A BBC Radio DJ branded the ‘Jimmy Savile of trolling’ has been found guilty of stalking Jeremy Vine and other stars by unleashing a ‘tsunami of hate’ over the course of nine years.
Alex Belfield was accused of subjecting BBC presenter Vine to 11 months of ‘personal and unpleasant attacks’ on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
A court heard he also left BBC Radio Northampton DJ Bernie Keith feeling suicidal after targeting him as part of his campaign of abuse.
The 42-year-old had denied stalking Vine and seven other alleged victims, and claimed he was the subject of a ‘witch hunt’.
But a jury at Nottingham Crown Court has today found him guilty of alternative charges of ‘simple stalking’ in relation to Vine and blogger Philip Dehany, and of stalking Keith and videographer Ben Hewis.
He was cleared on four other charges of stalking other BBC employees and will be sentenced at a later date.
Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, showed no emotion and wrote on a piece of paper as the verdicts were delivered.
Jeremy Vine (left) gave evidence in the trial of former BBC Radio Leeds presenter Alex Belfield (right). They are both pictured outside court
Veteran broadcaster Vine had sobbed in court as he described being targeted by the ‘Jimmy Savile of trolling’ while giving evidence against a YouTube host accused of stalking him.
The broadcaster said being harassed by ‘dangerous’ Alex Belfield, who has over 372,000 subscribers on the video-sharing platform, was ‘like being caught with a fish hook in my face and my flesh was being torn’.
Prosecutors claimed Belfield, 42, subjected Vine, 57, to a ‘relentless’ online campaign that included a ‘wave of personal and unpleasant attacks’ on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook over an 11-month period.
Belfield was found guilty of stalking to cause alarm and distress to BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith (pictured)
‘It left me numb with fear… this was absolutely Olympic level stalking,’ Vine said.
Belfield is also said to have encouraged his supporters to make hoax calls to Vine’s Channel 5 TV and BBC Radio 2 shows, accused Vine of appointing his ’10-year-old daughter’ as a director of one of his companies in a bid to dodge paying tax, and tried to obtain private phone numbers for his family members.
Vine also told Nottingham Crown Court that he had not been aware of Belfield until the 42-year-old said from a broadcasting studio that he liked to watch a female weather presenter on his leather sofa, ‘naked and with a box of tissues handy’.
The charges faced by the former BBC DJ
Alex Belfield had been charged with stalking eight other broadcasters and media figures.
After a trial at Nottingham Crown Court, a jury spent more than 14 hours deliberating before returning with the verdicts.
The jury could either find him not guilty, guilty, or convict him of the lesser offence of ‘simple stalking’, which means stalking without causing alarm or distress.
He was accused of stalking to cause alarm and distress to the following people:
Count 1: The BBC’s former head of north Rozina Breen – not guilty
Count 2: Former BBC Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green – not guilty
Count 3: Former managing editor of BBC Radio Leeds Helen Thomas – not guilty
Count 4: Former BBC Radio Leeds presenter Stephanie Hirst – not guilty
Count 5: BBC Radio Northampton DJ Bernie Keith – guilty
Count 6: Videographer Ben Hirst – guilty
Count 7: Theatre blogger Philip Dehany – not guilty, but guilty of simply stalking
Count 8: BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine – not guilty, but guilty of simple stalking
The BBC presenter added that he received an ‘avalanche of hatred’ from other internet users thanks to Belfield’s videos and tweets, and had to put cameras in his home because he feared one of the YouTuber’s ‘disciples’ may launch a knife or acid attack on him or his family.
Vine told the court: ‘We are dealing with serious criminality here. This is not a regular troll. This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling. Every reference to him makes my flesh creep. All he does is lie.’
The court heard Vine even had to put up a picture of Belfield in his hallway and warn his 13-year-old daughter to be on her guard while on the street – causing her to burst in tears.
Vine, wearing a navy blue suit and tie, frequently glared at Belfield from the witness box as he described him as a ‘nasty, nasty man’ whose actions were, he said, ‘crazy and wicked’.
He told how he’d never heard of Belfield, himself a former BBC radio host, until April 2020 when an acquaintance sent him a link to a video on YouTube that featured a ‘rant’ about him – with Belfield concluding: ‘This guy really p***** me off.’
