Kellie Howarth used to pose as a girl to trap paedophiles online. Then she grew hunted herself by internet trolls and was falsely accused of mistreating children. Was she the main victims of a vengeful child sexuality wrongdoer?
It was a few months ago, as Kellie was getting ready for a period out at the park with her young daughters, that police knocked on her door.
The 42 -year-old mother-of-four panicked. She asked the officers whether something had happened to her adult son, who lived away from home.
No, they said. We need to speak to you.
She sent her 12 -year-old upstairs and afforded her four-year-old daughter some toys to play with.
Sitting down with her other daughter, aged 26, she listened as the officer explained some “nasty” charges had been made about her.
A graphic email had been to be presented to Northumbria Police claiming she was sexually mistreating children.
The email claimed Kellie “regularly” stirred “homemade video” of her sexually abusing small children before “publishing it online to paedophiles”.
“I was literally gobsmacked, ” Kellie said.
“It actually violated me. It was awful. I actually sobbed.”
But Kellie knew exactly what she had to do to prove to the policeman the allegations were false.
She drew out her telephone and demonstrated him a year’s collecting of abusive contents she’d been mailed on social media.
The email was just the latest stunt in a vicious and incessant campaign from online trolls that began after she was outed as member states of the paedophile hunting group The Hunted One.
“When it firstly started I literally vomited, ” Kellie said. “It’s been an absolute nightmare.”
She tried to hide what was happening from their own families, but it eventually became too much.
“One day it just got far worse on Twitter that I made the kitchen floor and just broken down sobbing, ” she said.
She told her husband but her youngest children still do not know about her ordeal.
The Hunted One claims to have supported police with proof leading to the conviction of about 30 sex offenders. Kellie volunteered after doing similar work for a smaller group in north-east England called Defender of the North.
Her role in The Hunted One was to pose as young girls online by creating fake “decoy” profiles on Facebook.
She would accept content askings from men who would then begin “grooming” her.
When she had built up enough prove against supposes, she would either pass the messages to police or take part in “stings”, where different groups members confronted the suppose, often live streaming video to their online adherents.
“It was something that, to me, seemed like a good thing at the time, ” Kellie said.
However, five several months after she joined The Hunted One, the real identities of its members were exposed on a blog. The anonymous blogger complained they were “dangerous” and “out of control”.
The blog likewise linked to various pro-paedophile pages, including a petition to abolish the sex offenders register and an clause calling for indecent images of children to be legalised.
This has led Kellie to suspect at least some of her online tormentors are disgruntled paedophiles , not least as the two attacks began soon after her real identity was exposed.
“It’s definitely paedophiles behind this, ” Kellie said. “They don’t want the paedophile hunters around.”
“So I’m are concerns that if they find me they will take pictures of my children.”
Josh Blakely, from west London, is another former paedophile hunter who has been targeted by the same trolls. He also securely belief convicted paedophiles are behind the abuse and has passed on the name of one suppose to police.
“It was not hard to work out, ” he said. “They all communicate with each other.”
He said he began hunting paedophiles to get “justice” for abuse he suffered as a child and has helped convict 28 men.
However, he was left feeling suicidal and scared to leave his home after receiving a onslaught of mistreat which left him “sick to the stomach”.
One doctored photo shared online illustrated Josh maintaining a objection sign calling for the legal age of sex consent to be lowered to six years old.
One website claimed Josh, Kellie and others in the paedophile hunting community were part of a “child porn paedophile ring”.
Another animation consolidated a photo of Josh with an image of the shamed BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.
“That was so disturbing to me, ” Josh said.
“There was one point back in August, and one of[ the trolls] had been on my Twitter feed and … provided comments on there saying that I needed hanging.
“That to me was the last straw. Mentally, I shut down. I was in a bit of a state.”
Both Kellie and Josh have reported numerous pages to Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, LiveLeak, Blogspot and Facebook but each time one is suspended, others pop up.
“It’s not only one report, it’s about 30 accounts[ at once ], ” Kellie said. “Whoever is doing it is very clever.”
One particular tweet featured a photograph of Kellie alongside her name and the label “PAEDO”.
But a Twitter support team member told her there had been “no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behaviour”.
Twitter said it does not comment on individual cases.
Josh has also had problems with Google, who he said had not yet behaved on his “right to be forgotten” request. A spokesman said Google was in contact with Josh and had offered him advice on how to manage his online reputation.
Police officers have tried to help Kellie, but it has proved difficult. The trolls have been drawn to various internet cafe across London, but have not been identified further.