Edinburgh’s Secret Plumber Twitter storm

The Secret Plumber, James Hogg, has said sorry over the online row, despite claiming his account had been hacked. Picture: contributed
The Secret Plumber, James Hogg, has said sorry over the online row, despite claiming his account had been hacked. Picture: contributed
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A PLUMBING firm has become the latest victim of Twitter – after messages from an official work account sparked a social media meltdown.

An alleged road traffic row – the sort of minor incident which happens countless times every day across the city – has led to an Edinburgh plumber becoming an overnight sensation for all the wrong reasons.

James Hogg, 23, boss of Dalry Road based business The Secret Plumber, has apologised after a Twitter feed belonging to his business fired off a series of abusive messages after he was involved in an alleged road rage spat with another driver.

Seen through Twitter’s magnifying lens, the row between “the secret plumber”, the woman in the car left terrified by the incident and a host of other social media users has now become very public property.

The exchange between the secret plumber and nine months pregnant Nicola has been read by thousands of people, retweeted more than 100 times and has spawned two blogs.

It has also been labelled a working example of how not to use social media, thanks to the way the secret plumber seemingly digs himself deeper into the mire with each retort, and prompted an apology from the 23-year-old self-made businessman who runs the company.

Mr Hogg insisted that while he was driving the company vehicle, he did not post anything offensive and that his account had been hacked by a pal.

He said: “The account was hacked over the weekend by one of my friends, who must have picked up my phone at a party. It was a prank that went too far and I would like to apologise for any offence caused by it.

“Why would I apologise if I didn’t do it? Because this is damaging my business and I would like to put it behind me.”

The saga unfolded just after noon on Saturday when Nicola took to the micro-blogging site to vent her frustration after she was reportedly nearly rear-ended by a Secret Plumber van in Dalry Road. She said: “Massive thanks to the @secret_plumber van for almost driving in the back of me. At nine months pregnant. I really appreciate that.”

Nicola said she and her husband were then verbally abused. She said: “He called us f*****s and m****s and there was a whole lot of swearing involved. Completely inappropriate in a Lidl car park where children were present. Also said we were now on his ‘hit list’ having stopped and taken a good look at my car.”

After another user of the site urged her to report what happened to the police she was shocked to then receive a tweet from the Secret Plumber account reading: “Report what you bunch of f****s? Ur s*** driving – let’s go.”

Nicola, who is due to give birth later this week, was sent further abusive tweets from the account, one including a sexual slur based on her profile picture.

By this point, the spat had come to the attention of dozens of other Twitter users.

However, people attempting to take the plumber to task also received abuse short shrift for their trouble with challenges such as “come say it to my face” and, “complain all you like... I am the BOSS and this is how I will respond” fired off to people.

The argument soon spilled over on to the company’s Facebook page.

When criticised over its handling of the incident, this response was posted: “Were you there?? No?! The (pregnant) lady (fat***e) was not driving... Therefore it is the supposed husband who should be driving ‘carefully’... I am not a magician again my dear friend we would be more than happy to discuss this further.”

Yesterday morning saw a 180-degree turn in the company’s social media output, with the Secret Plumber Twitter account suspended, earlier comments removed from the Facebook page and a notice appearing which read: “The mobile device which controls all Secret Plumber accounts had been lost on Friday evening. The twitter account was hacked on Saturday. I apologise for all offensive tweets, it was not the secret plumber.”

Mr Hogg, who lives in the city centre and is the registered owner of the Secret Plumber business, claimed he was not aware of the furore on social media.

He said he had overtaken a “dangerously slow moving” vehicle “going about five miles an hour” .

He also denied using any abusive language towards the couple and claimed he had not seen a comment posted on his Facebook page three weeks ago by another user reading “Cannot drive. Just bout took front of my car off. Cutting people up @ Straiton. Very impatient person. Doesn’t know the Highway Code or manners”.

Mr Hogg explained: “I’m not very good at this Facebook and Twitter thing.”

And he also claimed his phone was hacked. With Twitter in meltdown over the confrontation, social media experts have labelled the encounter an example of “how quickly” things can spiral out of control in the anonymous world of free online comment.

One said: “People have to realise that putting something out there on Twitter isn’t the same as texting someone. It’s the same as publishing. We’re all on a steep learning curve at the moment and what we’re seeing at the moment are some particularly public and painful lessons being learned.”

Police Scotland last night confirmed they were investigating an alleged road incident.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “Police are investigating following the report of an alleged road rage incident on Dalry Road on Saturday, 
December 7. Inquiries are still ongoing.”

jen.lavery@edinburghnews.com