Police were today investigating claims made by a Savills employee that his Twitter account had been hacked after the upmarket estate agent suspended him over a vile racist tweet posted about black England footballers.
Andrew Bone called in Greater Manchester Police after a tweet was published on his account following England’s penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday night, which said: ‘N*****s ruined it for us.’
The message was posted on the page of Mr Bone – a commercial building manager who lives in Sale, Cheshire – shortly after England players Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho all missed their penalties.
After 37-year-old Mr Bone, who is based in Manchester, was widely accused of being a racist, the tweet was deleted. Then, a message on his Twitter page appeared which said: ‘Omg (oh my God), I haven’t said anything.’
His stepfather Robert Dutson then told MailOnline yesterday: ‘He didn’t post the remark. His account has been hacked. He has contacted the police about it. They are looking into it now.
‘He started getting comments saying he was racist. That is not him. He is not a racist. The tweet appears to have come from a device not used by this account before.’
Andrew Bone (left and right) called in Greater Manchester Police after a racist tweet was published on his Twitter account
The message was posted on the page of Mr Bone shortly after three England players missed their penalties
England’s Bukayo Saka applauds fans after the Euro 2020 final against Italy at Wembley Stadium on Sunday night
Savills confirmed that Mr Bone had been suspended pending the outcome of the force’s investigation, adding that he claims his account was ‘taken over by a third party’.
Mr Bone’s Twitter account, along with his LinkedIn page, have both been deleted. A previous tweet that was published on his account in March also surfaced yesterday.
PM to urge social media firms to take tougher action over online racism
Boris Johnson will urge social media firms to take tougher action over racism after the abuse of England football players, which he described as being ‘from the dark spaces of the internet’.
The Prime Minister was preparing to hold talks about online abuse with the companies in No 10 on Tuesday in the wake of the attacks after the team’s loss in the Euro 2020 final.
Downing Street said he will ‘reiterate the urgent need for action’ in the meeting but also had to issue a defence of Mr Johnson and Priti Patel over their earlier responses.
England footballer Tyrone Mings accused the Home Secretary of having managed to ‘stoke the fire’ in the tournament by criticising the team for taking the knee against racism as ‘gesture politics’.
No 10 said Mr Johnson opened a meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday by condemning the racist attacks players were targeted with after Sunday’s match.
‘He said the abuse was utterly disgraceful and had emerged from the dark spaces of the internet,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
‘He said he would use today’s meeting with social media firms to reiterate the urgent need for action ahead of tougher laws coming into force through the Online Harms Bill.’
It said: ‘This race row is going too far, it’s turning into something that generations can’t or won’t resolve. It seems that only those of black origin have decided the world or those of white origin are against them, how does anyone resolve this?’
A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: ‘Greater Manchester Police has received complaints about a social media post following the Italy v England Euro 2020 final at Wembley.
‘Reports from across the UK are being collated by United Kingdom Football Policing Unit and the Metropolitan Police and will then be allocated to the relevant forces for further investigation if required.’
A source within the force also confirmed to MailOnline that the ‘hacking claim is being investigated’.
And a Savills spokesman said: ‘Savills confirms that the staff member connected with the racist comments placed on Twitter claims that his account was taken over by a third party and that the matter is being referred to the Greater Manchester Police.
‘Savills has acted swiftly and confirms that the individual is suspended from duty pending the findings of this investigation, which is being progressed as a priority. Savills has a policy of zero tolerance on any form of racial abuse or discrimination.’
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, the firm’s head of office James Evans said: ‘We were made aware of these appalling tweets and we are shocked by what we have seen.’
Asked if any member of staff had been suspended as a result of the tweets, he said: ‘We have to go through a proper procedure. We have to do it properly.’
Mr Evans said it was anticipated the company would issue a further statement once the investigation concludes.
Mr Bone lives in a two-bedroom terrace house in Sale, Cheshire, which he bought for £242,500 in September last year.
It comes as another black England footballer, Tyrone Mings, last night launched a scathing attack on Home Secretary Priti Patel after she condemned abuse of black players, and accused her of double standards.
In the first criticism of the Government by one of the Three Lions, the defender blamed Miss Patel for ‘stoking the fire’ at the start of Euro 2020 when she said that the taking of the knee by the England team was ‘gesture politics’.
Mings, 28, then claimed the Home Secretary was ‘pretending’ to be outraged when the three black players who missed penalties against Italy received hundreds of offensive and racist messages on their social media pages.
In a tweet yesterday, the Home Secretary said she was ‘disgusted that England players who have given so much for our country have been subject to vile racist abuse’.
She went on: ‘It has no place in our country and I back the police to hold those responsible accountable.’
Marcus Rashford (left) and Jadon Sancho (right) also faced racist abuse after missing their penalties in the final on Sunday
Nineteen-year-old Bukayo Saka is inconsolable after failing to score his penalty kick and handing victory to the Italians
Saka is consoled by Gareth Southgate following the penalty shootout in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday night
But Mings hit back, saying: ‘You don’t get to stoke the fire at the beginning of the tournament by labelling our anti-racism message as ‘gesture politics’ and then pretend to be disgusted when the very thing we’re campaigning against, happens.’
