Julie Neville, the wife of ex-England footballer Phil Neville, has spoken out against Twitter trolls who unleashed a torrent of abuse at the couple and their disabled daughter, the BBC reported on Friday (5 June).

Julie Neville said she had received threats of rape, while her husband, who played for Manchester United and Everton, had received death threats.

Twitter users also targeted the couple's 11-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy.

"I think the worst things are, Phil has received death threats through Twitter and I've had people threaten to rape me," she said in comments reported by the BBC.

"We had one incident where two guys put on Twitter that you can buy T-shirts and the actual writing on the T-shirts was: 'Phil Neville's daughter is a spastic, she's a Cyclops and she has eight toes.'

"People feel that they have no social responsibility on Twitter. If people posted these things through our letterbox they would be done for stalking."

Julie Neville said the abuse directed at the family was "an ongoing thing."

Her comments came as police forces across the UK reported they had received reports of more than 16,000 alleged crimes involving social media last year.

Earlier this year, Twitter revealed a series of measures to try and prevent the spread of abusive tweets after it admitted it "sucked" at dealing with the problem.

There have been numerous high profile examples of Twitter abuse.

In May, multi-millionaire writer JK Rowling spoke out about the online abuse she received over her political views.

The previous month, TV presenter Sue Perkins left the social network after getting death threats over false rumours that she would be the next host of Top Gear following Jeremy Clarkson's departure.

Supt. Paul Giannasi, of the National Police Chiefs' Council's hate crime working group, said: "There have been a number of successful prosecutions against people posting offensive and abusive messages. In some cases this has led to the offender being imprisoned. There is a responsibility on police and internet providers to protect people online."