JEREMY Vine sobbed in the witness box as he gave evidence against Alex Belfield, the man accused of “stalking” him.
The BBC presenter said he had been targeted by the “Jimmy Savile of trolling” when he took the stand at Nottingham Crown Court today.
The broadcaster said being harassed by “dangerous” YouTube host Belfield, who has over 372,000 subscribers on the video-sharing platform, was 'like being caught with a fish hook in your face', and left him “numb with fear”.
Prosecutors claim Belfield, 42, subjected Vine to a “relentless” online campaign that included a “wave of personal and unpleasant attacks” on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook over an 11-month period.
He is also said to have encouraged his supporters to make hoax calls to Vine's Channel 5 TV and BBC Radio 2 shows, accused Vine of appointing his “10-year-old daughter” as a director of one of his companies in a bid to dodge paying tax, and tried to obtain private phone numbers for his family members.
Belfield denies stalking the 57-year-old, and seven other alleged victims, claiming he is the subject of a “witch hunt”.
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But Vine told the court how he received an “avalanche of hatred” from other internet users thanks to Belfield's videos and tweets, and had to put cameras in his home because he feared one of the YouTuber's “disciples” may launch a knife or acid attack on him or his family.
The court heard Vine even had to put up a picture of Belfield in his hallway and warned his 13-year-old daughter to be on her guard while on the street – causing her to burst in tears.
Vine, wearing a navy blue suit and tie, frequently glared at Belfield from the witness box as he described him as a “nasty, nasty man” whose actions were, he said, “crazy and wicked”.
He told how he'd never heard of Belfield, himself a former BBC radio host, until April 2020 when an acquaintance sent him a link to a video on YouTube that featured a “rant” about him – with Belfield concluding: "This guy really p***** me off."
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Vine said that in hindsight, he “wished he hadn't” viewed it, adding: "Watching this man is like swimming in sewage."
Jurors have been told a “constant bombardment” of videos, tweets and messages then followed, with Belfield becoming increasingly abusive.
Vine told the hearing: "I can see he is really starting to personally dislike me, and I do not know why because I have never had anything to do with this man.
"This starts to get more worrying for me because clearly it is Alex versus Jeremy and he has an agenda, and I am wondering if I am starting to have a problem here."
He added that in one period, Belfield had made 124 references to him in his online content in just 14 days – and started falsely claiming that Vine had “stolen” £1,000 of licence fee payers' money to put towards a memorial for radio executive John Myers, who died at the age of 60.
Vine broke down as he told jurors how that accusation, which he described as a “complete lie”, had led to one troll targeting an online tribute he posted to his father, who died of Parkinson's disease.
He said: "His comment was, 'what would your father have said if he knew his son was a thieving toe rag? I couldn't handle it. I went to the police and said I couldn't handle it anymore."
Vine added that Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, escalated the harassment from “week to week” to “day to day”, claiming: "He operates through persistence and repetition.
'I COULDN'T SLEEP'
"I couldn't sleep. You are thinking about this 24/7."
The court was played a series of Belfield's videos about Vine, in which he repeatedly referred to the missing £1,000 and described him a 'c***', a 'sanctimonious p****', and said he had “blood on his hands” over the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shaking his head during the footage at times, Vine said: "I have two daughters, they are 18 and 15 now. My daughter Anna was 13 at the time this happened.
"I had to sit her and her sister down and tell them about the situation.
"I said this man hates me, he has accused me of stealing, he has driven so much hatred towards me so we are going to have to be careful.
"We had a picture of him in our hallway. We thought it was possible that one of his half a million followers could have a knife or acid or something.
"Imagine telling a 13-year-old that? She was in tears, I saw her just shrink. It was a year before she had the confidence to leave the house again.
"She is his victim as well and he does not even know her name."
"There's a good deal of stalking in broadcasting, but none of my friends in the industry has seen anything like this.
"This is Olympic-level stalking."
Describing the impact Belfield's alleged campaign had on him, Vine said it left him “shredded”.
He added: "It launched incredible hate against me. I had 5,000 to 10,000 hateful personal tweets as a direct result of Belfield.
"He kept on and on. I was anxious. I couldn't eat or sleep for a time.
"I felt wounded, and felt there was absolutely no escape.
"We are dealing with serious criminality here. This is not a regular troll.
'ALL HE DOES IS LIE'
"This is the Jimmy Savile of trolling. Every reference to him makes my flesh creep. All he does is lie.
"I had a physical stalker who followed me. That was a picnic compared to this guy. His videos are still online. In 1,000 years my great, great grandchildren will see stories about how I stole £1,000, and there is nothing I can do about it."
Vine said the abuse only ended when the police started investigating Belfield, and his bail conditions meant he could no longer produce videos about him.
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He added: "That has given me and the others a year where we just remembered what it was like 'BB' – Before Belfield."
The trial continues.
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