A new book has revealed how an extraordinary online campaign of harassment and humiliation spilled into the real world and alleges the long-running plan may have been linked to a brutal home invasion.
The book, Whaleoil, is named for Cameron Slater's blog site and alleges dozens of defamatory blog posts written about businessman Matt Blomfield stemmed from a fallout with a former business partner.
A conspiracy under the name "Operation Bumslide" saw the former business partner Warren Powell supply Slater and others with a decade of Blomfield's personal and financial records which were then used in an attempt to destroy his reputation.
The blog posts were then backed up by complaints from "Operation Bumslide" members to a host of government enforcement agencies, leading to Blomfield being described as "one of New Zealand's most investigated people".
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Eventually Blomfield was cleared of any wrongdoing and Slater lost a High Court defamation case and Human Rights Tribunal case in which one of his articles about Blomfield was described as nothing more than "character assassination".
The Whaleoil book, by journalist Margie Thomson, is presented as a detailed, behind-the-scenes investigation into years of alleged bullying and threats against Blomfield, including claims that after he launched his seven-year defamation action his computer was hacked and Slater approached one of his daughters over social media.
The book, which was published last night, traces the campaign by Slater back to a falling out between Blomfield and Powell, who had gone into the Hell's Pizza business together.
The book claims the falling out led to the creation of "Operation Bumslide" in 2012 and a cohort who conspired over Blomfield's downfall. It says the group included Powell, his former PA Amanda Easterbrook, car dealer Marc Spring and Slater.
Powell and Slater did not respond to requests for comment. Spring did respond but offered no comment. Easterbrook sent a text message saying she was not a defendant in any proceedings and had not been summoned to court.
Evidence uncovered through the book shows Powell had possession of a hard drive and filing cabinet on which the blog posts were loosely based. Collectively, they contained most of Blomfield's business, financial and personal photographs and records for a decade.
The book details the real-world impact of the blog posts. Blomfield was unable to work after colleagues and friends were alerted to the blog posts anonymously if they hadn't stumbled across the content online.
Along with the personal and financial cost, the book speculates a 2014 attack at their Greenhithe home might be linked to "Operation Bumslide" and the Whaleoil blog posts.
According to the book, Blomfield received odd and frightening text messages forecasting physical harm ahead of a home invasion by gang associate Ned Paraha, who was sent to prison for the armed assault.
The book speculated as to the blogger's potential connection to gang members and included material hacked from Slater's computer in which Slater is twice quoted as offering to provide Blomfield's location for people who allegedly wanted to attack him.
The book further recorded testimony from an associate of Slater's in which a gang member was asked how much it would cost to "finish Matt off". The sum quoted, according to the book, was $5000.
While the book doesn't identify Slater receiving payment for the defamatory blog posts, it does record him going on holiday to Las Vegas where Powell lived. Asked later, he was unable to say who paid for his flights. The book also offered evidence of Powell saying he would put money towards Slater's defamation defence costs.
By 2016, the book records relations between Powell and Slater to have cooled. Slater emailed Blomfield at one stage calling Powell "a gutless coward". "You got used, I got used."
The book is highly critical of police handling of complaints, which was conceded by a senior officer who carried out an internal investigation in the way they were handled.
It includes an appendix from barrister and media law specialist Steven Price in which he proposes the creation of a Communications Tribunal, which could consider the impact of publication across all media - including the internet - when it was defamatory, or breached standards for harmful communications, media ethics or privacy.
He said defamation law was slow and bogged down in a "quagmire of technical rules, massive fees, legal complexities and delays".
Price said the proposed tribunal would be bound to respect free speech while offering an avenue to affected people which was "cheap, speedy and accessible".
Blomfield, who spent an estimated 9000 hours and $1 million fighting the case over seven years, said there were insufficient protections for those subject to online attacks.
"Online is the largest part of our interaction now. There's this whole world which exists online and there's no policeman."
In a foreword for the book, journalist Nicky Hager called for change to the way the internet is managed and how boundaries are enforced.
He said the case "highlights the changes we need as a society to protect us all in this digital age".
Hager was the author of a 2014 book which also focused on Slater and his blog, which purported to show Slater taking cash to attack people online. It also claimed the blog ran "hit jobs" for the National Party.
He said Blomfield had fought back against being targeted online and eventually triumphed over "the hate practised by Cameron Slater and his associates".