Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The FriendsReunited Conspiracy (?) – Part 11 – No Help

If you haven’t been reading this series of blogs then catch up at http://spankyrant.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-friendsreunited-conspiracy-part-1.html and the 10 following parts.

One thing I keep getting from these people is that I’ve done nothing to help them. So lets have a look at the correspondence from 2005. Sorry this is a bit of a long one.

We don’t have the original letter they sent by post in May 2005. Julie remembers it as a friendly letter asking for help on some research they were doing. No mention of a conspiracy. If there had been, we probably would not have replied. We had lots of people doing research about the Internet and business and were always happy to help. We also had lots of nutters.

Here’s a message to our pursuers: please scan and publish that original letter, so I can put it in here and let everyone see it.

As discussed earlier, Julie answered honestly and in a friendly manner - using “several smiley faces”, which our pursuers for some reason mention as if it’s important. We don’t remember the questions, but she made an honest mistake in response to a question about our original hosting company – or, as our pursuers put it, “she lied”.

We then got another letter explaining the real reason they were asking questions. They wanted an explanation for the “coincidences” they thought they had uncovered.

Again I don’t have that letter. Please scan and publish it here.

I called the chief pursuer. The reason I called was that we had a lot of strange contact over the course of the previous 5 years from all types of people. Nearly all of them went away after a quick chat. It was my genuine way of trying to help. I told him the domain registration was proof enough and that we didn’t have any link with his developer – and, as I couldn’t disprove such a link (the impossibility of proving a negative having been established since the Ancient Greeks, well over two thousand years ago), that he would have to trust me.

Reading their document, they seem to think I should jump at every weird twist in their perception of a conspiracy, and allow them full access to my company to “have a look around”. They were already heavily implying that we were lying, which (needless to say) was really quite irritating. They seem to quote me on everything in that conversation.

Here’s another message to our pursuers: If you recorded that conversation (which seems very likely, given how much you have to say about its content), please publish the recording – so that, amongst other things, listeners can make their own assessment of the straightforwardness or otherwise of my responses (as in their descriptions of me: “Steve replied in a (forced) casual manner” and “as though he was expecting one to be found”). 

The following letter was sent to us in August 2005 (I don’t have a copy but they have printed it in the comments section of my blog recently) – that is, after my above-mentioned display of deviousness:

Dear Steve

I am writing to thank you for taking the time and effort to contact me so promptly, I really am most grateful for your personal intervention. You sound very genuine and I want ever so much to be able to take your word as given; but it is my sole objective to prove irrefutably that the series of coincidences I have uncovered are totally unconnected.

I further appreciate that as a potentially blameless third party in this development, you are not remotely obligated to prove your innocence, so I am indebted to you for any inconvenience and more than happy to cover any expenses. While trying to establish that you do not know someone is almost totally impossible, linking you to the original registration date of 30th June 2000 for www.friendsreunited.co.uk would certainly finalise things.

As previously mentioned, the registration details are cloaked in uncertainty and having now contacted Julie & yourself, you both explained that you did not buy the domain name directly saying: “Densitron were looking after all our ideas at the time” - As I then revealed to you, Densitron were not actually the original ISP for this Domain name, so you should not have purchased it from them at all. And it seems that FR weren’t then even invoiced for a further 6 months, which again seems most unusual. 

This is sadly characteristic of the ambiguity I have uncovered throughout the last 5 years. Nothing is straight forward; nothing seems to add up, except that my Mr. xxxx is obviously trying to hide something, but what exactly and why? Perhaps he has been malicious with his intentions from the outset, deliberately involving FR to cause problems? 

Please feel free to call me again at any time, I would be very happy to meet with you in London, Kent or Barnet (totally at your convenience) if it means putting this entire scenario behind me once and for all. In the meantime I patiently await your response till after your holiday.”

The usual stuff about ambiguity and the usual random questions. The domain registration was still proof enough but in an attempt to get rid of them I got the invoice of the domain purchase scanned in and sent to them. This would give any reasonable person enough to draw a line under things. Here’s the email I sent –

“Sorry I haven’t got back to you sooner. I was going on holiday the day after I talked to you and didn’t take your email address with me. I’m still actually away but have just had my post delivered so I got your letter.

Just to clarify the Densitron/Aflex confusion. As I stated on the phone, we were initially with an ISP called Aflex and it was through them that we acquired the original domain names. We must have moved ISP’s to Densitron late in 2000. The statement from Julie that Densitron was the ISP we were using was a mistake. I didn’t even remember myself, let alone Julie, the exact history of moving ISP’s. It wasn’t until I talked to you that I remembered we were with them at the time – a lots happened in 5 years! 

Ive attached a scan of an invoice from Aflex. As you can see the invoice date is 9th July 2000, which fits in with the 30th June 2000 registration. The gap would be expected for any company raising an invoice. It also shows the purchase of HappyParty which shows we had only just started with the Party bag idea at the same time. 