Vine said that in hindsight, he ‘wished he hadn’t’ viewed it, adding: ‘Watching this man is like swimming in sewage.’
He added that in one incident, which he understands may have got Belfield fired, a young weather forecaster was the subject of ‘disgusting’ remarks.
Vine told the court: ‘You [Belfield] were on the air and a young weather forecaster was sat down in Mr Belfield’s studio. I listened to it again a couple of days ago to make sure my recollection was correct.
‘You said: ‘I like to watch you on my leather sofa at home.’ You said: ‘I’m usually naked’ and ‘I like to have a box of tissues handy.’ I thought it was disgusting.
‘I’m saying it contributed to you being fired as it rightly should have. You’ve said your name in court and you’ve got that right. Everything that brings me here is a lie.
‘I haven’t heard you say anything truthful in court today. I didn’t want to be cross examined by you as you’ve caused so much turmoil in your life.
‘You are the Jimmy Savile of trolling. You operate by proxy, you drive others to send messages. Not separated by weeks or months, they were separated by days, sometimes hours. You were broadcasting on consecutive days.
‘I am scared of you.’
Belfield, pictured here arriving at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday, was found guilty of two counts of simple stalking and two counts of stalking to cause alarm and distress
Addressing Belfield, he added: ‘I knew nothing about your BBC career until you made lude comments about a weather forecaster. I think because journalism holds truth, you’re not (a journalist).
‘Your desire to do me serious harm, that was clear from all of your broadcasts, frightened me.
‘I refitted the camera system on my house. Having bought two, I gave two to my neighbour.’
Jurors have been told a ‘constant bombardment’ of videos, tweets and messages then followed, with Belfield becoming increasingly abusive.
Vine told the hearing: ‘I can see he is really starting to personally dislike me, and I do not know why because I have never had anything to do with this man.
‘This starts to get more worrying for me because clearly it is Alex versus Jeremy and he has an agenda, and I am wondering if I am starting to have a problem here.’
Belfield had been accused of stalking Rozina Breen (pictured), the BBC’s former head of north and his boss when at BBC Radio Leeds. He was found not guilty of this charge
It was alleged he had stalked BBC Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green (pictured), but the jury cleared him of this charge
He was also accused of stalking Stephanie Hirst (pictured), another BBC Radio Leeds presenter, something he was cleared of
DJ Alex Belfield’s ‘constant presence’ online meant he could be charged with stalking – despite never appearing at his victims’ homes
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said ex-BBC DJ Alex Belfield’s constant presence online meant he could be charged with stalking – despite not appearing at victims’ homes.
A statement released by the CPS said the 42-year-old’s claims that the trial was as a result of a BBC prosecution were ‘not the case’, adding: ‘These were criminal proceedings.’
Belfield was convicted of causing serious alarm or distress to two victims and was found guilty of ‘simple’ stalking in relation to Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine and theatre blogger Philip Dehany.
The prosecuting body said the ‘sustained nature’ of his abuse amounted to stalking – adding that his actions online had a ‘devastating impact’ on his victims.
Explaining how they built the case, the CPS said in a statement: ‘Alex Belfield did not appear at victims’ homes or workplaces, but he was a constant presence online or on social media in the victims’ lives.
‘His actions online, whether in the form of messages sent directly to victims, personal comments directed at them from his broadcasts, or him contacting friends, family and colleagues, had the same devastating impact on his victims.
‘They were not easy to avoid, as even when the victim turned off their social media or blocked him he would find other routes, change his email address or contact people close to them.
‘He would also ask followers of his channel to assist by sending their emails and tweets to his victims.
‘The CPS’s case was that the sustained nature of this abuse amounted to stalking.’
The statement continued: ‘Belfield had made claims that this was a BBC prosecution.
‘This is not the case – these were criminal proceedings.
‘The CPS examined the evidence of his behaviour, including his broadcasts and emails, and determined that it amounted to stalking because of its relentless nature.’
District crown prosecutor for the East Midlands, Sheryl Monk, said: ‘Stalking is a very serious crime that has a severe impact on its victims.
