GB News star Dan Wootton is the latest television presenter to find himself engulfed in scandal, following online comments from an alleged victim and a former lover that have led to website ‘The Byline Times’ publicly branding him a criminal. But both sides are intentionally manipulating their audiences. Is Wootton behind the now infamous ‘Martin Branning’ email account? Is the Byline Times a trustworthy news source? Now, for the first time, we provide all of the evidence so far and give an unbiased report based on facts – resulting in some difficult questions for both the GB News presenter AND the Byline Times.
Controversial Dan Wootton, 41, has been accused of stalking an ex-partner, organising the production of illegal sex tapes without the consent of some of the participants, and – far worse – has been reported to the police after being accused of committing an act of rape.
WHAT ARE THE FULL ALLEGATIONS?
Earlier this month, VoteWatch began investigating claims against Wootton, who recently took time off from his slot on GB News while the media was still heavily focused on the scandal involving BBC presenter Huw Edwards.
Whilst the story of Huw developed and The Sun intentionally withheld vital information from the public (i.e. that the alleged victim herself had provided them with a statement claiming that nothing illegal had taken place), Wootton’s former boyfriend, Alex Truby, took to Twitter to publicly accuse Wootton of using an alias to carry out criminal acts of a sexual nature.
“I went out with Dan between late 2009 and early 2013,” Truby wrote in a widely shared thread. “The worst period of my entire life where I was stalked by him, to the point he had all the passwords for my social media accounts and email without my knowledge, until I caught him out when I found that my Gmail account was being regularly accessed from the News of the World office, where he worked at the time. I was an idiot though and allowed myself to be emotionally bullied into not leaving him. But then I found out more.
“While Dan was in New Zealand visiting his family I stayed at his flat to cat sit and one day while doing some laundry I found a hold all, stuffed down the back of the washing machine. It was locked with a padlock so naturally I wanted to know what was inside it and I found an external hard drive. On it I found a video of one of Dan’s supposed friends – a sun employee – having sex with his boyfriend.
“The video clearly was made in secret and filmed from afar by a hidden camera. In the same folder as the video I found a transcript of an MSN conversation between the colleague’s partner and someone called ‘Martin Branning’ whereby an arrangement was indeed made to make the sex tape in secret, without his colleague’s knowledge in exchange for £500. I knew instantly that ‘Martin Branning’ was Dan.
“I finally got the courage to get out of the relationship and a couple of months after leaving him I randomly bumped into a guy I had briefly dated around the time I met Dan, in a bar. He asked me what was happening in my life so I told him about the break up and the first thing he asked me – without me saying a word about it was ‘what’s the deal with this Martin Branning guy?’. Literally chilled me to the bone because it was the first time I’d ever heard anyone else say the name out loud. And it was equally disturbing as my first discovery. ‘Martin Branning’ had been messaging this guy encouraging him to try and hook up with and make sex videos with several people, including one of my long term ex boyfriends, and Dan himself, for money.
“He had no idea that Martin Branning was nothing more than alias, and that he was chatting online with Dan himself, using a fake profile. At this point I knew that if I’d randomly bumped into one random person from my past who bought him up, that the Dan/Martin thing went much, much further and I was right.”
…and I was right. They’d been seen and shortly after I received the following message from a former colleague of his who told me that he and a number of other colleagues from the Sun had been harassed by ‘Martin Branning’. I’ve cropped the image to protect the… pic.twitter.com/crEeXYg1La
— Alex (@rubytrubes) July 12, 2023
Alex added: “Since 2020 I’ve personally spoken with the police about some incredibly serious allegations against Dan – nothing came of it but I shared details of everything I know and I know others have spoken to the Met about things he has done and so far it has gone nowhere”.
Meanwhile, controversial left-wing website ‘The Byline Times’ released an article saying that it had: “…learned that, before ending his relationship with Wootton, Mr Truby confronted him over the contents of the holdall. Mr Truby said that Wootton made a tearful admission of guilt, acknowledging he was the creator and controller of the pseudonym Martin Branning.”
The Byline Times claims that it has also spoken to other alleged victims, two of whom previously spoke to VoteWatch. The website printed the following list of allegations:
“One victim – who is married with children – told this newspaper that he was left ‘in shock’ to receive a text from ‘Branning’ offering him £10,000 ‘tax free’ in return for ‘private work’ and to ‘pose nude’, adding that it ‘felt like blackmail or entrapment’.
“A second victim told Byline Times that Branning had sent him messages from untraceable numbers ‘day and night’ offering sums up to £30,000 in return for sexually compromising pictures ‘and that sort of thing’. This victim said he had uncovered a ‘pattern of men who had worked with Wootton’ being harassed with unsolicited malicious communications.
