Northern Ireland

Victim recalls 'horrendous' Facebook trolling

Yvonne Hegarty with partner Adrian McAleese Image copyright Yvonne Hegarty
Image caption Yvonne Hegarty with partner Adrian McAleese

A Coleraine woman who was trolled online by her partner's ex-girlfriend has spoken out about the impact the abuse had on her.

Yvonne Hegarty, a special needs teaching assistant, described the abuse she received on a fake Facebook account as "horrendous".

Maureen Curoe, 42, was sentenced at Coleraine Magistrates' Court to four months in jail.

Curoe, of Pilot Street, Belfast, was released on bail ahead of an appeal.

Ms Hegarty said an initial post on Facebook in February 2013 related to her partner, Adrian.

Several months later, a Facebook profile was set-up under the name Gillian Morgan, which contained nothing but photographs of Yvonne Hegarty, her family and friends.

'Absolute assassination of my character'

She told the BBC's Talkback programme: "Below nearly every photograph was a status saying: 'This is an alcoholic, this is a drug abuser, look at her with her pupils out drinking, she shouldn't have those children in her arms.'

"It was just endless. It was an absolute assassination of my character throughout my community.

"The police were notified at that time. A few weeks later I got death threats to my phone, again I went to the police and non-molestation orders were served."

Despite having a "great circle of friends and fantastic family" and receiving "fantastic support" from the community, Yvonne did worry that people would believe what was being written.

"There were times when I thought, well somebody's going to think there's something about this that's correct and real because here we have someone who is continually writing 50 posts a day about me and someone going to say 'well there must be something absolutely behind that'," she said.

Image caption Ms Hegarty did not have a Facebook account but believes Curoe took photographs off the profiles of her family and friends

"No-one would ever realise that there isn't actually anything behind it.

"It's just a completely vindictive person who obviously has so little in her life and became so consumed with mine that that was her occupation. I do believe her jealously became her weakness."

It also impacted on Ms Hegarty on a professional level.

"It was awful when she started to write that I had taken my disabled pupils out drinking. I have a good relationship with most of my pupils and their parents," she said.

"Then she started to contact parents from the school to tell them I was a drink and drug abuser. I had parents meet me in the street and in Asda to tell me she had contacted them privately by Facebook messenger.

"At one point she was writing so much stuff about me that we had to close down the school website for a week."

Image caption The case was heard at Coleraine Magistrates' Court on Monday

Ms Hegarty did not have a Facebook account but believes Curoe took photographs off the profiles of her family and friends.

She had little joy when she contacted Facebook about the fake Facebook profile.

"Adrian and I spent a lot of money contacting Facebook by phone and email and then we did it via solicitors and nothing, no response, to this very day posts that she wrote are still on her fake Facebook account," she said.

'More bubbly'

When Curoe was sentenced to four months in jail, Yvonne Hegarty said she was shocked and relieved.

"I just thought this has really ended. Everybody who was in the court will know and will have seen my reaction, it was just complete shock," she said.

"Words can't really explain the impact it had on my life.

"I think I used to be a lot more bubbly and outgoing than I am... I'm not really a social butterfly as I used to be.

"I know I've done nothing wrong and my community knows I've done nothing wrong."

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