Once upon a time there was an evil troll. He didn’t live under a bridge; he dwelt on the internet, where he delighted in sending people messages which caused them deep pain and suffering.
For example, when he learned that a man named Allan Bryant Jr had disappeared in 2013, having last been seen outside a nightclub in Glenrothes, a town in Fife, this troll began sending Allan’s parents evil messages, claiming that he had tortured and murdered their missing son.
Under a false name he posted, “I am the killer of Allan Bryant.
“When he walked home I stopped my van, grabbed him, holded (sic) him hostage til I found out he was on the new so I brutally tortured him.
“Tied to a chair, stabbed nails in him, wrapped with 240,000 volt wire and fried that f***** Allah Akbar f*** white people.”
The troll (whose real name was Stewart McInroy) was arrested, tried, and jailed for 10 months for this crime in 2014, but he would not be deterred from his hateful ways. When he was released from prison, he began “posting more vile online abuse to a former girlfriend threatening to burn her house down and harm her dog“. For this, he was jailed for another seven months.
You might think that Stewart would learn from these experiences, but you would be wrong.
His next target was a woman who was a member of a “paedophile-hunting” group: he began having online conversations with her, and then began abusing her verbally and making threats that he would rape her. This time, he was jailed for eight months.
Three guesses what Stewart did when he got out?
Yes, he started sending vile messages to Allan Bryant’s family again.
In an email to the local newspaper, Stewart said,
“But after the trolling I started to like it. It made me feel in control and have power. Every time I troll it makes me feel good. It’s harmless but if people don’t like it then they should hit the block button but they DON’T – they just sit there and cry and moan about it.
“I enjoy my trolling. I like to slate people and take the mick out of them but I expect them to troll back (rather) than sit and waste there (sic) time on police.
“Am I sorry for my crimes? NO.
“Will I change? Yes – in future when I decide to get bored of it.”
In other words, Stewart is a very, very nasty troll, who enjoys hurting people online.
The tables turn?
A few days ago, a very disturbing live-streamed video started making its way around Facebook. In it, a group of people—two men, a woman, and a 17-year-old youth—all members of a “paedo-hunting” group called “Wolf Pack Hunters”, confronted Stewart in the street.
Wearing bandanas tied round their faces, they surrounded him, and began assaulting him verbally, and then punching him.
Viewers of the video cheered the vigilantes on with comments like “bullet between the eyes, job done”, “turn the camera off and hit him”, and “put him six feet under”.
In all, it’s estimated that over 3,000 people viewed the video. More might have done so since it was published.
Stewart the troll was taken to hospital to be treated for his injuries, and then he was arrested for an outstanding warrant from England.
So who won?
Stewart the Troll came out of the episode with some cuts and bruises, but three adults and a youth are now looking down the barrel of some serious prison time.
We know from his previous record and his public statements that Stewart is a very nasty person who likes hurting people, but the four people who attacked him in the video have just moved him to the “victim” end of the spectrum.
When they go to court, they will not be seen as brave troll hunters; they will be treated as suspects on account of their actions.
A 17-year-old’s prospects just became significantly dimmer, and three adults are risking their families’ and their own well-being because they wanted to “catch the troll” on camera and look like like community heroes.
And whether they win or lose in court, they will have to live in the knowledge that, far from bringing an evil troll to justice, they have given him the upper hand, made him a victim in some people’s eyes, and allowed him to continue his hateful ways.