“A third victim – a former junior colleague who has indicated that he is willing to speak to the police – revealed how on several occasions he received disguised calls with offers of “work” with a sexual context and said it was “pretty obvious” they were from Wootton.
“A fourth victim – another junior colleague – was contacted on Facebook by Wootton in 2009 posing as a blonde woman called ‘Maria Joseph’ who exchanged ‘flirty messages’ before swapping images of an unconnected female face from reality TV in return for images of the colleague, who is heterosexual and today also married with children.
“The fourth victim said: “I received a friend request from a girl called ‘Maria Joseph’. Immediately she was very flirty and, having just come out of a messy break-up, I didn’t have my wits about me as much as I should.
“‘She’ soon started to send me semi-nude pics and swapped to email and phone. Her number was a New Zealand number as she said she’d just come back from a year over there. As more pics came through, she started to request them from me, which I duly obliged (fortunately I kept my face out of).
“Then she started to send ones she’d already sent, which she brushed off with ‘obviously I’m talking to a few guys at the same time’. At this point, I’m being super careful and start to snoop further into her profile. Catfishing wasn’t really a known thing back then, but I knew something was up.
“We had five friends in common on Facebook – Dan plus four others. When I clicked the others, the only common link was Dan.
“Then a video came through of her having sex with a man. However, I recognised him as someone from a reality TV show as he’s a friend of a friend. This made me realise I knew the identity of the girl [and that it could not be legitimate].
“So with this, the NZ number, the sole common denominator, I was sure it was him. So, I messaged ‘Maria’ to say ‘Hi Dan, interesting way to get dick pics’. The next day, the profile was gone.”
The Byline Times also alleges that Wotton blackmailed one of the alleged victims into doing his bidding – however, the outlet provided no evidence to support its claim.
Furthermore, The Byline Times has published allegations that Dan Wootton engaged in bullying and harassment against former colleagues, leaving one individual suicidal.
On July 15th, Kevin Sutherland, another of Wootton’s accusers, followed Truby’s shocking posts with one of his own, claiming that Wootton had raped him after attending the MTV awards in 2014:
— Kev (@KevSutherlandx) July 14, 2023
Mr Sutherland has since faced fierce attacks from supporters of GB News and of Dan Wootton, with an article by Politicalite attacking him being tweeted out by numerous people affiliated with the channel, including at least one other GB News presenter.
Politicalite also reported that Sutherland had previously been convicted for carrying out a blackmail scheme, writing that he is an “OnlyFans influencer and was jailed in 2010 after being convicted of blackmailing dozens of men where he bagged a whopping £90,000 in a high-tech blackmail sex line plot.”
Politicalite reported that “He [Sutherland] was described by prosecutors as an individual who had ‘compulsive behavioural problems who posed a risk to others’.
“DCI Richard Thomas from Police Scotland who led the investigation later said Watson “showed himself to be a devious and manipulative individual.”
“Sutherland, who has a number of aliases and was known to Police is known as William Watson and held chat sessions with thousands of men from around Britain and would talk about underage sex.
“During some of the calls, he would then change his voice and claim to be a ‘fake monitor’ interrupting the calls.
“He then told the individuals involved they would be exposed if they did not pay him specified amounts.
“Police Scotland began investigations after one man refused to hand over £8,000.
“Sutherland’s phone was then monitored by Police and he was found to in possession details of the men’s workplaces and bank accounts on his laptop.
“Large amounts of Money was paid into an account in the name of Sutherland’s mother who is also a convicted petty criminal – she said her son was the sole user of the account and denied any knowledge of the illegal activity.
“Sentencing him at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in 2019, Sheriff MacNeil said Sutherland had a troubled family background. He had been abused and introduced to chat lines by his pimp.
“Sutherland admitted to extorting £87,000 between 2008 and 2009.”
Responding to Politicalite’s article, Sutherland tweeted a defence, doubling-down on his allegations: “To the smear campaign that’s already in operation you can spin and skew all the details of my past all you like, throw in some made-up extra details to fit the narrative you want, I wouldn’t expect anything less. Dan Wootton is still a rapist and that’s a FACT!”
Sutherland then posted another tweet, this time explaining his past and detailing why an historical ‘mistake’ shouldn’t prevent him from today being taken seriously:
I really appreciate all the support it means so much to me right now.🙏🏼❤️ This however is for the people at the back of the classroom, at the very very back!
