Sick campaign Innocent man blamed by trolls for knifing six women says he is still being attacked
An innocent man who had previously been wrongly blamed for a series of knife attacks in Belfast says his pleas to be left in peace have fallen on deaf ears.
Owen Mullan was wrongly linked to assaults on six women after rumours circulated online which led to threats against him.
He asked to be left alone and hoped the rumours would end after police made an arrest of a suspect from another part of the city who has appeared in court.
Despite speaking out to clear his name he’s since been assaulted twice.
The 32-year-old says the community around him in the Markets area of Belfast has offered him unwavering support.
But he’s now afraid to leave home after being set upon by a man armed with a brick, and a separate incident when he was attacked and robbed by three men who claimed he was a woman-beater as they rained down blows on him.
Owen says he’s felt suicidal as a result of the assaults.
And he believes his attackers aren’t that concerned about the safety of women in Belfast.
“They don’t care about women. They just want to have a go at someone,” he says.
“It’s because they’ve got nothing else to do and they just want someone to pick on, and because I’m not a fighter it works out for them,” says Owen.
“It’s people who never have their phone out of their hands, who are on Facebook all the time and want to know everyone’s business.”
His nightmare began after the assaults on October 12, when four young women were stabbed and a further two were assaulted in a period of a few hours.
A 38-year-old man has been charged in connection with the assaults. Dermott McIlveen from Carrigart Avenue in Belfast made full admissions and offered his apologies when he appeared in court on October 17.
Owen was warned by a former girlfriend that he was being named as the attacker within 48 hours of the incidents. He still has no idea how the vicious rumours started.
He hadn’t been on social media for weeks because he was using an old phone, but he was horrified when a family member showed him some of the hate-filled messages about him which spread rapidly across Facebook.
Wild claims circulated that several police cars had raided his home, that he looked like the suspect in CCTV images released by police, and that he used a bike similar to the blurred image in the pictures. His name also circulated in private WhatsApp messages.
It led to a series of terrifying threats from strangers who had got hold of his number. One caller threatened to cut his jugular. Another caller intercepted by his mum threatened to burn out the family home and car and beat up Owen.
He shared his story in Sunday World and the community rallied round the well-known local man.
It didn’t stop the campaign against him, and he was lucky to survive an attack with a brick on Cromac Street in Belfast two weeks ago.
“This guy didn’t say a word to me, just hit me in the face with a brick and kept on walking like it was a normal thing to do,” says Owen.
“Because everyone is wearing masks now, I don’t know who it was. I just saw that he had a mask like a balaclava with a skull on the front.
“Someone came out of a friend’s house and asked if I was OK.
“I reported that to the police and told them over the phone what had happened and the only action that was taken was a phone call from Victim Support a couple of days ago.”
Owen says the second attack, last weekend, was even more serious.
He was cycling home from a friend’s house in north Belfast when three men set upon him in the city centre.
“They punched me clean off the bike and got me on the ground. They were beating me and shouting ‘all you are is a woman-beater, you bastard.’ I was trying to get up and run and they were just hitting me.
“It went on for a couple of minutes and then they took my bike and away they went.
“I don’t know who they were. I was left with bruises and cuts all over me.
“I didn’t even bother making a complaint to the police because I don’t think they’re interested.”
Owen, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety, says he’s been afraid to go out since the incidents, which have had a huge impact on his mental health.
He’s also tried to put on a brave face and hopes that his ordeal will soon be over.
“I’m trying to laugh it off.
“I’m hoping that people will get the message that this had nothing to do with me. I just want it over and done with,” he says.
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