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Alex Truby is the former partner of GB News’ biggest ratings-puller Dan Wootton – the New Zealand journalist who has made a career out of invading private lives and passing public judgement for big bucks.
From Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard; from Philip Schofield to pop star Duncan James and the late, tragic Caroline Flack, Wootton was Rupert Murdoch’s celebrity attack dog for more than a decade.
So, when instead of cleaning his clothes one fateful day in 2012, Mr Truby happened, he says, upon Wootton’s own dirty laundry, his conscience simply would not let him take the easy path of turning a blind eye – as many others have done since.
In his first ever interview, Mr Truby – gently spoken and determined, with a pronounced sense of fair play – relates the events that led to Byline Times’ special three-year investigation being published last month. This newspaper’s reports have exposed Wootton as a serial sexual catfisher, blackmailer and prolific workplace bully – all of which the presenter denies.
Byline Times has asked his representatives on numerous occasions to confirm or deny whether Dan Wootton is, or is connected to, ‘Martin Branning’ but it has received no response.
But for Alex Truby, it all began behind the big double doors of the laundry cupboard in Dan Wootton’s former one-bedroom flat on Leman Street in London’s sought-after E1 postcode.
A Cat-Sitting Discovery
“I was cat-sitting for Dan while he was on holiday in New Zealand,” Mr Truby explains. “One day, I was doing some laundry – I was looking for the dosing ball for the washing up powder, and put my hand down the side of the washing machine. And there was a holdall, rammed down there.”
Intrigued and suspicious, Mr Truby says he pulled at the black nylon and found the bag zipped and secured.
“I could tell it had stuff in it,” he says. “It wasn’t just an unused sports bag or something – and my immediate reaction was that it was hiding something. So I pulled it out completely and found there was a little travel padlock where the holes in the zips met.
“And so I thought, ‘okay, this is weird’. And because it was a flexible bag, I crumpled it to get the zip open wide enough to get my hand fully inside. And I started pulling stuff out.”
Among other personal items, Mr Truby says he found computer storage drives.
“There were also two external hard drives,” he says. “And I was very interested in those. I plugged one in and there was one file I was drawn to because I recognised the name as someone who was a friend of Dan’s.
“I started to dig into this one folder and there was a video and a text file, which I opened first. It was the transcripts of an MSN Messenger conversation between two people. One was Martin Branning, whose name I’d never heard before, and the other was the boyfriend of the person whose name was on the file.
“The transcript was between the boyfriend and Martin Branning. Branning was introducing himself as someone who was interested in making some sexual content. The transcript was essentially persuading [the boyfriend] to make this video, without the consent of his partner, if necessary.”
He adds: “The video file was exactly what I expected based on the transcripts. It was a wide shot of a bed from a camera put up high in order, I immediately thought, for it not to be seen. It was of [the two people] having sex. And I took it from the video that [Wootton’s target] had no knowledge or consent of that being made at all.”
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At the time, Mr Truby had been in a relationship with Wootton on-and-off for about three years. He says he was stunned by the discovery.
“I had always known Dan was obsessive about this person and I had never found it healthy,” Mr Truby told Byline Times. “My immediate gut reaction was that ‘Martin Branning’ did not exist. It didn’t make sense. How could it have come into Dan’s possession? And I knew that Dan was already obsessive about [the target].
“I knew Dan was Branning and that he had manipulated [the partner] into making the video. I felt sick to my stomach. Dan was my boyfriend. I was horrified.
“And when Dan came back to the UK, I confronted him about it. He didn’t even try to deny it. I said to him ‘Martin Branning doesn’t exist – it’s you!’ And he fell on his knees and said ‘I’m sorry. I’m really f****d up. I can’t help it’.
“It was him. He did it. And from that day, I have known 100% that Martin Branning does not exist – he is just a name and an MSN account and email that Dan has been using to fix stuff for himself.”
The revelation marked the beginning of the end of a relationship that limped on for another year but never recovered from what Mr Truby regards as a terrible betrayal, both of those in the film and himself.
“I stayed with him because Dan emotionally blackmailed me all the time,” he explains. “Whenever I tried to leave, he would say I was deserting him at a time of crisis. He controlled me. He watched and monitored me. I caught him accessing my emails and snooping on my social media. I feared him.”
‘It Enabled the Worst Parts of Him and Amplified Them’
It wasn’t always this way. When Alex Truby first met Wootton – three years his junior – as a fresh-faced 23-year-old in London, they quickly became friends.
Wootton was still a journalistic green-horn, freshly arrived from New Zealand and working for the television industry magazine Broadcast. Mr Truby was still embarking on his own career. Everything was possible for them and they became close friends.
But after a couple of years knowing each other platonically, and as Truby’s relationship with a man he describes “as at that time the love of my life” ran into trouble, he says Wootton began to pressurise him for more.
“I thought Dan was my best mate,” he says. “But he put me under immediate pressure to move things forward with him. I was asking for time and space, but I got ultimatums. I was put in a position. He said ‘we either get together or I’m gone from your life completely’.
“I was vulnerable. I had just lost what I thought was the love of my life, and suddenly I was going to lose my best mate too. I didn’t even have time to grieve the relationship. I just found myself tumbling into this relationship with Dan.”
Mr Truby says the change in Wootton once he left Broadcast in 2007 for Rupert Murdoch’s most-feared tabloid, the now-defunct News of the World, was profound.
