A Coleraine couple have described as “utter hell” a two-year Facebook campaign which they say almost ruined their lives.
Adrian McAleese and his partner, Yvonne Hegarty, spoke out after Adrian’s former partner, Belfast woman Maureen Curoe was slapped with a gagging order from Coleraine Magistrates Court.
As the Times exclusively revealed on Monday, District Judge, Liam McNally, imposed a two-year restraining order which bans Curoe from posting any messages or getting anyone else to post a message for her on any social media making reference to Adrian or Yvonne - or any history involving them.
District Judge McNally told Curoe: “It is now time for these messages to stop”.
Although smiling outside court Curoe left knowing that one more bad decision could land her in jail for up to five years after mounting the long-running Facebook campaign against Adrian, the father of her son, and Yvonne.
Adrian, 38, explained that Curoe’s Facebook campaign really kicked off when he won full custody of his son when he was six.
“She made our life hell. She made things so bad that at one stage I even offered to leave Yvonne, the woman I love, in the hope that Maureen Curoe would leave her alone.
“But Yvonne and I are strong, we’re just one of those couples that’s meant to be together.
“We stuck through this as a couple and we’ll carry on now stronger than ever. I feel without her support, love and understanding I may not have got my son out of a situation I was unhappy with.
“In that moment my life staggered to a total standstill and I had to re-elvaluate everything because suddenly I’d this little boy to look after full time. He became my top priority and Yvonne was right by my side.
“But while all of this was going on his mother was running a campaign to destroy my character and Yvonne’s. She accused me of doing awful things to her and she spread her poison far and wide.
“By the time we got to court, we were exhausted but we hoped she’d be jailed and forced to leave us alone. So we were very disappointed that she received a banning order.
“But at least we know that if she makes contact or any of her friends make contact, she could be jailed for five years.
“We just want this to be over. We never asked for her attention. We never asked her for anything. The only priority for Yvonne and myself was my son and that’s how things are going to continue.
Yvonne, 47, a classroom assistant for children with special needs, and a fundraiser for the Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust, is still getting counselling to cope with her ordeal.
She suffered regular panic attacks and insomnia but refused to let it ruin her life.
Yvonne said: “Maureen Curoe’s campaign was in my opinion a poisonous attempt to ruin my reputation and decimate my world.
“I was very disappointed the court could not find her messages menacing. They certainly menaced me. I felt threatened, I felt under pressure. I felt that Adrian and I were being stalked on-line and abused and threatened. But what we felt, what we actually experienced was not enough to qualify as threatening in the eyes of the court.
“It was like fighting an invisible enemy, an enemy who could get private information and try to use it against you.
“I feel that Maureen Curoe tried to destroy me but thanks to Adrian and our amazing families, friends and the local community who supported us, we got through and she was uncovered.
“I’m still in counselling, I still verge on panic attacks and feel sick at the thought of her, but I’m hoping all of that will go once she fades from our life.”