Savills confirmed that Mr Bone had been suspended pending the outcome of the force’s investigation, adding that he claims his account was ‘taken over by a third party’
The defender added: ‘Waking up today and seeing my brothers being racially abused for being brave enough to put themselves in a position to help this country, is something that sickens, but doesn’t surprise me.’
His comments came after a mural of Marcus Rashford in Manchester praising his work against child food poverty was defaced.
In the early part of the tournament, some England fans booed the team when they took the knee. Initially, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to condemn them, only urging supporters to be ‘respectful’.
It was not until four days later that a No 10 spokesman toughened the response to say that Boris Johnson wanted fans to ‘cheer them on, not boo’.
The following week, Miss Patel chose not to condemn the booing, saying it was a ‘choice for them’, as she criticised taking the knee as ‘gesture politics’.
Yesterday Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner likened Mr Johnson and Miss Patel to ‘arsonists complaining about a fire’ after they condemned the racist abuse. Mr Johnson had tweeted that the England team ‘deserve to be lauded as heroes, not racially abused on social media’.
But in response Miss Rayner said: ‘The Prime Minister and the Home Secretary gave licence to the racists who booed the England players and are now racially abusing England players.
‘Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are like arsonists complaining about a fire they poured petrol on. Total hypocrites.’
A mural honouring England star Marcus Rashford was vandalised less than an hour after Sunday’s Euro 2020 final defeat
Ex-England player Gary Neville also criticised Mr Johnson, suggesting he had promoted racism by previously describing Muslim women as looking like ‘letterboxes’.
Neville added on Sky News: ‘The Prime Minister said it was OK for the population of this country to boo those players who were trying to promote equality and defend against racism.’
What have social media sites said about racist abuse aimed at England’s players?
Facebook, which also owns Instagram
‘No one should have to experience racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on Instagram.
‘We quickly removed comments and accounts directing abuse at England’s footballers last night and we’ll continue to take action against those that break our rules.
‘In addition to our work to remove this content, we encourage all players to turn on Hidden Words, a tool which means no one has to see abuse in their comments or DMs.
‘No one thing will fix this challenge overnight, but we’re committed to keeping our community safe from abuse.’
‘The abhorrent racist abuse directed at England players last night (Sunday) has absolutely no place on Twitter.
‘In the past 24 hours, through a combination of machine learning based automation and human review, we have swiftly removed over 1,000 Tweets and permanently suspended a number of accounts for violating our rules – the vast majority of which we detected ourselves proactively using technology.
‘We will continue to take action when we identify any Tweets or accounts that violate our policies.
‘We have proactively engaged and continue to collaborate with our partners across the football community to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively and will continue to play our part in curbing this unacceptable behaviour – both online and offline.’
Mr Johnson’s official spokesman rejected the claim, insisting: ‘The Prime Minister was clear that he wanted to see everyone getting behind the team to cheer them on. He made that clear before England’s first game.’
Yesterday Prince William led a chorus of condemnation against the racist abuse directed at the three players who missed penalties – Rashford, Jadon Sancho and 19-year-old Bukayo Saka.
The Duke of Cambridge said he is ‘sickened’ by ‘this abhorrent behaviour’ and called for those involved to be held accountable. William, president of the Football Association, watched England lose to Italy with his wife Kate and son George, seven, on Sunday night.
The duke, who consoled the team in their dressing room after the game, said: ‘I am sickened by the racist abuse aimed at England players after last night’s match. It is totally unacceptable that players have to endure this abhorrent behaviour. It must stop now and all those involved should be held accountable.’
William’s father Prince Charles said the performances of the Three Lions have ‘made us proud’. He added: ‘Recognising the rich diversity of cultures which make this country so special lies at the heart of what we can be as a nation.’
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, described the England team as an example of what is best about this country.
He said: ‘Rashford, Sancho and Saka showed incredible courage in stepping up to take penalties. Those who are racially abusing them show the opposite and must be held accountable.’
Last night England captain Harry Kane tweeted: ‘Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up and take a pen when the stakes were high. They deserve support and backing, not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since. If you abuse anyone on social media you’re not an England fan and we don’t want you.’
England manager Gareth Southgate said: ‘For some of them to be abused is unforgivable. We have been a beacon of light to bring people together and the national team stands for everybody.
‘We felt the energy and positivity from the fans and I’m incredibly proud of that.’
Social media companies yesterday faced widespread calls to do more to tackle abuse. In February, the Government threatened them with fines of up to 10 per cent of their global revenue if they failed to act.
Ministers have issued plans for a Bill which would put a legal duty of care on tech giants to protect users from harm, including online abusive comments and threats.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said ‘social media companies need to up their game’. Part of the problem is tech giants rely on automated systems to weed out abuse, which have severe limits on what they can remove.
Twitter said it had removed more than 1,000 posts over the past 24 hours and suspended a number of accounts for violating its rules.