond Contempt, is eagerly anticipated.
Why Rice has been trolling me
Rice is interested in me because I dared to agree with Tim Ireland’s evidence that Dennis Rice is indeed @tabloidtroll, and because I wrote a blog post that corrected Rice’s distorted account of the link between Glen Jenvey and the now-disgraced ex-MP Patrick Mercer. It should be recalled that Mercer used to promote himself by channelling terror-related scare stories given to him by Jenvey to tabloid newspapers.
Tim exposed the scheme in 2009 when the Sun published a bogus Jenvey-sourced story claiming that Alan Sugar was the target of a terror threat; Sugar subsequently received a settlement after threatening to sue the paper and Rebekah Brooks personally.
Since Rice’s attack on me, I have continued to inform other targets of @tabloidtroll – particularly professional journalists – about his behaviour and identity.
This is somewhat degrading to have to engage with, but here goes.
Rice has an associated “TabloidTroll” blog, on which he published sneering, distorted, and intrusive comments about my mother, and posted a fabricated image that purported to prove that I use a dating site (I don’t, and never have). The post falsely accused me of having a “patchy financial history and benefits record” (I don’t, but how could he legally know either way?), of supporting al-Qaeda (because I had helped uncover bogus postings to Muslim websites by Jenvey), and of “callously” writing about Jenvey (readers can judge for themselves on that point here; in fact, I had an email exchange with Jenvey during this period which shows I was in fact mindful of his situation). There was also an annoying reference to my supposed ex-partner, when in fact we are very much together and very happy.
Rice also states that I live with my mother, which he thinks is of some public interest; apparently, he regards such a domestic arrangement as not just risible, but actually discreditable. He’s been told more than once that’s it’s not actually the case anyway, but he’s persisted in pretending to believe it, as an excuse to continue to make threats to visit her address and to bother her with crank calls.
Rice attempted to justify his behaviour by claiming that I am a “troll” who was being “exposed”, rather than because I had called him out as a liar. It seemed to me to be obvious that his attack blog was bizarrely unhinged, utterly irrelevant, and published in bad faith with malicious intent. Nevertheless, Rice managed to get some traction: as seen above, Wallis eagerly spread the filth using the excuse that Rice gave him.
Is Rice TabloidTroll?
If you Google “Dennis Rice” in the UK, you will see that a number of results have been removed. Clicking on the “Chilling Effects” link, you will find an aggrieved letter by Rice to Google, written “under penalty of perjury”, in which he claims that the identification with @tabloidtroll is a “smear” and that “two police forces” have confirmed it as such. There is also a man named Andrew Roberjot (@frankiescar), who says he has met TabloidTroll and he can confirm that it’s not Rice (Wallis in turn vouches for Roberjot, calling him a “good friend & drinking buddy”).
There has also been an attempt to suggest that Tabloid Troll is a collective, although this has been half-hearted and intermittent, and cannot be taken seriously. If there is a second user, it is someone who is acting specifically to provide Rice with an alibi from time to time; Rice makes much of a Tabloidtroll Tweet that appeared when he was visiting someone in prison.
But the evidence is in fact overwhelming, despite the “alibi prison Tweet” that scared off Surrey Police when Rice was being investigated for harassing Tim. Tim found an IP correspondence; there’s also an academic linguistic analysis by Dr Nicci MacLeod from the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University that shows striking similarities between @tabloidtroll and Rice’s @dennisricemedia account.
There are also overlapping incidental details: in particular, both Twitter accounts relate a love of long-distance and marathon running, and report a nerve injury in the foot that had forced him to discontinue and then build up again (here and here for @tabloidtroll in late 2012 and early 2013; here for @dennisricemedia in early 2014). On one occasion, TabloidTroll said that he had “noticed” Tim looking for his photo on Linkedin; but this could only mean that TabloidTroll had “noticed” Tim looking at Rice’s profile. More generally, Rice and TabloidTroll write with the same voice, echoing each other’s attacks and talking points.
There is also a wealth of other evidence, which I will not go into here for now.
(It’s also worth mentioning that Rice makes some effort to put people off the scent: for example, one @tabloidtroll Tweet purports to show TabloidTroll’s wife or girlfriend, but the image is actually of an American webcam model named Lana Brooke; found via Google image search, before you ask).
If Rice has been misrepresented in the above, I look forward to hearing from his lawyers, or perhaps receiving a private appeal for me to reconsider.
But if the above is a true account, I will instead expect a new round of sockpuppet abuse and calumny.
UPDATE (Later same day)
As expected, Rice has spent the afternoon firing bile in my direction. On the one hand, I’m apparently an insignificant figure who “hasn’t amounted to anything”, yet the whole world needs to hear the important information that I’m supposedly “lying through” my “yellowing teeth about not living with Mum”.
Why he’s so invested in this fantasy about my domestic arrangements is anyone’s guess; although I don’t actually live with my mother, plenty of adults do share a property with a parent for all kinds of reasons. In my own case – not that it’s anyone’s business, or likely to be of any interest to anyone – my partner and I did reside at my mother’s address for a while after returning from living abroad; presumably he’s found this scandalous detail from some outdated public record. Rice is so obsessed with the subject that he appears to have bought a copy of deeds from the Land Registry, to determine ownership – so it’s a bit rich that he once accused Peter Jukes of being a “stalker” for having looked at his Linkedin profile.
Meanwhile, Roberjot isn’t happy about being mentioned in this post, and he has written to me on Twitter:
In my opinion, your latest crap has passed over the line regarding me and Neil, I shall refer on for a better legal opinion
Roberjot then went on to deny that this was a threat of legal action; Roberjot has a tedious habit of making threats, then denying, in mocking terms, of having done any such thing.
UPDATE 2 (18 July)
The matter was brought to Neil Wallis’s attention via Twitter. Unsurprisingly, as national media figure he didn’t feel the need to acknowledge he’d even seen my Tweets or blog, let alone attempt to justify why he felt it was acceptable to amplify baseless lies and intrusion aimed at my family.
However, he was also tackled by Peter Jukes, who asked him what he thought about Rice’s constant threats and bullying behaviour. It appears that the whole thing was such an insignificant distraction for Wallis that he decided to engage in faux-obtuse banter rather than quickly make his position clear and move on:
Neil Wallis: Why so obsessed with me, @peterjukes?! What’s it to do with me?! [...]
Peter Jukes: @neilwallis1 Since you’d praised TT in the past, I just hoped you’d disavow such tactics.
Neil Wallis: [...] Peter, I’ve praised you in the past…!
Neil Wallis: @peterjukes why u obsessed in involving me in things I know nothing about, where I’ve no idea of the background? Why you so sanctimonious?!
(As a side note, this followed a previous argument from a couple of days before. Peter had received a crank anonymous text message falsely claiming that he had deleted certain Tweets, and that these might form the basis of some kind of legal action against him; the sender did not respond to a query as to whether he was Dennis Rice. Peter wondered how the sender had acquired his mobile number, and suggested that a breach of the Data Protection Act may have occurred.
At this point, Roberjot interjected to say that “I just asked a friend of mine who knows you for your mobile number, they gave it to me, How is that illegal?” Peter then confirmed that Wallis had his mobile number, and pointed out his friendship with Roberjot; this in turn prompted Wallis to accuse Peter of making “ludicrous allegations”. Roberjot then explained he had received the number from someone else, that he had just made the comment “to prove a point”, and that he hadn’t passed the number on to anyone else. The result of all this back-and-forth, which had been triggered by Roberjot’s initial comment, was that the question of who had actually sent Peter the crank text was hopelessly beclouded.)
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