Businessman sent vile texts to niece during five year hate campaign

November 5, 2020

A businessman sent dozens of horrific text messages to his niece over a five year period including one which said he hoped she died of AIDS.

Martin Hughes sent Michelle Doherty a catalogue of vile and abusive messages during a hate-filled period between 2011 and 2016.

After an exhausting investigation, Gardai finally tracked down Hughes who was hiding his phone in a cardboard box in his garage.

The 68-year-old father and grandfather appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court in Co Donegal where he pleaded guilty to one count of harassment.

The court heard how Ms Doherty’s life fell apart when she began to receive the anonymous text messages including some which even threatened to have her throat slit.

She moved to Spain and changed her phone number but was left devastated when she began to receive vile text messages there.

Barrister for the State, Ms Patricial McLaughlin began to read out the text messages which Hughes sent to Mr Doherty.

However, such was the graphic nature of the texts that Judge John Aylmer asked instead for a flavour of the vile texts.

The victim’s mother and father were both in court and said Ms Doherty had given her consent for her identity to be used so that Hughes could be identified within his community.

Dectective Martin Egan leaving Letterkenny Circuit Court. (North West Newspix)

The texts included several accusations against Ms Doherty calling her a whore, hooker and a slut and how she was sleeping with younger men.

Another text from Hughes read how he hoped she would die from AIDS and how she needed a new mattress because she was having so much sex with men.

He also sent text messages referring to Ms Doherty’s father, well-known former Donegal county councillor Mickey Doherty asking “How did that fat pig of a father lose in the election, ha, ha.?”

Ms McLaughlin said the texts were both sexually explicit and racially offensive.

Detective Garda Martin Egan told the court that Ms Doherty contacted Gardai and a full investigation was launched.

He said the public might think that it is easy to track a phone but it was not easy to track an unregistered Northern Ireland registered mobile because of jurisdictional and other issues.

However, working with the European Police organisation, Interpol, Gardfai finally tracked the phone to Hughes.

Although born and raised on the Inishowen Peninsula, Hughes had worked in Scotland where he ran his own construction company and had returned home to buy and pub and other business interests.

On September 29th, 2016 Gardai arrived at his house in Quigley’s Point with a search warrant and Hughes took them to a corner of his garage where he had the phone used for sending the text messages in a cardboard box.

When interviewed at Buncrana Garda station he admitted sending the texts to Ms Doherty.

Although the number of sexually-explicit texts could not be disclosed, Detective Egan said there had been 438 contacts between the various phones of Ms Doherty and Hughes.

Speaking by videolink from Spain, a tearful Ms Doherty, 44, outlined the five years of her ordeal during which she said she became both depressed and suicidal.

She said on occasions she physically vomited when she read the texts and was paranoid as to who was sending them.

She added “I was feeling sick and frightened and not knowing what to do. Will the Gardai believe me that I am not that person? My dignity was in shreds. I didn’t have any enemies or ex-partners who would do this.

“I would vomit when I would read some of them. I pleaded with them to tell me what I had done but the responses were getting worse and they were clearly enjoying my stress.”

She became so paranoid and frightened that she lost the use of her limbs and had to get her mother to drive her to work as a carer at Carndonagh Community Hospital.

However, the texts persisted and she decided to move to Spain for a fresh start but knew nobody.

The texts continued and she said she was gradually losing her mind.

She moved back to Ireland where she said that at least she could be cared for by her family if anything did happen to her.

The texts continued and she decided to move to New York to try and start again but after just a few weeks she broke her neck in a horrific accident.

A few days later she received a text from the same phone which read “You filthy, dirty rotten whore, heard you broke your neck, pity you didn’t come back in a body bag.”

Barrister for Hughes, Mr Peter Nolan said his client accepted that the texts were despicable.

However, he said it was Ms Doherty who sent the first text message to Hughes back in 2008 expressing glee at the break-up of his marriage.

He also said that Ms Doherty owed his client money after she rented a property from him but didn’t pay him rent.

Mr Nolan also asked why would a woman who was tortured send text messages on her new phone number to her ‘harrasser’ if she was so frightened in the first place?

“This is an uncle a niece here and he felt she went over the line. Mr Hughes realises this is a serious matter accepts that these texts were derogatory and of a sexual nature and he should not have done it.

“They are particularly hurtful and nasty in some cases and he doesn’t deny that. But he feels Ms Doherty interfered,” he said.

He said his client, who is the licensee of The Point Lodge Bar, has no previous convictions adding “This was brought on by emotional difficulties because of marriage failure and brought on by alcohol and he went way over the top.”

Judge John Aylmer said he would need time to consider the sentence and adjourned the case.