I hope this helps. 


And back came the following – now asking to see the original invoice.

“Sorry not to get back to you sooner, I was away all last week on business and have not yet had an opportunity to review and check your scan in detail; we're hoping to cross referencing it with other invoices we already have details of. 

At face value however, I think it is [the developer] that is under the spotlight here, not yourselves.  Since my partner and I already have enough evidence to file against [the developer] for breach of confidence, I think this is the most sensible and logical route to follow as our next step.  He has contradicted himself not just verbally but (critically) in writing too, leaving himself wide open to punitive prosecution. 

The substantial file of documentation and evidence that I have built up over the last 5 years makes interesting reading, with many unexplained coincidences - to such an extent that there is even interest from the media.  

However, I will be reviewing this option most carefully before making any decisions:  I'm not looking to sell my story, but feel the media could help raise enough public interest to uncover the truth about [the developer] and exactly whom he talked to. 

Assuming that the invoice scan was done recently, the original document is obviously accessible to you - would you be adverse to me reviewing the original invoice at some time?  As I said in my earlier correspondence, I really am looking for irrefutable proof to enable me to drop my investigations, confirming this invoice as genuine would certainly fit the bill. 

Finally, thank you for taking my concerns seriously and doing your best to address them, perhaps one day I can repay the favour.

They wanted to see the original invoice in person. Why – did we fraudulently put it together? This was getting quite insulting but I still maintained a friendly approach.

This was a time wasting pain as well so I sent –

 Thanks for your email. I too am still away at the moment. 

Because I no longer am involved in the day to day running of the site any further information would have to be obtained from our management team who run the business from our office in Oxted. To be honest I’ve wasted enough of their time already as they are incredibly busy. I suggest if you want to contact them then the best point of contact is [xxxxxxx].

I’ve really done as much as I can – if you don’t think the invoice is genuine then that’s obviously your call. 

I hope you manage to get to the bottom of your issues. 


At this point I must admit I thought they made contact with our office and had visited the office to see the original – mad in itself as it was. They claim we never let them. If that’s their perception, then so be it. The guys at FR were going through Due Diligence on a sale of our business – I fully understand if they were too busy to deal with these deluded people. The person who scanned and sent the invoice over to them was probably insulted at the insinuation that it was a fake, so again I don’t blame them for not allowing our pursuers into the office. I have asked around and no one can remember whether they came in or not – it really was not that important.

Then I received yet another letter with the same old same old. Again I don’t have a copy. All of these letters and invoices went over in the sale to ITV. We obviously disclosed everything to ITV’s lawyers – and I don’t think those lawyers batted an eyelid. We probably do have copies of the letters somewhere but after so many years I thought it would be easier to ask the pursuers to print them - since they record and keep everything so meticulously.

Their latest letter (message to our pursuers: please publish it) had even more conspiracy nonsense and was quite frankly enough for me. (The level of madness even went to wanting to know details of estate agents we bought our house through.) I replied –

“I received your letter the other day and was somewhat saddened but quite upset by the whole tone of the letter. I had gone out of my way to help you, replying to letters, phoning you and then finding the original invoice. Now you want to see the original it appears you seem to believe it may not be genuine, to the extent of wanting to perform forensic treatment on it – I can fully understand [xxxxx] displeasure at this request as his own integrity is being questioned. 

When I spoke to you I went through how each of your claims was either coincidence or incorrect. I’m not one for legalistic jargon, because all of this questions/allegations, “statement of proof” and other terminology just hides behind the fact that you don’t believe us. And if that’s the case you are saying in a veiled way that we have lied over the story of FriendsReunited, which simply is not true. I was going to ignore it, but when someone keeps coming back and questioning our integrity, and the fact that Julie is quite upset that her original brainchild that we worked so hard to build is being questioned, then you may see why I am now beginning to get annoyed. 

I am not going to answer your outstanding questions because most of them I already talked through with you, and the question about estate agents used is just spurious and absurd – have you actually looked at land registry and seen the name of the people we brought our house from, not that it has any relevance since we told you we knew of nobody called [xxxx] in the first place. 

Having said all that, to try and finally bring an end to your problem, I have now spent some time and found my original development laptop rusting in a cupboard. On it I have found lots of documents ranging from May 2000 onwards including a directory called “friends reunite” by Julie which include an early idea of a name and some school images for a logo, a business plan listing a school reunion site as one of our many projects, various emails from Julie to her friends mentioning people listed against their schools and support emails from people on the site. All of these are date stamped. Add to this the 1000’s of people who registered in the first 6 months from July till December 2000 still currently in our database with date stamps and IP addresses and dozens of friends and work colleagues who had to listen to all our ideas in the early months of 2000 when were bouncing ideas of people and whether the ideas would work. We didn’t get any of them to sign NDA’s as I trust in people’s integrity. 

