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‘Martin Branning’ – His First Victim

In the third part of a three-year special investigation, Byline Times details the trauma of a man controlled for 10 years by Martin Branning – the pseudonym of TV presenter Dan Wootton

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Editor’s Note: Readers may find some of the graphic content of this article distressing

‘Martin Branning’ blackmailed the partner of a Murdoch journalist into making a covert sex video later found hidden behind the washing machine of GB News star Dan Wootton, Byline Times can reveal.

Branning – unmasked last week by this newspaper as an online alias used by Wootton – threatened to send sexual material compromising the partner to their family, employers and Facebook friends if they did not cooperate.

The resulting film was later discovered on a black hard-drive in a padlocked holdall in Wootton’s east London home by his former boyfriend Alex Truby – whose tweets on 12 July about the discovery have now been viewed around 17 million times.

Wootton has since used his prime-time nightly GB News show to attack Mr Truby’s account as an “untrue story”, claiming to be a “target of a smear campaign by nefarious players” and denying “criminal” behaviour – but not to being, or being connected to, ‘Branning’.

Today, however, in the third part of a three-year special investigation into Wootton’s private and professional conduct, the victim forced to make the video reveals how ‘Branning’ drove him to the brink of suicide with a 10-year campaign of anonymous coercion.

The partner, a man whose identity Byline Times is protecting – but who says that he will give evidence to the Metropolitan Police – said: “The fall-out from this went on for years. I literally quit my London life; I lost everything. I went into the depths of depression.

“I definitely considered suicide. I didn’t want to be around any more. I blamed myself for the whole situation. I am only coming to terms with it now. Now I want to get it sorted out.”


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‘The Courier Would Come with a Video Camera’

The victim revealed how Branning started sending him emails – some of which this newspaper is publishing for the first time today – shortly after the man, through his partner, met Wootton at a London members’ club in 2008 and continued until 2018.

The Branning emails claimed to be from a go-between on behalf of an unnamed but interested third party offering the man, whom Wootton knew at the time was in financial trouble, up to £5,000 a week for “modeling and other work”.

In an email on 26 June 2008, Branning wrote: “I had your email and a couple of pics of you passed along to me because I heard you might be interested in making some extra cash through the sort of modeling and other work I’ve got on offer. Don’t know if the person mentioned it to you but I’d be really keen to chat with you further. All completely confidential of course.”

Quizzed by the man, who asked Branning who had shared his details, Branning followed on 27 June by writing: “Well look it’s someone who knows you through [the members’ club] but I always promise never to pass on those details because this person has worked for me in the past.

“Basically, he said you were an open-minded guy who is always looking for ways to make more £, which sounded perfect to me! I do a whole range of modelling and that sort of work which I’d like to see if you might be up for.”

The “work” turned out to be the creation of adult films made consensually between the man and a stream of individuals whose physical ‘type’ Branning would dictate – with the man then locating corresponding candidates on the same-sex dating apps Gaydar and Grindr.

Once located, Branning sent handheld digital cameras to the man by motorbike courier, which were then collected in the same way once the films were made, and followed, often some weeks later, by a delivery of cash. Wootton was then TV editor at the now-defunct News of the World.

“At that time, I needed money,” the victim said. “It was an attractive offer.

“The courier would come with a video camera he would supply. I would make footage with it and send it back with a courier [arranged by Branning]. There’d never be money until weeks later. I would be thinking he had stitched me up.

“Ultimately, money would be delivered by courier – sweaty wads of twenties, basically.”

Before setting the target to work, Branning gave him a list of highly personal questions – making invasive enquiries about his sexuality and finances along with a menu of photographic requirements.

“I know it sounds full-on but, as I say, it’s completely standard,” wrote Branning on 7 July 2008, before making directions for a series of graphic poses, along with the question: “Have you ever slept with a celebrity?” – to which the victim said no.

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‘There Are Consequences’

In his journalistic career, Dan Wootton has revealed a number of men as gay or bisexual – including Duncan James from the band Blue and a star of the BBC reality show The Apprentice.

In November 2014, The Sun’s ‘Bizarre’ column – which Wootton edited at the time – even launched a so-called ‘Bi Bus’ testing his “theory” that “most of us are at least a little bit bisexual [particularly] in the world of celebrity”.

In a further email on 29 July 2008, Branning gave the man instructions on how to persuade targets to agree to be filmed. Branning wrote: “You make it a really horny idea with whoever you’re seeing. All you need to say is ‘I’d love you to film me as you f**k me’. It works with all guys. trust me! Anyway, just keep me informed with your progress.”

Giving his account of events to Byline Times, the man said: “I wish I had never responded to the [first] email, but I did. Nowadays, people do OnlyFans [a ‘direct-access’ subscription pornography site] and I think it was the same kind of thing back in those days.

“It all seemed quite innocent and I thought ‘I’m not hurting anybody’. Then it escalated. It got heavier once I did give some content over. The guys I was meeting were up for being filmed on camera. It was consenting.”

Branning’s pretext for applying pressure to the victim was to say that he was working on behalf of a demanding third party who seemingly had intimate knowledge of the victim’s partner and their movements as a couple.

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In fact, the victim had been introduced to Wootton by the victim’s partner in the early stages of their relationship, and the partner also worked for News UK.

The victim said: “I always felt that Dan Wootton had a strange obsession with my ex – 100%, and it was weird. And I was always saying [to my ex-partner] ‘that guy’s massively in love with you and is obsessed with you’. And when I came in [to the relationship], you could tell that there was this jealous aspect [from Wootton]. It was so obvious.”

