Mum-to-be weeps as uncle jailed for vile campaign of hate
‘VILE’ TEXTS: Martin Hughes (North West Newspix)
November 08 2020 02:30 AM
The parents of a young woman driven to the brink of suicide after her uncle tormented her during a five-year campaign of hatred have revealed she is pregnant for the first time and is now ready to restart her life.
Donegal woman Michelle Doherty thought seriously about ending her life after she was sent a barrage of anonymous vile and threatening text messages between 2011 and 2016.
One of the most disturbing elements of the campaign was that the then anonymous texter knew many personal things about her that only someone close to her family could have known.
On Friday, her uncle and godfather Martin Hughes was jailed for harassing Michelle after a painstaking investigation by gardaí resulted in the discovery of a mobile phone in a cardboard box hidden in his garage.
Dressed in a grey suit and striped tie, 68-year-old wealthy businessman Hughes, who made his money in both construction and bars, showed no emotion as he was escorted away to begin his 12-month jail sentence, while his 192 DL-registered Range Rover sat in a public car park next to Letterkenny Courthouse.
Michelle’s parents Michael and Marion hugged each other as Judge John Aylmer’s decision ended their nightmare.
For Marion, Martin Hughes’ sister, the sight of her brother and her daughter’s tormentor being jailed was one she never wanted.
“It was a long nine years not knowing who it was but he was always high on the list. He never liked Michelle. It’s difficult because it’s family and he’s flesh and blood. He didn’t need to do what he had to do because we had a good family,” she said.
“I can never forgive him. Because of the fact that he lives close to us, he lives just three houses part from us.
“But this (sentence) gives us closure. I take no joy out of it. We were not here to see him going to jail but we were here to see Michelle getting justice,” said Ms Doherty.
Michelle, who is now 44, has resettled in Spain, from where she gave her video evidence in the case.
Loving dad Michael said she can now pick up the pieces and start afresh knowing that people in her community know the truth of what she went through.
He revealed how Michelle is now due her first child in February.
“Michelle is strong and she will recover. You want to put your arms around her but Michelle does not need that,” he said.
“She will recover from this. She is due her baby in February and that will be a new start for all of us and it couldn’t come at a better time.”
The couple paid tribute to the Garda investigation which painstakingly closed in on Hughes, liaising with Interpol and other agencies to eventually track him down.
Detective Garda Martin Egan told the court how people might think it is easy to track down a phone but said an unregistered, UK-registered phone is not easy to track because of jurisdiction and other issues.
“That man (Detective Egan) made me a promise that he would get to the bottom of this and put Martin Hughes where he deserved to be and he was true to his word. I simply cannot say enough about him and the other gardaí involved,” said Michael.
The content of some of the messages sent by Hughes was so disturbing that Judge Aylmer said he only wanted a flavour of them.
Passing sentence, he said this was one of the worst cases of harassment he has ever had to deal with, saying the texts had a “devastating effect” on Ms Doherty’s life.
He also condemned Hughes for showing no signs of remorse and suggesting that he was justified in some way for carrying out the hate-filled campaign.
Among the messages sent to Ms Doherty were texts from Hughes saying that he hoped she died of Aids as well as calling her a whore, hooker and a slut.
In another text, he threatened to have her throat slit.
Hughes, a 68-year-old father and grandfather of Quigley’s Point, had pleaded guilty to a single count of harassment.
In sentencing, Judge Aylmer said he placed the charge in the mid-range of such offences and initially merited it a sentence of four years.
He initially reduced that sentence to one of three years because of an early guilty plea.
The judge said that because of Hughes’ age and the fact that he came before the court with no previous convictions he was reducing the sentence to one of 12 months.
The option to suspend the entire sentence was there for him to take, he said.
However, he referred to the fact that Hughes showed no remorse and that he blamed a rental dispute and an earlier text sent by Ms Doherty about Hughes’s marriage failure.
Judge Aylmer also ordered Hughes not to have any contact with Ms Doherty for 10 years.
As the judgment was passed, Ms Doherty, on a videolink from a home in rural Spain, wept.