SOCIAL media stars Nick Smith and his partner Jess Farthing were just getting the night feed ready for their one-month-old son, Ted, when all hell broke loose.
Their daughters Amelia and Isabella, then six and nine, as well as Jess’s brother Jack, then 17, were already in bed.
It was around 10pm on a warm July night in 2021 and smoke began to drift into the house.
Two youths had firebombed former builder Nick’s car, sparking a horror blaze that eventually wiped out the family’s entire semi-detached home in Welling, South East London.
In his first sit-down interview, Nick, now 35, tells The Sun that despite leaving London and moving from home to home, the family are still being targeted by cruel trolls and have been left with “nothing in the bank”.
He says: “Our house was firebombed and we spent a year moving around and Airbnbing because I had an Osman warning issued to me by police – a serious threat to life. I had to take the kids out of school.
“Less than four weeks ago I had the police at my door at 3am because someone had given them info that there was going to be an imminent attack on me. It was all a hoax to try and get the police to send a SWAT team.”
Campaign of hate
The Smithy Family are one of Britain’s most popular influencers after becoming famous for their TikTok account, where they share funny and heartwarming videos of their madcap pranks enjoyed by their three million followers.
Nick’s videos became so popular that he was able to quit his day job, with the family setting up a clothing range with personalised ‘Smithy’ branding.
But their success also gave rise to trolling, with the horrific firebombing marking the escalation of a six-month hate campaign.
After their address was leaked online, they received more than hundred takeaway deliveries they hadn’t ordered – and a prostitute even once showed up at their door.
Nick, who reported the matter to the police, says: “We ended up paying for quite a few of the deliveries because we felt bad for the people who had been hoaxed. It was people’s livelihoods.
“My car window was smashed. People called social services to make fake accusations against us.
“It was all people we didn’t know who were doing it to get some kind of reaction from us. It was the dark side of social media.”
Nick says it all began when forums devoted to their TikTok and Facebook sites started to include comments such as ‘he needs taking down’ and ‘I hate this family’.
These then became more abusive with people calling the family ‘filth and scum’.
After Nick spoke about being sexually abused as a child, he received comments saying he deserved it.
Then came the night of horror when they realised their home was going up in smoke, with the whole family still inside the building.
Reflecting on the incident, Nick says: “I heard cries of horror coming from upstairs.
“Jack had seen the boys run away and the flames. It was mayhem after that.
“We couldn’t go out the front door because the flames were as high as the house so we ran out the back carrying Ted and climbed over the neighbour’s fence.
“When the kids were safe, we went back to get the animals.
“The fire spread through the front door and into the hallway and the smoke damage throughout was horrendous.”
Sickeningly, the abuse only got worse after the fire.
Nick says: “People posted messages saying they wished we’d died in the fire, and that it was a shame they firebombed the car and didn’t pour petrol through the letterbox and set light to that.”
The family were trolled particularly by members of the online gossip forum Tattle Life.
Dubbed “the b*tchiest corner of the internet”, Tattle Life was made famous in 2019 after it emerged mummy blogger Clemmie Hooper had created a fake persona to troll her peers, including her own husband.
Nick says: “We were targeted by a group on Tattle Life who were absolutely vile and disgusting.
“They would post horrible comments about us.
“They also kept reporting our videos to try and get us banned from platforms. It was organised trolling.
“They reported us and said our videos contained bullying and harassment, they reported one for child nudity. It was all lies.
“Our address was also leaked online and that’s when the takeaway deliveries started. That progressed and eventually we had to take the kids out of school.”
‘It’s cancel culture’
Nick says he doesn’t know who was behind the attack but suspects the hate campaign was waged by those jealous of the family’s success.
He says: “Most of our followers understand that the content is scripted and the stunts and pranks are set up.
“But some people don’t get it, or they don’t like what we do and they try to shut it down.
“It’s cancel culture. And there are also people who just try to do things to disrupt our lives in the hope that we make a video about it, which then gives them some kind of validation.
“Unfortunately the more popular and high profile you become, the more you attract this kind of attention. People get jealous and have nothing better to do with their time.”
The family shared a dramatic video showing a car gutted by flames in the drive and the home blackened by the inferno.
Unfortunately the more popular and high profile you become, the more you attract this kind of attention. People get jealous and have nothing better to do with their time
They have never returned to their burnt-out home and spent time living in Airbnbs, fearful of another attack.
Police issued them with an Osman warning, when they have intelligence of a real and immediate threat to someone’s life but not enough evidence to justify arresting the possible offender.
After the fire, supporters started a GoFundMe appeal to raise money for the family. It eventually topped £47,000.
Although Nick told organisers that the house was insured and the family didn’t need the money, the donations continued.
He says: “We asked fans what they wanted us to do with the donations and the majority said ‘go on holiday or do something with your family’. We didn’t. We donated it all to charity, along with several thousands of pounds of our own.”
When he later posted two TikTok videos of him riding a jet ski and criticising “negative people”, it sparked controversy with some speculating it had been bought from the donations. But Nick insists that is untrue.
He says: “What I did on the jet ski was to stick two fingers up at the haters to say ‘look what we’ve been through and we’re still here’.
“It was me addressing the trolls and it was taken out of context.
“We don’t earn as much as people think, we have nothing in the bank now, especially with the costs of moving the family around.”
A few weeks ago, Nick was contacted by police again after an anonymous caller in Manchester claimed there were firearms hidden in the family’s new home, in rural Devon.
He says: “They wanted armed response teams to raid the house. It’s something trolls do, it’s called swatting.”
Despite the difficulties of the past few years, Nick, who was working seven days a week to provide for his family before finding TikTok fame, admitted that he wouldn’t change a thing because their internet fame has allowed him to spend more time with Jess and their children.
He says: “I don’t regret anything because before all this I was working as a builder all day and the kids weren’t getting the attention from me they get now.
“I’ve had three solid years doing things with my kids that I wouldn’t have done and you can’t beat that. You have to look at life positively, you can’t have regrets.”
Nick had a difficult start in life. He was adopted aged one along with his older brother, who has autism and other learning difficulties.
The strain led to their adoptive parents splitting up and Nick was placed in a residential boarding school aged seven, but was expelled as his behaviour became uncontrollable.
He spent the next eight years being passed around the care system and he was sexually abused for three years between the ages of seven and ten by a local shop owner who was later convicted when Nick and several other boys gave evidence to police.
‘Surviving makes you stronger’
He has ADHD and a compulsive personality disorder, which led to a gambling addiction when he started his successful building company.
He regularly discusses these issues online to help others.
Nick says: “I believe that you use everything in life to move forward and better yourself.
“Everything that knocks you is an opportunity to learn. Surviving makes you stronger.
“I’ve never shied away from speaking about these things because there are a lot of people who have been abused and gone through the foster system who we have helped.
“If I could move forward and make a life for myself then others can.”
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The family are currently renovating their new home – and Nick promises there will be plenty more videos to keep fans amused.
He laughs: “We’ve got more space now and lots of power tools, which means plenty of opportunity for mischief.”