Also, I’m NOT a part of some made-up conspiracy attack on @GBNEWS this is personal and solely relates to #DanWootton 💯 pic.twitter.com/bDxP5vvkNl
— Kev (@KevSutherlandx) July 16, 2023
Speaking to VoteWatch, Mr Sutherland said he had been threatened by associates of Wootton to take delete his initial tweet, telling us: “They have emailed me saying that these are false allegations and asking me to take down the post, saying that he has never met me let alone had sexual relations with me, and threatening legal action.
“I also posted about it around 18 months ago but I wasn’t specific in saying anything about myself, I didn’t feel comfortable at that moment in time in coming forward in detail like I have now. So what was said was a cryptic message relating to other things I have heard and know about Dan, all relating to different kinds of bad behaviour of him.”
Mr Sutherland also told VoteWatch that he had made an official complaint regarding the allegations long before the Huw Edwards scandal this month, debunking claims made by some of his newfound critics on Twitter that he was attempting to ‘jump on the bandwagon’.
“It was reported to the police back at the end of 2021, so I have gone through the proper channels and spoken with many people within the police,” he said, confirming that he had last been contacted by the Scotland police force in January of this year.
“They have an open case, It was reported to Police Scotland on the 24.11.21, and I then went in the next day and spoke with the police in person at Gayfield Police Station in Edinburgh. I then went on to speak to another set of officers, then it was passed to the national crime agency, who I have spoken with a number of times but not had any contact since January.
“I don’t feel it has been given the priority it deserves or that they feel that it’s simply a case of my word against his,” he added. “It was a chance encounter, no photos were taken. I didn’t know him, we had never met or spoken before, but he certainly knew of me with all that was said that night about my previous case. He is well known for using escorts and it was obvious to me he knew that about me and had done his research into these things about my life.”
Mr Sutherland has received a great deal of support on social media. However, regarding the attacks he is now experiencing, particularly on Twitter, he said: “I hate how these things become so political, wrong is wrong it shouldn’t be about what someone’s views are on the world.
“I’m really glad people are paying close attention to this now and understanding how far and wide this goes. We need to keep this conversation going further, showing more support to survivors so they feel safe in coming forward.”
WHAT HAVE WOOTTON’S EMPLOYERS SAID?
GB News has not issued any form of statement. On the contrary, it has allowed Wootton to essentially use his show to produce ‘propaganda’, despite it relating to what has now become a legal matter, with Wootton currently crowdfunding to take the Byline Times to court.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for News UK, Rupert Murdoch’s company that owns The Sun, said: “We are looking into the allegations made in recent days. We are not able to make any further comment at this stage.”
Wootton’s twice-weekly column has not appeared on MailOnline since the allegations were made. This will undoubtedly be due to a spokesperson of the Mail’s parent company, DMG Media, issuing a brief statement last week confirming: “We are aware of the allegations and are looking into them.”
ARE THE POLICE INVESTIGATING?
A spokesman for the Met Police said it had been contacted in June “with regards to allegations” of offences committed by a man.
“Officers are assessing information to establish whether any criminal offence has taken place,” they said. “There is no police investigation at this time.”
VoteWatch contacted the Metropolitan police again yesterday, 25th July, and they confirmed that they are have still not opened an investigation – leading to the reasonable assumption that they are yet to have received any information proving potential illegal activity carried out by Dan Wootton.
MUDDYING THE WATER
Sutherland is right to condemn the way in which the allegations have been politicised, including by the Byline Times.
Unfortunately, thousands of social media users have, as always, chosen to take a serious story and turn it into a political weapon. They are using demonstrable tribalism and sensationalism for no other reason than to attack or discredit people whom they don’t like based on their ideologies.
Many are throwing their support behind Wootton for no other reason that they like GB News and agree with some of the rhetoric that Wootton espouses. Others are throwing their support behind the Byline Times for no other reason than that they dislike Wootton and GB News. Both ‘sides’ are using the allegations as a form of Jeremy Kyle-style ‘entertainment’, are being exploited by both Wootton and the Byline Times, and are failing to realise four important truths:
- This scandal is not about Meghan Markle.
- It is not about left or right.
- It isn’t about whether you like GB News or not.
- This story is so far based on unsubstantiated allegations, and those allegations should be fully investigated, without bias, based on the evidence.
In its first article relating to Dan Wootton, The Byline Times wrote the following:
“Byline Times has extensive evidence to show that, between June 2008 and 2018, Wootton – who is gay – posed as a fictitious show business agent called “Martin Branning” to offer sums of up to £30,000 “tax free” to his targets, many of whom were heterosexual men.”