Once again it’s up to you if you believe this or not. I understand you have spent a long time and feel upset (although I have wondered why its taken 5 years for you to contact us), but if you can see from our perspective that if your problem has nothing to do with us, which it quite clearly hasn’t, then you will understand why this is beginning to bug us. 

If you still believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that we have in some way wronged you then you should take whatever legal action you feel appropriate but until that time I’d appreciate it if you’d stop sending letters every few weeks going over the same stuff. 


Steve Pankhurst”

And they back came –

“Thanks for your detailed reply.  I'll try and keep this brief for you: 

Firstly I'm truly sorry if my actions have upset you or Julie, this was not my intention -  please accept my sincere apologies.   

Since I sent the (last) letter to you I have actually done nothing further to follow up any leads that I have, & was contemplating just putting my file away in the attic.   I had uncovered nothing but a raft of circumstantial evidence, coincidences and half truths which I have put together over the last 5 years, slowly adding bits of a complex and incomplete puzzle.   

The catalyst for this entire "investigation" was as a result of [their developer] telling me and my partner that he'd "told some family friends that ran a children's party company about the [their website] idea"  - I'm sure you can appreciate the coincidence that I was faced with 4 months later after I found Friends Reunited in December 2000 on the Internet, then to see it was founded by the  Happy Party Group,  I just put 2 and 2 together...  Only recently did I get a chance to cross question [their developer] & now have proven that he lied, extensively, about may things, perhaps also about this?  Why, I may never Know. 

However, I have always kept an open mind about a link, as you and Julie seem so genuine and normal!   While trying to see if there may be a connection with [their developer], I have always been ready to accept proof that it was all just coincidental; but I never had this.  If you ever get a chance to re-read my original document, I hope you will see that I am not a malicious or nutty individual, but that I actually had genuine cause to raise my concerns and questions, however insulting you may have found them.  Just try and put yourself in my shoes, my only crime was to have the same idea as Julie, just at a different time. 

As a very logical, objective person I still have many unanswered questions and could go over and challenge many points in your letter, but I think it would get us both nowhere - so all I will do is to wish you luck for the future, whatever you decide to do with the site; I won't pester you again. ” 

Read that last line again: “I WON”T PESTER YOU AGAIN”

And of course we know “I won’t pester you again” was an utter joke. Within days I was contacted by a journalist from The Times who had received a complete dossier from our pursuers – not surprisingly the story never ran. Remember our pursuer’s statement about not trying to sell his story ? [When I met our pursuer this year, he denied that they sent the dossier to the Times journalist – well, someone’s lying…]

And then of course for the next 7 years, they continue on and off – employing numerous PIs, following people, visiting friends, staking out houses, phoning people and probably lots more. Over 1,000 pages of notes apparently.

It’s Madness.

So – the question is - does the above feel to you like I did nothing to help these people? I think I was polite, courteous and very helpful.

During the past 7 years we have moved on and got on with our lives. Clearly they haven’t. This episode was sometimes just a passing story to friends as one example of the sort of stuff we had to put up with – there were many more.

When I received the letter from our pursuers’ PI earlier this year, it took a good few moments to remember who these people were and the story they had created. I thought it funny and sad they were still at it, but also slightly concerned to know what they had been up to. That’s why I phoned their PI and eventually met our chief pursuer. As it turns out I was right in my hunch that they had been up to some horrible things.

So now of course they accuse me of being arrogant and having a big ego. I don’t know where that comes from.

I put it to them that they (our pursuers) are the arrogant and egotistical ones. They seem to have delusions of grandeur – thinking we knew about them from 2000, worried about them and spent our time scripting cover up stories.

So from now on I will not help or answer any more of their crazy questions and accusations. I shall just keep writing my own stuff, and referring to the nonsense they have sent me as I feel fit. I think for their own sanity they should take my blogs, especially Part 7 – The Facts, and sit down with a lawyer and see what they think.


  1. It really is crazy stuff. People of lesser substance than you would have taken these (I'm really trying to be kind here) nutters to court.

    This person has invested so much of his life in this that he doesn't want to give it up even though he knows he's wrong. It's like watching one of those cringy dragon's den episodes where all the successful dragons tell the deluded entrepreneur that his product sucks and to stop spending any more time or family money on it but he still can't accept it.

    There's another analogy of this made in the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where loggers are clearing swathes of land for a development. The chief planner climbs to the top of the highest tree, realises they've screwed up and shouts down 'STOP! WRONG JUNGLE!' and the boss shouts back up 'SHUT UP, WE'RE MAKING PROGRESS'.

    Sadly, this is the case and having invested all his time, money and effort he can't let go. He's screwed up, he knows it and somebody's going to pay.

