"Frontline" police tweeter Inspector Winter is a fake

A conman is under investigation for impersonating an officer both on the social network and in person.

Oolicemen wait on standby for more violence in south London, on August 9, 2011
Policemen wait on standby for more violence in south London, on August 9, 2011. Photograph: Getty Images

The @inspectorwinter Twitter account, which purported to be a policeman and which attracted attention for its “frontline” updates during last year’s riots, has turned out to be a fake.

The Times reports (£) that the man behind it, Ellis Ward, is a conman currently in prison awaiting sentencing, having pleaded guilty to credit-card fraud. They report that he is now also undergoing investigation for impersonating a police officer.

The account (which is currently still active, although it hasn’t been updated since last October) has just over 3,000 followers, which isn’t a very large number by Twitter standards. However, it received disproportionate attention when its author was asked by the Daily Telegraph to write a piece about the state of policing during the riots.

The article appears to have been removed from the paper’s website, but The Times has reproduced a few extracts, including:

“I last saw looting in Iraq, in the aftermath of the toppling of Saddam Hussein but now, unimaginably, it was happening on the streets of London.”

An anonymous Twitter account turning out to be not all it seems isn’t in itself that big a deal – we had something similar happen with the exposure of the @Lord_Credo account last year. In this case, the individual was pretending to be a government communications adviser at the heart of David Cameron’s Downing Street operation. Suspicions were aroused in those who dealt with the “Mike Paterson” who ran the account in person, and exposure followed.

In the case of @InspectorWinter, though, Ward wasn’t just pretending to be a police officer on Twitter. He was also doing it in real life – the paper reports that he had been “effectively hiding in plain sight by visiting police stations, mixing with officers and pretending to be one of them”, and carried fake warrant cards, stop and search forms and handcuffs.

While not an officer, he may actually have been on the frontline during the riots:

Detectives are investigating claims that he was able to use false identity documents to get through police cordons during the London riots last August and to go in and out of police stations where he claimed that he was attending emergency meetings.

A Hertfordshire police spokesman has confirmed than an investigation is ongong.