Mystery blogger is tracked down

COUNCIL chiefs have pinpointed the location of infamous mystery blogger 'Brenda' and could unveil the writer's identity within days.

Controversy erupted in November when an anonymous writer using the pen name 'Brenda' added a libellous message to the Curly's Corner Shop blog, accusing a former councillor of rigging ballots.

The blog's writer Graham Rigg released the computer address of the writer.

The computer's address was then traced back to South Tyneside Council.

The writer had accused sisters Karen Nicholson and former South Shields Labour party chairman Geraldine White of rigging a Labour party selection ballot eight years ago, in the now-defunct Rekendyke ward.

At the time, council bosses promised a full probe into the issue. Now it is understood that the source of the message has been pinpointed to a single computer within the council, to within just a few seconds of the message being posted.

The council's chief executive Irene Lucas now has a range of options open to her, including asking the individual who wrote the message to voluntarily reveal themselves.

If they decline, she can then weigh-up the sisters' right to know, in contrast with the restraints of the Data Protection Act.

If that fails, the sisters can obtain a legal order in an attempt to force the council to reveal the name.

A source close to the sisters said: "They won't give up at the first hurdle.

"They're both determined to find out who wrote this message, which could have done serious damage to their reputations.

"The Data Protection Act must be observed, but using the council's resources to throw mud at local residents is surely so serious that the name of the writer must be revealed."

Council chiefs are said to be treating the matter very seriously, and Mrs Lucas has held at least one meeting with the sisters at South Shields Town Hall.

Mrs White and Mrs Nicholson have both sought legal advice on the issue, to establish the liability of all parties involved in publishing the slurs.

However, the sisters maintain that they aren't seeking financial gain from the release of the name.

The pair also hope for a full review of the council's IT, e-mail usage policy and disciplinary procedure, once the investigation is complete.