“When I first met him, the biggest stories he did were about who picked up TV rights for this or that show,” he says. “It was very different to the News of the World. But working for Murdoch, that environment – which was very ruthless, very cut-throat, very competitive for the biggest stories – changed him. It enabled the worst parts of him and amplified them.
“He was so driven by the pressure there that, after a while, it was everything. He became one of their biggest-ever performers, getting all these splashes [front pages]. He would get very angry if he ever felt screwed over on a story. He would make moves against colleagues to stop them from sharing bylines with him – if he ever had to share credit for a story, he wouldn’t like it. He got mad about it.
“He was very, very, very focused on getting his name on the front page of the News the World, week after week, as many times as he could possibly get it on there. And his bosses loved him for that and rewarded it.
“The toxicity of that paper, which everyone knows about now it has shut down, probably did push him into employing bad tactics. But I think, by nature, you’re either capable of that kind of level of ruthlessness or not. Something came together there. There was pressure and, because of his ambition, he was capable of it.”
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Wootton’s growing power at the then most-read newspaper in the English-speaking world led to practices which Mr Truby now regards as potentially corrupt and which gave Wootton the financial power to further his own interests.
“Dan had the News of the World pay money to my bank account as a ‘source’ an absolute minimum of 10 times,” he says. “He told me it was for his actual sources, and I knew his boss knew who I was, so I didn’t question it too much. It was never life-changing sums – always hundreds not thousands, but still big lumps.
“I didn’t really understand his world – I just thought it was a normal thing for reporters to do sometimes in order to protect people’s confidences. I would give the money to him and I don’t know what happened to it after that. He had other friends who’d do it for him too.”
‘To Try and Paint Me as Abusive is Abusive’
When the News of the World shut down in disgrace in 2011 amid the phone-hacking scandal, Wootton moved first to the Daily Mail as an “editor-at-large” before returning to the Murdoch fold with The Sun titles.
He eventually moved on from The Sun in 2021 after falling out with editor Victoria Newton and found himself at GB News where, Mr Truby says, he turned his back on a long background of left-leaning personal politics.
“When I knew him, his politics were centre-to-centre-left,” he says. “He was always so proud that one of his first breaks was interviewing Helen Clark when she was a Labour Prime Minister in New Zealand. Dan comes from a family of liberal people. His family are educators. When I knew him, his politics were the same as theirs. I never got an inkling from him that he would ever align himself with the hard-right.
“I think he is faking it on GB News for the money and because he burnt so many bridges in the mainstream media.”
Mr Truby looks back with regrets on the four years from 2009 to 2013 he spent with Wootton.
“I wish I’d been braver,” he told Byline Times. “I wish I’d walked away sooner. I wish I hadn’t given him so much of what should have been an amazing part of my life. However, I did. And I’m over it. I’m not here for some kind of personal revenge against Dan or for how I was mistreated. I’m not that kind of person.”
The powerful platform Wootton enjoys with GB News allowed the presenter to launch a live-on-air attack, after the first part of this newspaper’s investigation was published, on Byline Times, its journalists and others he alleges – erroneously – are part of a “hard-left” campaign to have the channel “cancelled”.
Mr Truby – who had already written about the holdall revelations in a viral Twitter thread – was attacked by his former partner as abusive live on air, with Wootton making strong allegations that Alex Truby had previously threatened him with violence.
Speaking to Byline Times, Mr Truby candidly addressed Wootton’s accusations.
“To try and paint me as abusive is abusive in itself,” he says. “It was an extension of his behaviour when we were together. I know I am no abuser and I am square with that. I still share a dog with my most recent ex. I am close friends with the two before that. I am in a very happy and supportive relationship now.”
On the alleged threat of violence, Mr Truby says: “On more than one occasion, Dan targeted my friends online. And knowing what I did about Martin Branning, I was scared of what Dan would do. Something did happen not long after TV presenter Caroline Flack had died [around February 2020].
“I saw Dan crying what I thought were crocodile tears about Caroline. It galled me. So I tweeted briefly about the holdall discovery.
“I deleted the posts after about eight hours. I’d had a call from a mutual contact who put pressure on me on Dan’s behalf. Later, Dan’s lawyers started following me on social media. It felt intentional to silence me with legal threats.
“At the exact same time, Dan went after someone very close to me. It felt predatory and intentional. I didn’t see any choice but to act. And yes, I messaged him. And yes, I told him to stay the f**k away from my friends. And in the heat of that moment, I used strong words – but just words. I am not a violent person.”
Mr Truby is still bruised by Wootton’s on-air verbal assault.
“The moment I saw it, I felt sick,” he says. “It was scary. I knew that he was going to hit back at me for speaking out – that’s in character with the man I know. But to try and call me an abuser live on TV, when I could find a hundred character references to the contrary? That, I didn’t see coming. And I still can’t believe his bosses let it happen. It’s deranged.”
Yet despite the deeply personal ad-hominem abuse a national newscaster allowed Wootton to bring down on his former partner, Alex Truby is remaining calm and committed to his truth.
“I’m hoping this story goes somewhere,” he says. “I’m hoping the right people look at what has gone on and that people learn the truth. And that is it.”
Tom Latchem and Dan Evans are former colleagues of Dan Wootton’s from the News of the World. Alex Truby was not paid for his testimony
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