    After all, he's making progress.

    It's menacing to say the least and absoluteky disgusting. This gentleman

  2. I've skimmed the dossier posted on the Kernel, and it's not so much a dossier as it is a catalogue of mental illness. These people are deranged.

    The conclusions and claims based on vague coincidences and minor errors are bizarre, the kind of insane leap in logic you see on conspiracy theory forums. I particularly enjoyed how they picked up on your phrase "rusting laptop" and kept underlining it or placing it in quotes as though that had some deeper meaning, at one point even saying "how can a laptop be rusting?" like you just couldn't stop lying. It's very weird.

    To John Meyer (and I know you and whoever else you've got roped in to your fantasy will be reading this): you are truly pathetic. You had the misfortune to come up with a similar idea in the same period as FR launched, but you lacked the skill and/or business acumen to make it a success. Your childish jealousy has turned into something very ugly. Seek professional help.

  3. @Steve - I am in awe at how much influence you have ...

    How did you manage to convince the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to alter their information so it showed Friends Reunited being "conveniently" crawled as early as 17th August 2000 (also, just how long did it take you to type in the names of 22,000 schools) ?


    -- perhaps the research from September 2000 which uncovered "... no other UK competition ..." was not that thorough after all ?

    1. I know - isn't it amazing the lengths I went to, to cover up our massive conspiracy.

      AND WAIT - this is what our conspirators said to the WayBack Machine entry....

      "No, absolutely not. With regard to the Way Back When Machine, it is possible for webmasters to submit backdated versions of their site to them, so it is not a perfect system"

      Can never win an argument with them.

    2. I've read the whole dossier. It's astonishing. It's absolutely mental, conspiracy stuff. But more than that, it's tragic.

      Let's give it it's real name. It's obsession. It's delusion. It's obsessive delusion. You've starting with a premise, trying to grab any slight thing that supports it, adding your spin to it, building on that spin, adding more, adding conspiracy, trying to connect anything that could be connected in any way that it possibly could, over 12 years, AND even then, you've failed to do so in any vaguely meaningful way.

      It's genuinely tragic that a family. A father, and now your children, have lived this obsession. This deluded obsession.

      You're deluded. You're wrong. You chased nothing after nothing to try and prove something that wasn't reality. It's immensely sad that so much of your time, energy and thinking and self worth has been consumed by this.

      Beyond that you've created hurt for two very decent people. You've questioned their integrity, and when they've (and now clearly misguidedly) gone to the effort to try and end your deluded suffering, tried to help you get passed your delusion, you've then used their efforts to support your misguided premise.

      Face the simple reality... you're not connected to them, or their success, in anyway. You have no relationship with them, other than the one you've impose through your delusion. You started believing this, you invested time and effort in it, you've deeply involved you family in it... you've made this a huge part your story. It's become part of your thoughts, your resentment, your whatever... it's become a massive part of you. With ever step you took down this path, it became harder and harder for you to face the reality. There must be a conspiracy, otherwise you'd have wasted 12 years of your life, your children's life, on a delusion.

      Play a game, imagine for one moment that you're wrong. That this is just in your head. What a waste. What an awful thing to do to two people. What an awful thing to put your children through. To encourage them to take on such a false reality. To make that false reality a deep part of their lives.

      But that is the reality. It's a awful reality to face. But it is one you must face.

      Embarrassing. Shameful. Awful. humiliating. Deeply gutting. Absolutely soul destroying. But that is the reflection in the mirror. You've hurt yourself deeply. You've hurt your children. You've humiliated your family. Your obsession has led you all far astray. You've hurt two very decent people. That's the impact of your delusion. And it is your delusion. And you absolutely must take responsibility for it.

      Anyone, any reasonable person, any person capable of reading, can only conclude from this dossier, that you're obsessed. Truly, deeply, obsessed. And truly deeply obsessed with a delusion. You've blocked out any information that goes against your premise, and embraced any information that provided a moment of comfort to it.

      You must focus on yourself. Focus on your children. Focus on your achievements. Focus on your and your children's future. Stop attempting to attach yourself to someone else's success, that you had no part of, no connection with, and ultimate no right to involve yourself with. It's a shame on you, and a shame on your family. You must, must stop. For your sake, for the sake of your children... you must face the simple truth... You're deluded. You wasted a huge amount of effort on this delusion. You dragged your family into your delusion. You've fed and fed and fed this delusion. You've tried to dress it in every thread of vaguely supporting evidence that you could find, but 12 years in, you have nothing, literally nothing, to show for all of that... because it is, will remain, and will always be, a delusion. Your delusion.

  4. Ah, I see you're on it too. Could you kindly tell me where you lived so I can have you followed.

    And I see you used the phrase ""rusting laptop"" too. Gotcha!