Man sent 268 messages to former friend after row over dog

November 7, 2022

A man who sent a barrage of threatening texts to his former friend when he said he could not look after his dog.

Andrew McCulloch was before Letterkenny Circuit on a charge of harassing Gerard Devine over a five-day period in July 2019.

A total of 268 messages, both written and audio, were sent by McCulloch to Mr Devine, the court heard.

In a bizarre series of texts, McCulloch threatened to stamp on Mr Devine’s partner’s dog and then rape his partner.

McCulloch had given Mr Devine €600 to buy a van, with Mr Devine indicating that the money would be in lieu of rent.

McCulloch was staying in a house owned by Mr Devine in Raphoe and did not pay rent, the court was told.

The barrage began when Mr Devine told him that he could not look after his dog.

McCulloch threatened to burn the van on Mr Devine’s driveway.

He told Mr Devine: “If the Belfast lads get you, it will be hospital.” He added in another message: “Next time I see you, I’ll put you on the floor and stamp on your face.”

In another, he told Mr Devine: “No work with broken legs.”

Mr Devine did not respond and McCulloch said in a message about Ms Clarke: “If you don’t reply, I’ll have her killed.”

The litany continued with McCulloch saying: “Amanda’s house looks well flammable” while he threatened to stamp on Ms Clarke’s dog, Coco.

Another message threatened that an MMA fighter would be brought to attack Mr Devine and Ms Clarke.

One of the most disturbing messages sent by McCulloch saw him threaten to rape Ms Clarke.

In a victim impact statement, Ms Clarke said she became scared to leave her house.

“I was living in fear of my life when he threatened to burn my house down and rape me,” she said.

“It took a long time for me to get out of Letterkenny. I still have not settled into my new house, but it is better than living in fear.”

Garda Cathriona Flynn said Mr Devine believed that he was in danger and moved the van to a friend’s house as he believed McCulloch could burn it.

McCulloch was on bail when he failed to appear before the court in November, 2015 and a European Arrest Warrant was subsequently executed.

In an interview following his arrest on July 17, 2019, McCulloch admitted sending the messages. He told Gardaí that he believed the messages had not delivered.

McCulloch has 12 previous convictions in Northern Ireland, one in England and one in Hungary.

Three of his convictions relate to criminal damage with the others consisting of cannabis cultivation, motoring offences and dishonesty offences.

McCulloch took to the witness box to ‘apologise profusely’ for his actions.

“I wasn’t in control of what I was saying,” he said. “They were the ravings of a highly-intoxicated man and I meant no real harm. I must have got angrier and hence the barrage.”

McCulloch had been planning to open a gastro pub in County Clare, but that aim has been shelved.

He has been a working prisoner while in custody, the court heard. At one stage during the Covid-19 pandemic,
McCulloch was locked upon for 30 days with no access to recreation facilities.

Barrister for McCulloch, Mr Niall O’Neill BL, said his client went on ‘an alcohol-fuelled rant’. “A sinister element was not a part of this,” he said.

McCulloch has been in prison since December, 2019.

Mr O’Neill said his client doesn’t have a place to live at the moment.

“He has a boat in Gweedore,” he said.

Passing sentence, Judge Aylmer said the harassment occurred in the context of a dispute between two men who had been friends.

“It included threats to kill the other and vile threats in relation to his partner,” Judge Aylmer said. “It is certainly a very serious offence. It is clear that the offence had a very serious impact on the victims, particularly Ms Clarke.”

Judge Aylmer said the incident merited a starting point before considering mitigation. McCulloch, he said, made admissions, co-operated with the investigation and followed up with a guilty plea. McCulloch has spent a lot of time in prison since 2003.

“I accept that he is genuinely remorseful and quite embarrassed,” Judge Aylmer said. “His behaviour was fuelled by alcohol and the offences were committed while he was in a very intoxicated state.”

The sentence was reduced to one of three years in prison with credit for all time served in custody.

McCulloch was ordered to have no contact with Mr Devine or Amanda Clarke for ten years.

Judge Aylmer directed that McCulloch not go within 500 metres of the residence of the victims.

Ordinarily, McCulloch would have been free to walk out of court on Friday due to the duration of his incarceration, as he is in custody on foot of a European Arrest Warrant for other matters, he was returned to Cloverhill Prison.

His extradition has been sought to Northern Ireland and a hearing on that matter has been scheduled.

The previous week, Judge Aylmer refused a bail; application, saying he was concerned that McCulloch was a flight risk.

“It is all somewhat academic as the accused with remain in custody in any event,” Judge Aylmer said.