Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

This sex pest social worker ruined my life, says Belfast mum

 

Belfast mum-of-three Lisa Hamill
Belfast mum-of-three Lisa Hamill

By John Toner

A distraught Belfast mother who was sent creepy texts by her social worker says the ordeal has ruined her life and ripped her family apart.

Mum-of-three Lyndsay Hamill (39) says she received £15,000 in compensation from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust last month as a result of the incidents involving Nhamoinesu Matsvimbo.

Matsvimbo, a social worker within the family support and intervention team, sent Ms Hamill a string of what she described as "dirty texts" following the birth of her baby daughter and while she was recovering from cervical cancer and suffering from post-natal depression.

Following an investigation into the inappropriate texts by the NI Social Care Council, Matsvimbo was removed from the register of social workers in 2015 - but he was reinstated last October.

Mastvimbo said he was ashamed of what he had done.

Shortly after the birth he sent Ms Hamill a text saying: "It's a good job it's not black."

And in September 2013 he sent another message which read: "Does she look like me?"

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Social worker Nhamoinesu Matsvimbo
Social worker Nhamoinesu Matsvimbo

Another message read: "Oh baby are you stressed? Do you need a massage? Have you taken your meds?"

Ms Hamill, who insists she had no sexual relationship with the social worker, says once the story about Matsvimbo's misconduct broke in 2015, rumours about the pair devastated her life even though she was not named at the time.

She broke her silence on the case to tell Sunday Life: "I have never been the same, I'm not the same person.

"I'm scared of people and how I interact with them because I just don't know how to deal with it.

"I can't socialise in the way I used to because I'm ashamed and embarrassed about the whole thing.

"I can't have a man near me and I don't know what it's like to be normal. I'll never get over the trauma of what that man done, I was nice and pleasant and he tried to take advantage of that.

"He destroyed my life. He tried to take advantage of my situation and my vulnerability. No one will ever understand what this has done to me and the detriment it's had on me.

"It's wrong, it's all wrong; the psychological impact is horrific."

Matsvimbo sent the bizarre messages while he was working in the Co Antrim community intervention team within the Northern Trust.

An anonymous tip-off led to the Northern Ireland Social Care Council investigating the matter, and he was told not to contact Lyndsey and her family until the probe was completed.

Despite the warning, he left messages pleading with her to delete any other texts or voicemails she had from him as he was worried about losing his job.

Ms Hamill says the ordeal and the rumours damaged one close family relationship.

She said: "He's disgusting, I didn't have a hair on my head, I was recovering from cancer and he sends me those dirty messages.

"I don't know why he did it. At the time I thought to myself, 'This man's crazy, this is madness.' I'd just given birth to a baby, it just felt so wrong. He was driving me mad and stalking the life out of me."

When details of the 2015 NI Social Care Council hearing emerged in the media, she says people in her local community who knew Mastvimbo (known as Nhamo) recognised her as the victim and it led to relatives being the target of malicious gossip.

"When it came out afterwards it made me look like some sort of slut. That was very detrimental to my mental health, I got really depressed," she said.

She says that false rumours caused a rift with one male relative which has left her devastated. "My mother's dying wish was that I clear my name because everyone thinks I slept with him and I didn't.

"He was there to help us. You don't think for one second a social worker is going to think that of you or come on to you. All my hair had fallen out and I'd been through hell.

"Hopefully me speaking out can help build bridges and maybe help people realise that the way I was treated was wrong."

Former cabin crew worker Ms Hamill was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 and was recovering from her treatment in 2013 when the inappropriate behaviour from Matsvimbo occurred.

Ms Hamill says alongside the string of messages, the social worker also turned up at her house uninvited with a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk to present to her as a gift.

A spokesman for the Northern Trust said: "This case has been subject to Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) investigation followed by legal proceedings. The trust now considers this matter to be closed and will not comment any further."

Following an independent conduct committee meeting of the NISCC in 2015, Matsvimbo was removed from the register or social workers and unable to practice in Northern Ireland. However, after reapplying to an independent restoration committee, he was reinstated as a social worker on October 11, 2018.

Matsvimbo, who qualified as a nutritionist in Zimbabwe and has been educated at universities in Zambia, England and Northern Ireland, said the text messages started as "banter" but he was now "ashamed" of what he had done. He claimed he had introduced "some banter" to help engage with the client.

"Looking back, I feel bad and embarrassed that I sent such messages to the client. I think about it every day and I feel very ashamed about it. I will regret it for a long time.

"This whole thing has been a paradigm shift for me. I had to explain to my children about what happened and at some point almost every week I have cried."

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