However, while drip-feeding sensationalist, graphic stories on its website and using the allegations to attempt to financially profit via a crowdfunder and subscription drive, the Byline Times has not yet provided a single piece of evidence to prove that Wootton is behind the ‘Martin Branning’ email account. Does that matter? Definitely – because the Byline Times isn’t presenting these allegations for what they are – allegations; they are intentionally choosing to present the claims as proven facts. While real news outlets will always use terms such as ‘allegedly’, the Byline Times has chosen not to do so, printing sensational headlines that openly call Wootton guilty.
That is a demonstrable deception. It isn’t journalism, it’s defamation. There is no reason for the Byline Times – while daily printing lengthy graphic allegations and claiming that Wootton is 100% guilty – to withhold proof that Wootton is indeed ‘Martin Branning’.
In fact, it would be in their interest to publish such evidence, if they indeed do possess it. Not only would it confirm their claims and give them more credibility, but it would generate a huge readership and gain them even more attention and cash than they have already raised so far.
The Byline Times is also feigning shock that the ‘mainstream media’ have largely not yet covered the story. However, they will know only too well that the reason for this is because they have intentionally not released any legally sound evidence. Release the evidence, the press will then cover the story, and Wootton will undoubtedly be prosecuted. Don’t release the evidence, and it can only be assumed that the journalists at the Byline Times are lying.
The website claims that it has handed over evidence to the Metropolitan Police. However, they do not claim that they have handed over any evidence proving that Wootton is behind the Martin Branning account, and the police have confirmed that, despite whatever evidence has been handed to them, no investigation has been launched – considering the fact that almost all of the Byline Times’ claims rely on the assumption that Wootton is ‘Martin Branning’, that in itself is a huge red flag.
DAN WOOTTON’S RESPONSE
On July 19th, Wootton returned to GB News and used his slot to partly address the allegations.
“As a journalist I feel uncomfortable being the story, but I’ve always promised you that this show has no spin and no bias and no censorship so I owe it to you to address this,” he began.
“These past few days I have been the target of a smear campaign by nefarious players with an axe to grind.
“Notably by an ex-partner who I was previously abused by and who has been on a campaign to destroy my life.
“In the past he has written to me confessing to being a ‘psychopath’ and I saw this first hand.
“I have been forced to report his behaviour and threats to police, they are now investigating.”
He added: “Other unspeakable slurs have been made.
“I, like all fallible human beings, have made errors of judgement in the past but the criminal allegations being made against me are simply untrue.
“I would like nothing more than to address those spurious claims but on the advice of my lawyers I cannot comment further.
“I recognise I’m a polarising figure and by speaking out in this way, I’m opening up the gates of hell on my life.
“But social media has become a race to the bottom.”
Wootton’s full response can be watched by clicking here.
Interestingly, Wootton did not address the allegations specifically. Nor, more importantly, did he deny that he was behind the ‘Martin Branning’ email account.
Instead, he shifted the focus onto politics, accusing the Byline Times of engaging in a campaign to bring down GB News, knowing that this is likely to stir emotions in his viewers, many of whom believe, not fully without merit, that the left-wing are constantly trying to ‘cancel’ those who espouse their views.
What many have also failed to pick up on is that Wootton has now, on record, admitted to making ‘errors of judgement’ – and he made this confession in the context of the allegations printed by the Byline Times. What did he mean exactly? For now, we don’t know, because he chose not to elaborate, and – due to the aforementioned tribalism – no-one has thought to ask him to.
IS WOOTTON RIGHT – IS THIS AN ATTEMPT TO DESTROY GB NEWS?
Whilst supporters of Wootton and GB News and supporters of The Byline Times are indeed displaying bias and using the allegations to attack each other, Wootton is misleading people by claiming that the accusers are ‘attempting to close down GB News’. The fact is that some of the allegations against him were reported to the police back in 2019 – at least two years before GB News even existed.
Are the Byline Times and some of Wootton’s critics using this entire scandal to attack him and GB News, rubbing their hands together with distasteful glee? Most certainly. But does that prove that the accusers themselves are lying and also want GB News to fail? No.
Another claim that Wootton made in his 6-minute monologue was that the Byline Times is a ‘hard-left’ outlet, and insinuated that it shouldn’t be trusted.
IS THE BYLINE TIMES A CREDIBLE AND RELIABLE NEWS OUTLET?
The short answer is no. The Byline Times has a history of printing false information and politically-motivated smear pieces.
More concerningly, the Byline Times has been successfully sued multiple times, including on one occasion for publishing false information relating to sexual abuse allegations.
In 2017, regulatory body Impress, of which the Byline Times was a member, ruled that its journalists had lied when reporting about allegations related to former Prime Minister Edward Heath, with Byline Times being forced to pay compensation and then ultimately deciding to abandon Impress and thus become unregulated.
