Property investor accused of shutting down criticism over £10,000 courses – The Guardian

Samuel Leeds’s lawyers sent accusing letter to sister of soldier who killed himself but they deny he is stifling criticism
A property investor who runs courses costing upwards of £10,000 to help people become “financially free” has been accused of using his wealth and the UK’s claimant-friendly libel laws to shut down criticism of his methods.
Samuel Leeds’s solicitors’ Ellisons have issued legal proceedings or threats of lawsuits against at least 15 individuals or property websites that the Guardian is aware of.
A section on Leeds’s YouTube channel, which has more than 260,000 subscribers, is titled “Buying houses with no money”, while the website of Leeds’s company Property Investors suggests: “Anybody can become financially free within 12 months or less by investing in property.” Leeds frequently criticises his detractors in videos but has also responded in other ways.
A legal letter was sent to Carrie Jones, the sister of Danny Butcher, a soldier from Doncaster who killed himself after paying £13,000 for training with Property Investors. Butcher’s family said he was in debt before doing the training course and never made the money he thought he would from it. The letter, which Jones described as a “scare tactic”, accused her and other family members of involvement in a campaign of “defamation and harassment”.
Jones was unhappy that the letter referred to contact with Nick Fletcher, the MP for Don Valley, about her brother’s case.
“I can speak to whoever I like,” she said. “I was gobsmacked and annoyed at the fact that he had the audacity to sort of send me a message to tell me to shut up when he can’t even have the decency to speak to the family of Danny. I thought that was quite shocking and disrespectful.”
Ellisons said Leeds had been advised not to speak to Butcher’s family because he had been subjected to an “unlawful campaign of defamation and harassment”.
The firm told the Guardian the letter was sent after “months of defamatory comments” by Jones, which she denies. Ellisons initially offered to send the Guardian a schedule of alleged defamatory comments but later declined to do so.
The letter warned Jones about contact with Andrew Burgess and other people involved in a Facebook group concerned with Leeds, who are together being sued for more than £6m by Leeds for alleged harassment and defamation. He is seeking a six-figure sum in a separate lawsuit against Vanessa Warwick, the co-founder of the Property Tribes website.
Warwick, who has issued a counter-claim for defamation and harassment, denies the accusations and says she has nothing to do with the Facebook group despite Leeds’s suggestions. She said the volume of legal threats suggested Leeds wanted “to shut down public commentary and to send a clear message to others not to comment on social media for fear of being sued”.
She said: “The property training and wealth creation sector is completely unregulated and therefore public commentary and community-generated due diligence resources are just about the only line of consumer protection that is stopping people from being parted from their savings and pensions, or going further into debt.”
Burgess’s crowdfunding page says he attended an open day and felt “uncomfortable with the exceptionally hard sell, and how some of the people I had spoken to, who were in desperate situations, had signed up for further training, costing many thousands of pounds”.
Leeds’s solicitors told the Guardian: “The defendants and people incited by their Facebook group directly targeted (with direct messages, telephone calls and emails) Mr Leeds, his parents, his siblings, his business associates and his pastor … They contacted anyone that openly associated with our clients as students and tried to encourage them to distance themselves from our clients with threats of ‘they would be sorry’ if they did not. The campaign regularly included threats of violence and wishing our clients dead and included racist comments against our client’s wife.”
Warwick said: “I have never engaged in any of the conduct or behaviour so described by them.”
Burgess said: “At no time was I involved in any campaign involving threats of violence, wishing Mr Leeds dead or including racist comments against Mr Leeds wife.”
A property website, LandlordZONE took down content about Leeds after legal letters claiming it was defamatory.
Another action, subsequently settled, was brought against against Jon Holstead, for alleged copyright infringement over a video in which the fellow YouTuber discussed taking out a loan to pay for a £12,000 course and questioned its worth. He used clips from Leeds’s videos, relying on the exception in copyright law for “fair dealing”, which includes use for criticism and reviews but Ellisons disagreed.
Ellisons said: “Our clients do not consider they are ‘stifling’ legitimate commentary or criticism. They are only attempting to stop the spread of a small number of harmful untruths being spread by a small number of individuals.”
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at


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