Kim Dotcom
German tech entrepreneur Kim Dotcom sits in a chair during a court hearing in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2015 Reuters

For months, unfounded rumours and far-right conspiracy theories have surrounded a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee (DNC) staffer called Seth Rich who, just before his murder on 10 July 2016, was set to join the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Rich was killed while walking through the Washington DC neighbourhood of Bloomingdale, roughly two weeks before WikiLeaks published a batch of 20,000 emails from inside the DNC. Ever since, internet messageboards and conspiracy websites have sought links between the two incidents.

Within the last week, media commentators and politicians, including 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange and internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom have all worked to spark further speculation – much to the ire of Rich's family.

The swell in attention was due to a report that, on 15 May, was published by Fox News claiming evidence had been found linking Rich to WikiLeaks.

The testimonial – since retracted in full – detailed the now-discredited claims of a private investigator called Rod Wheeler.

After its publication, Gingrich spoke out about the incident (speculating that Rich may have been "assassinated") and the media – alongside the lawyers – swiftly took notice.

Kevin Donahue, Washington DC's deputy mayor for public safety and Justice told local media at the time there was "no WikiLeaks connection".

Donahue said: "This is a robbery that ended tragically. That's bad enough for our city, and I think it is irresponsible to conflate this into something that doesn't connect to anything that the detectives have found." A police spokesperson said investigators were working to "bring closure to the case."

On 20 May, German-Finnish entrepreneur Kim Dotcom set off a rush of Twitter activity by claiming: "I knew Seth Rich. I know he was the @WikiLeaks source. I was involved." Fox News host Sean Hannity jumped on the assertion and quickly faced a backlash from his advertisers.

In a bombshell report three days later, The Washington Post claimed Dotcom may have tried to "hack" into the email inbox of Rich. The newspaper reported someone "may have been willing to create a fake archive of emails from Rich" or crack a password linked to his personal account.

Dotcom teased a revelation would be published to his personal website - however this failed to make any significant impact. "I have consulted with my lawyers. I accept that my full statement should be provided to the authorities and I am prepared to do that," he wrote.

Responding to the accusation, Dotcom penned an open letter shared to IBTimes UK which said further legal action may soon be taken. "I do not wish to cause any distress for the family. But nor can I sit idly by without communicating what I know to the appropriate authorities," he wrote.

Rich's parents, who have long called for right wing media to stop reporting on their son's death, published their own open letter in The Washington Post on 23 May.

It stated: "We have seen no evidence, by any person at any time, that Seth's murder had any connection to his job at the Democratic National Committee or his life in politics. Anyone who claims to have such evidence is either concealing it from us or lying.

"Still, conservative news outlets and commentators continue [...] to peddle discredited conspiracy theories that Seth was killed after having provided WikiLeaks with emails from the DNC. Those theories, which some reporters have since retracted, are baseless, and they are unspeakably cruel.

"The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth's murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth's memory is torn away from us." There remains no solid evidence linking Rich to WikiLeaks.

The DNC emails were published in full by Wikileaks on 22 July 2016. The source of the leak remains unknown, however US intelligence believes they were stolen as part of a Russia-led hacking and misinformation campaign launched with the aim of helping to elect Donald Trump.