Radio host tells stalking trial of ‘tsunami of hate’ and abuse from YouTuber

BBC Radio Northampton’s Bernie Keith told a court that abusive messages and death threats from Alex Belfield left him feeling suicidal.

21 July 2022

A BBC radio host has told a court that alleged stalking, including a “tsunami of hate”, by an ex-staff member at the corporation left him undergoing counselling and contemplating suicide.

Bernie Keith, who presents mid-morning shows and a weekly rock’n’roll programme on BBC Radio Northampton, said former BBC Radio Leeds DJ Alex Belfield had subjected him to “naked” hatred and false claims.

Giving evidence to Nottingham Crown Court under his full name of Bernie Keith Spedding, Mr Keith said his reputation is “now in shreds” after “proclamations of hate” and death threats, which have affected his health.

Alex Belfield court case
Ex-BBC presenter Alex Belfield is on trial at Nottingham Crown Court (Jacob King/PA)

Prosecutors allege that Belfield, who hosts a radio channel on YouTube, waged a relentless nine-year campaign of stalking against eight victims, including ex-colleagues, after BBC Radio Leeds did not renew his contract in 2011.

One of the alleged victims – TV and radio presenter Jeremy Vine – told the trial last week that 42-year-old Belfield is “the Jimmy Savile of trolling”.

Belfield, of Mapperley, Nottingham, denies causing serious alarm or distress to Channel 5 and BBC Radio 2 presenter Mr Vine, former BBC Radio Leeds mid-morning show host Stephanie Hirst, Mr Keith and five other people.

Addressing the jury in the third week of the trial, Mr Keith said Belfield’s YouTube videos, emails and social media messages had included highly abusive language and a threat to “hound you for the rest of your life”.

Recalling how he was offered counselling in 2020, the presenter told the court: “I had three sessions before lockdown came into force.

“The counselling didn’t work for me – I had never had counselling before and I found it very difficult, very alien.”

After stopping the counselling after three sessions, Mr Keith said, he also spoke to a specialist who helped stalking victims.

“My initial reaction (to the alleged stalking) was ‘He’s gone mad’,” Mr Keith said. “You can’t work out how it’s happened.

“You have got these proclamations of hate coming out and that it will never end.”

His voice breaking with emotion, Mr Keith added: “That removes the hope from my life that I will ever be free of this man.

“My reputation is now in shreds because all of this has been seen throughout my industry and the wider population.

“I had this naked hate being piled on me every day and I had to be funny and I had to entertain people.

“This was the darkest point of my life because there was no end to it. I pleaded with him (Belfield) to stop. I had gone to the police to make it stop and it was just getting worse.

“I will never be able to work out why it has happened to me.”

Asked by prosecutor John McGuinness QC to explain the personal, professional and health impact of the alleged stalking, Mr Keith responded: “I had physical threats and, I believe, death threats.

“On Saturday nights I wasn’t allowed to be in the (BBC Radio Northampton) building on my own.

“Because of the tsunami of hate and threats that were coming in to me, we had to have someone else sat in the building with me.”

A security company had also been brought in to collect him from the radio station’s car park, Mr Keith said.

Cinderella gala performance – London
Jeremy Vine, one of Alex Belfield’s alleged victims, described him as ‘the Jimmy Savile of trolling’ (Ian West/PA)

Saying he was proud of how he had managed to keep his troubles from his audience, the radio presenter continued: “It’s come at a huge personal toll.

“In April last year I collapsed at my home and had to be taken to hospital.

“I can’t remember when I have had a run of good sleep of longer than five hours. I am caught in a constant cycle of exhaustion and fatigue.”

Belfield had made a bogus claim that he had been sacked, Mr Keith said, adding: “It was all too much.”

After describing how he had considered taking his own life, he told the jury: “I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t destroy the gift of life that they (his parents) gave me.”

The trial continues.

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