Alex Belfield: Jeremy Vine tells stalking trial of 'avalanche of hatred'

  • Published
Jeremy Vine outside Nottingham Crown CourtImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
BBC presenter Jeremy Vine is among eight alleged stalking victims

Broadcaster Jeremy Vine became visibly upset as he described the effects of allegedly being stalked by a former BBC radio presenter.

Mr Vine said Alex Belfield became "fixated", repeatedly accusing him of stealing £1,000 of BBC money.

He said "the saddest thing" was when one of Mr Belfield's followers called him a "thieving toe-rag" under a Facebook tribute to his late father.

Mr Belfield, from Nottingham, denies eight counts of stalking.

At Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday, Mr Vine's voice broke as he recalled the Facebook message about his late father.

"The saddest thing that happened during all of this was when I posted a tribute to my father [who died with Parkinson's in 2018] on Facebook, and the first message I got was 'What would your father have said if he had known his son was a thieving toe-rag?'" Mr Vine said.

"I couldn't handle it. I couldn't handle it."

Mr Belfield, who was previously a presenter at BBC Radio Leeds but now runs a YouTube channel, is accused of stalking and harassing eight people including Mr Vine.

He is not accused of physically stalking them, but the prosecution say he harassed them by repeatedly sending emails, posting on social media and making YouTube videos, and that this amounted to stalking.

'Not a regular troll'

Giving evidence, Mr Vine described it as "like an avalanche of hatred you get hit by", and "absolutely Olympic-level stalking, even for broadcasting".

Describing his reaction to an email that Mr Belfield sent to him and his Radio 2 programme team, he said: "I thought this guy is dangerous. I have in the past had a physical stalker who followed me. That's a picnic compared to this guy."

At one point, Mr Vine said he read a blog post that had been written by another of the alleged victims, theatre critic Philip Dehany.

"What I admired about him is instead of running away, Dehany logged everything, and he put it in a blog," Mr Vine said.

"And as I read this blog I realised for the first time we are dealing with serious criminality. This is not a regular troll here, this is the Jimmy Savile of trolling."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Alex Belfield is representing himself during his trial at Nottingham Crown Court

The charges faced by Mr Belfield, who is representing himself, cover a time period of more than eight years, and are as follows:

  • Stalking Rozina Breen between 25 November 2012 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Liz Green between 25 November 2012 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Helen Thomas between 25 November 2012 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Stephanie Hirst between 1 June 2017 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Bernard Spedding between 25 November 2012 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Ben Hewis between 29 September 2019 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Philip Dehany between 3 November 2019 and 31 March 2021
  • Stalking Jeremy Vine between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021

Mr Vine said he first became aware of Mr Belfield in 2020, when someone told him about a video in which Mr Belfield mentioned him.

In the video, Mr Belfield referred to Mr Vine using a swear word, which Mr Vine described to the court as "the C-word" and "the C-bomb".

'Smirking throughout'

"I wish I hadn't had a look at it because watching this man is like swimming in sewage," he said.

"That's the first thing I saw by this man and I found it shocking and distressing, and it made me worried.

"By the way, I know the defendant is smirking throughout my evidence but it won't stop me."

Several videos made by Mr Belfield were played to the court. In them, he repeatedly accused Mr Vine of stealing £1,000 of BBC licence fee payers' money.

This money was in relation to a memorial fund for a radio executive called John Myers, who Mr Vine had been friends with.

The court heard the BBC had donated £1,000 to the fund, some surplus money was given to charity, and Mr Vine therefore presented Mr Myers' widow with a cheque at the Arias - an awards ceremony for the radio industry.

"He's trying to strip away my reputation for honesty and he's attacking me through a memorial for a friend of mine, accusing me of stealing from my friend's memorial," Mr Vine said. "It can't get any worse. It's disgusting."

Mr Vine told the court he is taking defamation action against Mr Belfield, which he said "will happen next year".

Image caption,
Mr Belfield was previously a presenter at BBC Radio Leeds

Mr Belfield also told his followers he would give them "a thousand pennies" to phone Jeremy Vine's radio show or Channel 5 show, get live on air, then ask: "Alex Belfield wants to know where the thousand pounds is that you took from the licence fee payer."

"We were lucky that it never happened," Mr Vine told the court.

"I don't know how we managed to get through that period because I thought it would happen, and I knew if it happened Belfield would take the clip and it would go crazy on social media."

'Utterly untrue'

Mr Vine said his family members had also been affected.

In one video, Mr Belfield accused Mr Vine of making one of his daughters a director of his company so he could pay less tax.

Mr Vine told the court this was "completely and utterly untrue".

"You can't be a director until you are 18 years of age," he said.

"To say my 10-year-old daughter was a director of my company wasn't true and can never have been true."

Mr Vine told the court he feared Mr Belfield or one of his followers would turn up at their home, and his family had a photo of him in their hallway for a while so they could recognise him.

Mr Vine feared one of the followers might come with "a knife, or have acid or something".

"I couldn't eat or sleep for a time, and the only thing that lifted the situation for me was the actions of the brilliant police in this area who got involved, because they could see this was criminal," Mr Vine said.

Image caption,
Mr Vine agreed to be cross-examined by Mr Belfield

While Mr Belfield is representing himself during the trial, a barrister has been appointed by the court in order to cross-examine witnesses.

However, the court heard the barrister was ill, so Mr Vine agreed that Mr Belfield could cross-examine him.

Mr Belfield asked Mr Vine: "You've described me as the Jimmy Savile of trolling, which is already a headline in a national newspaper. Why did you conflate me to Jimmy Savile?"

Mr Vine replied: "Because that's what you are. You are the Jimmy Savile of trolling."

Mr Belfield said: "Jimmy Savile was a prolific paedophile who worked for the BBC. Are you suggesting I'm a prolific paedophile?"

Mr Vine replied: "The key phrase is 'of trolling'."

Mr Belfield also asked Mr Vine about the Facebook post in relation to his father.

He said: "The only time you cried in this court was over your father. That wasn't a message from me... I've never made a comment about your father, have I?"

Mr Vine replied: "I don't know."

'Still afraid'

Mr Belfield suggested that Mr Vine was not afraid of him.

Mr Vine replied: "I'm staggered. It's fine to be cross-examined by the accused stalker but for a person to say I can't have been afraid of him is staggering.

"Yes, I was afraid of you, and I still am."

The trial continues.

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