MP tells of internet troll terror

Corby and East Northants MP Louise Mensch
Corby and East Northants MP Louise Mensch

MP Louise Mensch has spoken of her terrifying ordeal after threats were made against her children by internet troll Frank Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, 60, escaped jail today when a district judge gave him a 26-week prison sentence suspended for two years for sending an offensive email to Mrs Mensch.

He was also ordered to pay costs and made the subject of a restraining order.

The order - until further notice - bans the agoraphobic from contacting a string of well-known people including Mrs Mensch, her businessman husband Peter, and the MP’s ex-husband, property developer Anthony LoCicero.

Mrs Mensch said: “I was in New York when I received the threatening email and was separated from my children by the Atlantic. It was terrifying and I felt helpless.

“It was my ex-husband’s turn to have the children during the holidays. I contacted the police immediately and they waited until first light and went to check that the children were alright.

“When you receive a threat like that you don’t know whether it is coming from an agoraphobic like Zimmerman, or someone with a gun.

“You have to take every threat seriously.”

Zimmerman, from Gloucester, targeted Mrs Mensch last August telling her to stop using the social networking site Twitter or face the consequences.

He told Mrs Mensch that she faced a “Sophie’s Choice” - a reference to a novel in which heroine Sophie has to choose between the life of her son or daughter at a Nazi concentration camp.

Mrs Mensch revealed that Zimmerman had also contacted her by telephone during his two-week campaign of threats.

She said: “I knew it was him when he rang because of the menace in his voice. I put the phone down right away. To make threats against someone’s children is horrendous.”

The MP thanked the House of Commons police and officers in Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire who worked on the case.

She said: “The sentence is the right one. I didn’t want to see him go to jail. The suspended sentence will enable him to seek help but he will know that if he does anything like this again he will go to prison.

“This will be a deterrent against cyber bullying.”

The list of other people Zimmerman is banned from contacting includes Lord Sugar, the Amstrad businessman and star of hit TV Show The Apprentice and Terence Blacker, a columnist with the Independent newspaper and Zimmerman’s former neighbour in London.

Also listed was General Sir Mike Jackson - once head of the British Army - and David Petraeus, former US Army commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and now director of the CIA.

Zimmerman was charged with an offence of sending by public communication network an offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing message or matter.

At a hearing at Gloucester Magistrates’ Court in April, he was found guilty in his absence, having failed to attend on that occasion, blaming his agoraphobia and depression.

He attended court last month for sentencing but a district judge adjourned the case until Thursday so that a pre-sentence report could be completed.

Following the email dated August 22 last year, Mrs Mensch, who has more than 58,000 followers on Twitter, arranged security for her family.

The offensive email was later traced to the IP address of Zimmerman’s home computer. Zimmerman denied sending it, saying his computer had been hacked.