Survivors of the Manchester Arena bombing that killed 22 people are being hunted down by conspiracy theorists who claim terror attacks were staged.
They go so far as to secretly record survivors in wheelchairs in their homes in an effort to catch them and see if the victims are lying about their injuries.
Victims of the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 as well as the Westminster Bridge attack in the same year have now shared what it’s like to live as an attack survivor terrorist.
A BBC Panorama investigation found survivors were found both at home and at work.
Disaster Deniers: Hunting the Trolls will air on BBC One as survivors explain how they were targeted and why conspiracy theories – which believe the victims are actors in the crisis – gained traction.
One of the survivors of the 2017 attack was Martin Hibbert, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being hit by 22 separate shrapnel.
And her daughter Eve, now 20, was also severely disabled due to brain damage from the attack.
Conspiracy theorists who claim UK terror attacks were staged with actors in the crisis are tracking down Manchester bombing victims to see if they are lying about their injuries. Pictured: Police at the scene near Manchester Arena
Martin Hibbert (pictured) was paralyzed from the waist down during the Manchester Arena attack
Conspiracy theorist Richard D. Hall, who appeared in the BBC investigation, is tracking Manchester bombing survivors to see if their injuries are real
But conspiracy theorist Richard D. Hall wouldn’t believe it. The man, based in Wales, described the physical hunt for survivors of the Manchester bombing in which 22 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.
In a video shared with his followers, he set up a camera to film the 20-year-old to see if she could walk.
Although the 20-year-old left home in a wheelchair, he said: ‘There is no evidence’ that the injury was the result of the attack.
Mr. Hibbert is now preparing a libel suit against Hall. “I am for freedom of expression,” he said. “But it crosses the line when you say I’m an actor or I don’t have a spinal cord injury or Eve isn’t disabled, she’s not in a wheelchair.”
Another survivor of the Manchester Arena attack was Lisa Bridgett who, despite breaking her ankle and losing a middle finger in the blast, was found at work by Hall.
Posing as a client, he aimed to find out if she was lying about her injuries by secretly recording it.
Ms Bridgett was talking on her phone after the Ariana Grande concert when the explosion sent a steel nut flying towards her head.
The nut cut her middle finger as she held the phone – but was then deflected off the phone through her cheek and into her nose.
Hall, who has more than 16 million views and 80,000 YouTube subscribers, wants to determine if it was all staged and he believes those who were killed are in fact alive and living overseas.
Mr Hibbert’s daughter Eve, now 20 (pictured together) was secretly filmed by a conspiracy theorist as she suffered brain damage and needed a wheelchair The theorist thinks she must have hurt herself in some other way
He profits from selling books and DVDs outlining his theories that terrorist attacks were staged, as well as speaking at events and posting videos online.
One of the videos Hall shared online featured his visit to the shipyard where Ms Bridgett works.
Hall brought a hidden camera with him as he wanted to find out if she was lying about the injury to her hand. He also named his children and shared photographs of his workplace in his book.
Ms Bridgett told Panorama: ‘You just don’t know who’s out there who might be hiding in a garden or standing on a street corner with a hidden camera on.’
“And they have no right to do what they did, to take our individual stories and tear them apart.”
The investigation found that the tactics deployed by the likes of Hall are emblematic of a larger phenomenon that survivors and bereaved families experience.
The BBC has seen messages of abuse sent to the grieving families of those killed in terror attacks in the UK, including the Manchester Arena bombing.
Lisa Bridgett (pictured) who broke her ankle and lost a middle finger in the Manchester bombing, was found at work by Hall
The victims were (top row, from left) Elaine McIver, 43, Saffie Roussos, 8, Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, Eilidh MacLeod, 14, (second row, left to right) Nell Jones, 14, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, 15, Megan Hurley, 15, Georgina Callander, 18 (third row, from left), Chloe Rutherford, 17, Liam Curry, 19, Courtney Boyle, 19, and Philip Tron, 32 (fourth row, left to right) John Atkinson, 26, Martyn Hett, 29, Kelly Brewster, 32, Angelika Klis, 39 (fifth row, left to right) Marcin Klis, 42, Michelle Kiss, 45, Alison Howe, 45 and Lisa Lees, 43 (fifth row, left to right) Wendy Fawell, 50 and Jane Tweddle, 51
Travis Frain, who was seriously injured in the 2017 Westminster Bridge attack, was in hospital recovering when the online abuse began.
A message he received read: “You disgust me, you perfidious redhead, how much did they pay you or what did they promise you for betraying your own country?” We know the attack was staged and I hope they hang you.
Frain says he felt “helpless” because people don’t realize how violently and frequently survivors of terror attacks are stalked online.
Neil Sanders, who appeared in some of Hall’s online videos, said the couple discussed conspiracy theories that took off after the Sandy Hook school shooting, which Hall dismissed as nonsense.
But Sanders says Hall seems to have bought into those conspiracies the more involved he is in that world. “Once you start entertaining this theory, this theory doesn’t get so far-fetched,” he explained.
“And then before you know it, you’re 3 or 4 steps down thinking it’s all wrong and you have a belief system that would justify and explain it, and that’s the problem.”
Travis Frain, who was seriously injured in the 2017 Westminster Bridge attack, was in hospital recovering when he started receiving online abuse from conspiracy theorists
Almost a fifth of more than 4,000 people, weighted to be representative of the UK population, believe that victims of attacks do not tell the truth about what happened to them, and one in seven people doubted that such terror attacks even happened, according to a study by King’s College London.
Fourteen per cent of those polled also believed the Manchester Arena attack likely involved so-called ‘crisis actors’ who faked injuries.
Professor Bobby Duffy of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, who has led research into the popularity of conspiracy theories about terror attacks in the UK, said “the belief [in these conspiracy theories] is higher among those who rely on social media and messaging services for information about news and events. »
He worries that those who believe these theories are more likely to target victims of abuse.