British broadcaster Dan Wootton allegedly used a fictional name, called Martin Branning, between June 2008 and 2018 to offer sums of money to men, including prominent personalities, into revealing compromising sexual material.

A report published by Byline Times, after three years of investigation, revealed that Wootton, who is gay, paid up to £30,000 ($39,248) to reportedly victimize men, many of whom were heterosexual. The victims allegedly included a very senior executive at Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and at least six other staff at The Sun newspaper, associates on Facebook and members of Grindr and Gaydar apps.

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Who is Martin Branning?

According to Byline Times, Wootton created an alternate personality called Martin Branning, who is a fictitious showbusiness agent. The name Branning is a portmanteau of EastEnders characters Martin Fowler and Max Branning.

“Tonight, a representative for Dan Wootton declined to provide Byline Times with an on-the-record response. It is understood that he strongly denies all allegations of criminality. The representative did not clarify, when asked, whether Wootton also denies being Martin Branning,” the report said.

Byline Times said that they had submitted a 28-page dossier of evidence to the Metropolitan Police for investigation on June 20, 2023. In that it has been alleged that Wootton admitted to a trusted former colleague and friend — who has not been named by the publication — that “during his many moments of crisis” he was afraid of being exposed and often feared the prospect of a “pile on” of victims.

The publication also interviewed a number of alleged victims anonymously. According to one of the victims who spoke to the outlet, he was left “in shock” to receive a text from “Branning.” Branning apparently offered the married man £10,000 to “pose nude” and do some “private work” for him. He said that it “felt like blackmail or entrapment”.

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A second victim told Byline Times that Branning sent him messages “day and night” from untraceable numbers and offered up to £30,000 in return for sexually compromising pictures The victim also had a knowledge of a “pattern of men who had worked with Wootton” who were being harassed with unsolicited malicious communications.

“It was all pretty much always the same thing, £20-£30,000 for naked photos, ‘aren’t you intrigued about who I am?’ – this sort of stuff, right,” he said.

A third victim, who is a former junior colleague of Wootton’s had similar allegations, saying that he received calls with offers of “work” with a sexual context. He said that it was “pretty obvious” they were from Wootton even though he did not use his name directly.