Internet troll made my life hell

Ordeal: Coleraine woman Yvonne Hegarty.
Ordeal: Coleraine woman Yvonne Hegarty.

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 for a period of five years.

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

Maureen Curoe.

Maureen Curoe.

Yvonne now hopes her ordeal - which lasted for three years - is over but she has revealed it has taken a toll on her health and that of her partner.

Yvonne (48), from Coleraine, who has been a special needs teaching assistant at a secondary school for 20 years, said Curoe set up a number of fake Facebook profiles to attack her.

Yvonne said Curoe’s interventions caused her school to close down its website for a week.

And Yvonne said Curoe also attempted to destroy her name in connection with a charity which takes children to Lapland.

On Tuesday at Coleraine Magistrates Court, Curoe was hit with a massive five year ban gagging her from making any reference to her former boyfriend Adrian McAleese and Ms Hegarty.

Maureen Curoe (41), of Pilot Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety by persistently using a public electronic communications network and harassment. Although five year restraining orders were issued preventing her from contacting McAleese and Hegarty, sentencing in the case has been deferred.

Curoe 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.

At court on Tuesday, the judge imposed five year restraining orders to protect Mr McAleese, from Ballymoney who had previously been Curoe’s partner for five years, and Ms Hegarty - from harassment to run until March 8, 2021.

Curoe is forbidden to intimidate, harass or pester Adrian McAleese and Yvonne Hegarty and must not instruct, encourage or, in any way, suggest that any other person should do so.

Curoe must not have any contact with Adrian McAleese or Yvonne Hegarty directly or indirectly.

She is forbidden from printing any messages or any messages she receives on any social media network site and is not to make any reference to Adrian McAleese or Yvonne Hegarty on any social media site.

Curoe is also is not to make any references to any historical meetings between the parties.

Speaking out on Wednesday, Yvonne Hegarty said: “After three long years of a hate campaign as 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 drawn out process which has caused my friends, family and I a great deal of distress. I feel that justice has been served. I can start to put my life back together again and get on with my career and 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 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.

“There was her hate campaign and unhealthy obsession to assassinate my character and becoming so consumed with my life that in the end her jealousy became her weakness. The judge said to her what she had subjected to me 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 had posted 50 messages in one day and in March last year there must have been 25-30 posts for several days. There were also a number of text messages.”

Yvonne said she and Adrian developed an illness from the stress of the case.

She outlined the lengths Curoe had gone to.

Said Yvonne: “She had five fake profiles and the one fake profile she 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 she was from Letterkenny and had just moved into the Coleraine area and befriended all the shops and churches and befriended 500 people to cause damage to me.”

Ms Hegarty is on the committee of the ‘Children to Lapland’ charity.

She said Curoe had gone online for a year and sent people private messages on Facebook alleging Yvonne only did the charity work “to cover up my evilness,” said Ms Hegarty.

Added Yvonne: “She caused so much damage to my charity page and I am glad it has all come to an end now.”