The site’s owner, Peter Jukes, is a former Labour member who frequently engages in online trolling and attacks against people whom he disagrees with politically, using Byline Times to produce propaganda, often proven to contain demonstrably false information, to attack his critics.
Mr Jukes himself has been accused of sexual impropriety, with some of the allegations first being published by Politicalite. In retaliation, two years ago Jukes launched a crowdfunder, claiming that he would use all of the money raised to sue Politicalite and anyone involved in publishing the story containing the allegations made against him – including the editor of VoteWatch, yours truly.
Jukes raised over £60,000 from his followers on social media. To date, however, none of the people whom Jukes mentioned in his crowdfunder have ever been sued. Neither Jukes nor the law firm he uses (with one of the senior lawyers at the company being his close friend) have filed any legal action against any of the individuals. The Byline Times and Peter Jukes have also failed to make donors aware of this, have not disclosed what the money was spent on, and have not offered any of the donors refunds.
This is not the only example of Peter Jukes, a well-known conspiracy theorist, using his website and political sensationalism on social media to mislead donors – as VoteWatch will reveal in an exclusive next week.
Furthermore, the Byline Times has accepted large donations from millionaires linked to antisemitism and from anti-west conspiracy theorists based in China.
Recently, one of the Byline Times’ most well-known journalists was found to have been publishing demonstrably false information to demonise Israel, before being slammed for tweeting racist and xenophobic comments about Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The Byline Times appears not to employ any fact-checkers and has been caught printing false information throughout its existence – always targeting Conservatives and the right-wing with demonstrable lies. Recent examples include a fake ‘investigation’ relating to Priti Patel.
In fact, Jukes and the Byline Times have been embroiled in a string of scandals including links to antisemites and the publication of fake news, including repeatedly printing disinformation about a ‘pedophile ring’ that was later proven to not have existed.
IS DAN WOOTTON ‘MARTIN BRANNING’?
When one puts aside their political bias, it is undeniable that there is so far only one logical answer to this question: We simply don’t know.
However, shockingly, and against all basic journalistic principles, the Byline Times isn’t just saying that Wootton is ‘allegedly’ the man behind the Martin Branning emails, they are openly claiming it as a fact. This is, of course, unethical and displays poor journalism. That wouldn’t be so if they published evidence to support their serious claims. But they haven’t. As mentioned, the Byline Times has not yet published a single piece of evidence proving that Wootton is behind the emails. Instead they have used sensationalism, long scandalous unverified stories, and vague claims that people ‘believe’ him to be behind the email account. They have printed these allegations as though they are proven facts, despite this not being the case, and are using those claims to grift large donations from thousands of politically-manipulated social media users.
At best, the Byline Times is withholding vital evidence from the public. At worse, their journalists are intentionally deceiving readers.
The following questions must now be asked:
- Why has Dan Wootton not denied he was behind the ‘Martin Branning’ email account?
- Why has the Byline Times not published any evidence proving their so-far unsubstantiated claim that Wootton was behind the ‘Martin Branning’ email account?
- What did Wootton mean when he said he’d made ‘errors of judgement’?
- Why has a ‘gagging order’ not yet been placed on the Byline Times and other outlets to prevent them from presenting more unsubstantiated claims as facts, thus misleading the general public and potentially defaming Wootton, who is supposed to be considered innocent unless proven guilty?
- Why has Wootton not denied bullying former members of staff?
- Why is GB News being allowed to have Wootton produce biased monologues, unchallenged, live on air?
- Why is GB News not launching its own internal investigation into the allegations, as Wootton’s other employers have?
- Why are GB News executives allowing GB News presenters to openly support Wootton on social media and make biased statements about the allegations, potentially placing the channel’s reputation at risk should the allegations eventually turn out to be true?
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NEXT?
The above questions need to be urgently answered. A toxic politically-motivated battle on social media will not deliver justice; be that in the form of the Byline Times being vindicated via the presentation of evidence, the allegations proven true, and Wootton prosecuted – or The Byline Times itself proven to have engaged in defamation, and being punished in a court of law.
The police must now investigate the claims thoroughly – but only when they receive valid evidence. OFCOM should not allow GB News to produce propaganda to influence what has now turned into a legal case. Wootton’s employers must deliver the results of their internal investigations promptly. And the Byline Times must stop engaging in gutter journalism and should be more honest with its readers.
VoteWatch contacted Peter Jukes for comment on why the Byline Times have failed to provide any evidence to support their claims against Dan Wootton. As of yet he has failed to respond.