Branning’s knowledge of details about the victim’s private life soon unnerved him.

“It was odd… say I was going on a holiday with [my partner], then messages would get more intense and requests would get more and more common,” he told Byline Times. “It just ramped up. And I was like ‘well, God, this guy knows too much about me’. 

“That was the scary thing. And it was just frightening really… I couldn’t get away. Anywhere I was I felt that I was under scrutiny in some way, shape, or form. And you lose trust with a lot of people that you know because you start thinking ‘well, it’s got to be somebody feeding information to who I thought was a genuine person’. I had no idea.”

Things started to come to a head when Branning told the victim to make a film with his partner, who, when asked, said he did not want to make one consensually. The victim said: “It started with ‘do you know this guy?’ I told him I was not going to do this. But the pressure was mounting.”

He went on: “I said it’s not gonna happen; he’s not interested; it will be difficult to obtain [what you want]. But then [I was told to] ‘just take some discreet pictures if you can’.”

When he refused, Branning became ruthless.

The man said: “Branning said ‘if you don’t get this footage, then there are consequences and you don’t want your employer to find out or your friends and family to know what you’ve been doing’.”

He continued: “No one wants their mum and dad to see you f*****g someone. And that’s what it was – ‘well if you don’t, your family and your friends and your colleagues and your employers are gonna see what you’ve been doing’. You know, that was the heaviest part of it. I did try to just ignore that and tell him to f**k off basically, but then it just got more intense.”


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‘You Really Don’t Know the Damage Caused’

After Branning threatened the partner, offered them money, and – crucially – the promise to make it the final demand of them, he reluctantly agreed to secretly make the video, which Alex Truby would later find, before confronting Wootton, who Mr Truby said made a tearful confession to being Branning.

The man said: “It was a barrage of pressure to get this or otherwise ‘your cover will be blown’. In the end, I was like ‘f**k it I will just do it.’”

Asked if he was blackmailed into it, the then ex-partner said: “Yes.”

He added: “The guilt and the shame of actually doing what I’ve done to somebody that I was in a relationship with, that’s the thing that to this day makes me feel sick, because there’s consequences to that… I still can’t forgive myself for doing that to somebody else.”

The strain it put on the relationship began to take a toll, and it foundered and failed after Branning made good on his threat to expose the victim’s “work for him”, by sending an edit of “the worst bits” to his partner. 

He said: “It was well edited. It was just a montage of me and things that I’d sent out. [I saw it was true] that this guy knows how to get a hold of people that are very, very, close to me.” 

In an email sent to Branning on 30 May 2011, the victim said: “A video of me was sent to my partner with footage of every person I’d been with and sent to you. You promised me that wouldn’t happen. You really don’t know the damage caused.” 

To which Branning replied: “Must’ve been the other guy cos he was getting really annoyed you couldn’t get any footage with the [partner], who [I] think he knows.” 

What followed was a campaign apparently designed to chase the ex out of town and ensure his future silence. 

He said: “And then it was harassment. It was horrendous. I left London to get away from it all. I changed my phone number, blocked all of these Martin Branning email addresses that would come in – but he still managed to get hold of me up until 2018 when it all stopped.”

No Denial of Link to ‘Branning’

The victim only became aware of the connection between Branning and Dan Wootton after Byline Times unmasked him as a serial catfish who has used various online identities to trick and bribe scores of men into revealing compromising sexual material.

This newspaper revealed how the 40-year-old broadcaster and self-styled voice against ‘woke’ culture – whose show Dan Wootton Tonight is the biggest ratings winner on the UK’s fourth-most watched news channel – targeted journalistic colleagues, friends and members of the public for at least 10 years, offering sums of up to £30,000 “tax free” to his targets, many of whom were heterosexual men.

While this newspaper has repeatedly asked representatives for Wootton to confirm or deny whether the presenter was, or is connected to, Branning, it has not received a response. Wootton has said he denies any allegations of criminality.

The man said he “never clapped eyes” on Dan Wootton again since their first meeting, until “I saw him once [at another members’ club] and he was like ‘hi how are you’ and I just told him to ‘f**k off basically. I had no idea – I just didn’t like him as a person… I had no idea he was the person who was posing as Branning”.

Last week, in response to Byline Times’ investigation on his GB News show, the presenter railed against supposed “dark forces” seeking to “cancel” him with a “smear campaign”.

Of Alex Truby, he said: “He has created an untrue story about me, and appears to be working with an organisation who are intent on closing down this channel.”

But he then added: “I, like all fallible human beings, have made errors of judgement in the past. But the criminal allegations being made against me are simply untrue.”

Declining to take the opportunity to deny being, or being connected to, Branning, he continued: “I mean, who doesn’t have regrets? Should I be cancelled for them many years later? Or do you accept that I have learned and changed?”

A spokesman for News UK – which, following Byline Times’ stories, last week launched an investigation appointing external counsel to oversee it in moves not seen since the phone-hacking scandal of 2011 – said: “We are looking into the allegations made in recent days. We are not able to make any further comment at this stage.”

The allegations in this article have been put to representatives of Dan Wootton and this newspaper has not received a response. But Byline Times will update this article if it does.  

Dan Evans and Tom Latchem are former colleagues of Dan Wootton’s from the News of the WorldNone of the sources in this investigation were paid for their testimony

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