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Internet trolls who targeted victims' campaigner are 'cruel and vulgar'

Internet trolls who targeted the late Willie Frazer as he lay dying in hospital - and continued the abuse even after his death - have been condemned.

Speaking ahead of Mr Frazer's funeral today, DUP Assembly member Christopher Stalford, who knew the victims' campaigner, said: "The commenting that has been taking place online is cruel and unnecessary.

"William was a father, a husband, a brother-in-law and an uncle, and had a wide family circle. I wouldn't want any of them to be reading the things that have been said about him. I think it is tasteless, vulgar and crass for people - some of them using the cloak of anonymity - to insult someone who suffered so much during his life at the hands of republican terrorists and, more recently, by those who would seek to excuse the actions of republican terrorists.

"He was a brave person, a brave man - and should be remembered as such."

Internet safety expert Jim Gamble said online abusers do so because they believe they can get away with it.

"Invariably, in my experience, when these people are exposed or caught they are the most unlikely of individuals - usually, but not always, living at home with mummy and daddy, spending a lot of time upstairs in their room with their keyboard."

He said anyone targeted by online trolls should capture screen grabs and contact the police. "In my view this is criminal harassment, and the mechanisms are there for those individuals to be identified, and to be held to account. We need to chill the bullying and harassment, it's like a free-for-all online."

Last week, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie lodged a formal complaint after a photo of Mr Frazer in his hospital bed was uploaded to social media.

Mr Frazer's funeral will take place this afternoon at Fivemilehill Pentecostal Church in Bessbrook at 2.15pm. The 58-year-old died in hospital on Friday surrounded by his family after a long battle with cancer.

A forthright campaigner for victims of republican violence, Mr Frazer lost five close relatives during the Troubles, including his father Bertie who was murdered by the IRA in 1975.

Following his death on Friday, DUP leader Arlene Foster described Mr Frazer as someone who "would never be silenced from speaking up for the causes he believed most passionately in".

Belfast Telegraph