ACTRESS Lynda Bellingham has won damages and an apology from an internet troll who accused her and her husband of being involved in property fraud.
Businessman Darren Richards wrote defamatory anonymous blogs about Bellingham and her company Virtual Property World, which she owns with husband Michael Pattemore.
The actress, who became a household name as the mother in the Oxo television ads, secured a six-figure settlement from Richards after he was unmasked as a rival businessman.
Richards, 46, sold his dating website DatingDirect.com for nearly £30 million in 2007 and started an online property agency, EstatesDirect.com, a year before the blog started.
He currently divides his time between the UK and Spain, where he has numerous business ventures.
On his website, the entrepreneur boasts that he owns a helicopter, a yacht, a collection of cars, and bars and properties in Tenerife, including a £1.4 million villa.
Bellingham, 64, and Pattemore, 57, only discovered that the blog had been posting the accusations of fraud after they were contacted by a trade body, the British Franchise Association.
Spanish-based Pattemore – who was known as ‘Mr Spain’ during Bellingham’s time on Loose Women – was convicted of involvement in a fraud and served 21 months in jail in 1997.
The couple had never tried to hide the conviction, with Bellingham stating her husband was “a small pawn in a financial scam” who had “done his stint and it should be left to rest”.
They believed Mr Richards was trying to stop customers using their company by blogging about Pattemore’s supposed involvement in fraud.
The blogs, which used a fake name and email address, could potentially have cost the couple millions, putting their business and reputation at risk.
Bellingham took the case to the High Court for an ‘unmasking order’ against Google and WordPress to force them to hand over the IP address of the author.
She said it was a ‘warning’ to those who try to use the internet to defame people anonymously and has called for stricter policing of the web.
Rupinder Bains, from Pinder Reaux law firm which represented Bellingham, said: “It’s a victory for those who are abused and defamed online.
“But there are still problems with the anonymity of the internet which need to be addressed.
“Anyone can go to an internet cafe and write whatever they want about someone and can bring down a company – which they have effectively done in this case.”
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