Hate mail (as electronic, posted, or otherwise) is a form of harassment, usually consisting of invective and potentially intimidating or threatening comments towards the recipient. Hate mail often contains exceptionally abusive, foul or otherwise hurtful language.
The recipient may receive disparaging remarks concerning their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, religion, intelligence, political ideology, sense of ethics, or sense of aesthetics. The text of hate mail often contains profanity, or it may simply contain a negative, disappropriating message.
Senders of hate mail normally send anonymous letters or pose as someone else (either a different or fictitious individual) in order to avoid being identified and tracked down, as the nature of some hate mail would inevitably result in criminal charges if the sender was identified.
Famous individuals including actors, members of the Royal Family, politicians and sports people are known to have frequently received hate mail. Players and managers have frequently received hate mail from supporters of rival football clubs, and hate mail has also frequently been sent by fans to players and managers of their own club when they feel that their performance or attitude has been inadequate. Racially motivated hate mail has also been a frequent occurrence, as well as hate mail relating to the Sectarian divide between Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow, Scotland, in particular Neil Lennon, who managed Celtic from 2010 to 2014.
Victims of high-profile crimes have also received hate mail, including the parents of murdered and missing children. British media campaigner Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered by a paedophile in July 2000, revealed in 2004 that she and her family received a letter while her daughter was still missing, alleging that Sarah had been killed by her father and grandfather. In the years after Sarah's body was found, Sara and her husband Michael received a number of letters criticising them for allowing Sarah and her siblings to play unsupervised on a beach before Sarah's disappearance. Kevin Wells, whose 10-year-old daughter Holly was one of the two girls murdered by school caretaker Ian Huntley at Soham, Cambridgeshire, in August 2002, later revealed that he received a catalogue of hate mail after his daughter's body was found. He was accused of murdering his daughter as well as her friend Jessica Chapman, but also of having murdered Sarah Payne (whose killer Roy Whiting had already been convicted by this stage), and Milly Dowler (the missing Surrey teenager whose body was found in September 2002 but whose killer Levi Bellfield was not convicted until nearly a decade later). Kevin Wells also received letters accusing him of being the leader of an international paedophile ring. He also received religion-influenced hate mail from at least one individual condemning him for allowing his daughter to "play out on the Sabbath". Milly Dowler's family later received letters from a hoaxer who claimed that the human remains found were not those of their daughter, and that she was in fact living in Poland.
Jane Tomlinson, the charity fundraiser who died in September 2007 after a long battle against cancer, received abusive letters, phone calls and e-mails from individuals accusing her of feigning her terminal illness during the final year of her life.
Gerry and Kate McCann, whose young daughter Madeleine McCann has been missing since May 2007, have frequently received hate mail since the unsolved disappearance of their daughter, often from individuals accusing them of killing their daughter, while others have berated them for leaving Madeleine and her younger twin siblings unsupervised in their Portuguese holiday home while they attended a party at a neighbouring house, and some have given what have since been identified as false accounts of what might have happened to their daughter.
Graffiti aimed at an individual in the same manner as hate mail has also occurred on many occasions. A notable example during the 1990s was the desecration of the grave of Moors Murders victim Lesley Ann Downey, who had been murdered in December 1964. Some 30 years after her death, a string of messages appeared on her headstone, calling for the release from prison of Moors Murderer Myra Hindley, and making threats to Lesley Ann Downey's mother Ann West, who was at the centre of a campaign to keep Myra Hindley in prison.
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-  The Forensic Linguistics Institute
- Dear, Michael (January 2001). "The politics of geography: hate mail, rabid referees, and culture wars". Political Geography. Elsevier. 20 (1): 1–12. doi:10.1016/S0962-6298(00)00033-0.
- Temkin, Benny; Yanay, Niza (October 1988). "'I shoot them with words': an analysis of political hate-letters". British Journal of Political Science. Cambridge Journals. 18 (4): 467–483. JSTOR 193881. doi:10.1017/S0007123400005226.