‘Alex Belfield’s conduct, in the form of messages, broadcasts, insults and threats, left his victims fearful and anxious.
‘Victims feared for their families and gave accounts to the jury of the terrible impact of Belfield’s abuse on their private lives.
‘Throughout this trial, victims and other witnesses have given evidence with dignity and I would like to thank them for their willingness to give evidence.
‘Alex Belfield had no qualms about the abuse he handed out, in many cases publicly.
‘The extent of his abusive behaviour provided clear evidence that this conduct was stalking.’
He added that in one period, Belfield had made 124 references to him in his online content in just 14 days – and started falsely claiming that Vine had ‘stolen’ £1,000 of licence fee payers’ money to put towards a memorial for radio executive John Myers, who died at the age of 60.
Vine broke down as he told jurors how that accusation, which he described as a ‘complete lie’, had led to one troll targeting an online tribute he posted to his father, who died of Parkinson’s disease in 2018.
He said: ‘His comment was, ‘what would your father have said if he knew his son was a thieving toe rag? I couldn’t handle it. I went to the police and said I couldn’t handle it any more.’
The BBC star added that he has had ‘scores of horrible messages on Twitter. It’s incredibly powerful thing to say ‘this man took your money for his friends funeral and a p***up’. None of that is true.’
Turning to the jury, Mr Vine added: ‘The threat that I felt Belfield posed to me was a scale dozen times higher. He doesn’t know and I don’t know if his 500,000 [YouTube] followers might find me.’
Vine added that Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, escalated the harassment from ‘week to week’ to ‘day to day’, claiming: ‘He operates through persistence and repetition.
‘I couldn’t sleep. You are thinking about this 24/7.’
The court was played a series of Belfield’s videos about Vine, in which he repeatedly referred to the missing £1,000 and described him a ‘c***’, a ‘sanctimonious p****’, and said he had ‘blood on his hands’ over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shaking his head during the footage at times, Vine said: ‘I have two daughters, they are 18 and 15 now. My daughter Anna was 13 at the time this happened.
‘I had to sit her and her sister down and tell them about the situation.
‘I said this man hates me, he has accused me of stealing, he has driven so much hatred towards me so we are going to have to be careful.
‘We had a picture of him in our hallway. We thought it was possible that one of his half a million followers could have a knife or acid or something.
‘Imagine telling a 13-year-old that? She was in tears, I saw her just shrink. It was a year before she had the confidence to leave the house again.
‘She is his victim as well and he does not even know her name.’
‘There’s a good deal of stalking in broadcasting, but none of my friends in the industry has seen anything like this.
‘This is Olympic-level stalking.’
Describing the impact Belfield’s alleged campaign had on him, Vine said it left him ‘shredded’.
He added: ‘It launched incredible hate against me. I had 5,000 to 10,000 hateful personal tweets as a direct result of Belfield.
‘He kept on and on. I was anxious. I couldn’t eat or sleep for a time.
‘I felt wounded, and felt there was absolutely no escape.
‘I had a physical stalker who followed me. That was a picnic compared to this guy. His videos are still online. In 1,000 years my great, great grandchildren will see stories about how I stole £1,000, and there is nothing I can do about it.’
Vine said the abuse only ended when the police started investigating Belfield, and his bail conditions meant he could no longer produce videos about him.
He added: ‘That has given me and the others a year where we just remembered what it was like ‘BB’ – Before Belfield.’
After more than 14 hours of deliberations, the jury cleared Belfield of half of the eight charges against him.
Belfield pictured taking a selfie outside Nottingham Crown Court before an earlier court appearance
A jury at Nottingham Crown Court found Belfield guilty of stalking four people, but cleared him of four other stalking charges
The jury found him not guilty of stalking the BBC’s former head of north, Rozina Breen; former BBC Radio Leeds presenters Liz Green and Stephanie Hirst, and former BBC worker Helen Thomas.
It found him guilty of stalking to cause alarm or distress against BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith and videographer Ben Hewis.
It convicted him of alternative charges of ‘simple stalking’ in relation to Jeremy Vine and theatre blogger Philip Dehany, meaning stalking without alarm or distress.
He is set to be sentenced at the same court on September 16.