Belfast Telegraph

Unbearable distress of Facebook troll victim Yvonne Hegarty

By Nevin Farrell

A teaching assistant subjected to a long-running cyber hate campaign - sometimes involving up to 50 messages a day - has told of her relief that an internet troll has been banned from making reference to her online.

Yvonne Hegarty was speaking after watching Maureen Curoe, a former partner of Yvonne's boyfriend, Adrian McAleese (39), receive a warning from a judge not to re-offend.

The 48-year-old, hopes her ordeal - which lasted three years - is finally at end, but she said that it had taken a severe toll on her and her partner's health.

The Coleraine woman, who has worked as a special needs teaching assistant at a secondary school for 20 years, told how internet troll Curoe set up a number of fake Facebook profiles to attack her and her reputation.

At one stage, things got so bad that the attacks caused her school to close down its website for a week.

Yvonne said her tomentor had even tried to blacken her name in connection with a charity that takes children to Lapland to see Santa.

On Tuesday at Coleraine Magistrates Court, Curoe was hit with a five-year b an gagging her from making any reference to Mr McAleese and Ms Hegarty.

Curoe (41), of Pilot Street in Belfast, pleaded guilty to harassment and causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety by persistently using a public communications network.

While a restraining order was issued, further sentencing in the case was deferred until next year.

Curoe, who was Mr McAleese's partner for five years, has previously been in court in connection with an online campaign against the couple and had previously been hit with a two-year ban from mentioning them on social media.

The latest banning order imposed to protect Mr McAleese, from Ballymoney, runs until March 2021.

Under the terms of the restriction, Curoe is forbidden from intimidating, harassing or pestering Mr McAleese and Ms Hegarty and must not instruct, encourage or in any way suggest that any other person should do so.

Speaking out on Wednesday, Ms Hegarty said: "After three long years of a hate campaign described by the judge as a character assassination, I finally feel it has come to an end after Ms Curoe pleaded guilty.

"This has been a long and drawn-out process which has caused my friends, family and I a great deal of distress. However, I feel that justice has been served. I can now start to put my life back together and get on with my career and with my charity work.

"I am very happy. I feel very safe and secure and I am very grateful to the Public Prosecution Service with the size of my file and the work that they did.

"It has been a long time. I have had to suffer for three years, and it has taken a toll on my health.

"(This was a) hate wcampaign and an unhealthy obsession to assassinate my character.

"(She became) so consumed with my life that in the end her jealousy became her weakness. The judge said to her that what she had subjected me to was appalling.

"The amount of hours she spent on the internet in her hate campaign was unbelievable. The postings came from 8am sometimes through to 3am the next day.

"She posted 50 messages in one day, and in March last year there must have been 25 to 30 posts for several days. There were also a number of text messages."

Revealing the damage the abuse had on her life, Yvonne said the hate campaign had made her and her partner unwell.

Detailing the lengths her online abuser had gone to, Yvonne added: "She had five fake profiles, and one fake profile showed photos of children from my school and the school closed down the website for a week.

"A lot of past pupils who had befriended her went on to Facebook and defended me. In one fake profile, she pretended that she was from the Letterkenny area and had just moved into the Coleraine area and befriended all the shops and churches and befriended 500 people to cause damage to me."

It seemed that noting was off-limits to Curoe, even the Children to Lapland charity - for which Ms Hegarty is a committee member - with the troll sending people private messages alleging that Yvonne only did the charity work "to cover up my evilness".

"She caused so much damage to my charity page, and I am glad it has all come to an end now," Ms Hegarty said.

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