Online witch hunt devastates family

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A Wigan “good Samaritan” has been targeted in a cruel online witch hunt resulting in threats to his home and his family.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was photographed standing at Wigan bus station on Thursday of last week, around the time that an under 18s event ended at a town centre nightclub.

The post made by teenage boys was shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook. It alleged that the victim, who has daughters of his own, attempted to convince a young girl to engage in sexual activity with him.

Police and fire crews have been forced to intervene for the man’s personal safety and the safety of his family after people targeted him with threats of violence.

A close relative of the accused man posted a heartfelt status on the social media platform, blasting those who had started the campaign of abuse .

He wrote: “The man saw a girl crying and he asked her what was wrong.

“She said she didn’t have any money for her bus fare home so he offered to give it to her. She said she didn’t know where to get the bus from so he offered to pay for a taxi for her because he has three daughters himself and wouldn’t like it if any of them were in the same situation.

“At the same time three teenage boys were passing and a woman that can only be described as a busy body started telling the girl not to go anywhere with him. For some reason, I’m assuming because the girl now had an audience she started screaming that he was trying to have sex with her and take her off in a taxi, which simply is not true.

“This story was posted by children and I won’t name them but what followed was quite alarming. Several thousand grown adults decided to share the post resulting in some kind of online hysteria and witch hunt.”

Wigan officers have warned of the terrifying consequences of online campaigns which have no basis in fact. A police statement said: “A post recently appeared on social media where a male was falsely accused after acting as a good Samaritan.

“The victim of that abuse has been caused considerable distress and alarm. Threats have been made to him, his home and family to the extent that the GM Fire and Rescue Service along with the police have had to take steps to make his house safe.

“A number of people have been spoken to in relation to this matter and it was subsequently treated as a crime. In reality all who make offensive remarks should be aware of what they post and the implications it can bring, namely being prosecuted.

“The offenders in this incident of harassment have stated that the allegations posted on social media were fabricated and the victim was innocent. The public should be aware that the law states all persons are innocent until proven guilty. This incident was a trial by social media where the public have jumped on a false allegation where they are not in possession of the full facts.”

In a turn of events, Facebook has now become a platform for an outpouring of support towards the victim.

Louise Johnson said: “Kids these days have no awareness of the issues false allegations can cause. I understand them being told about abuse in schools. What about warning them about false allegations at the same time and then ensuring that all false allegations are dealt with by the correct punishment...”