Death threats Innocent man living in fear after trolls blamed him for knifing six women
An innocent man has told of his living hell after being wrongly accused of horror knife attacks on women in Belfast.
In a series of Facebook posts and private WhatsApp messages, Owen Mullan was wrongly linked to the six terrifying assaults earlier this month which made international headlines.
The online campaign has now spilled over into real life for the 32-year-old who has received death threats and narrowly escaped an assault.
In one chilling threat Owen was told his jugular vein would be slit.
In another call intercepted by his mum Anne Marie, the caller said her car and the family home in the Market area of Belfast would be attacked and Owen would be dragged out of the house and beaten.
He has no idea how he was linked to the stabbing and assault incidents, or how complete strangers obtained his number to make anonymous threats against him.
A 38-year-old man is in custody charged in connection with the assaults on six young women. Dermott McIlveen from Carrigart Avenue in west Belfast offered his apologies when he appeared in court last Saturday.
Owen was warned by an ex-girlfriend within 48 hours of the incidents that he was being linked to the attacks.
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 has also been circulated in private WhatsApp message groups as the man police were seeking in connection with the stabbing incidents.
It was all a complete fabrication, but the vicious rumours have had a devastating impact on Owen’s life.
“I had a call from a withheld number from someone saying they were going to come and cut my jugular,” he says.
“They said ‘we’re going to cut your throat and see how you like getting stabbed’.
“A man tried to kick me off my bike coming down the Ormeau Road. He came running at me and tried to kick me. I was able to get away from him and he shouted after me, ‘you’re lucky you got away there.’
“I was standing in the Post Office on Monday morning and there were two women in front of me. I could hear them saying ‘your man standing behind us, that’s him doing those stabbings on those women’.
“I’ve had people throwing stuff at me and calling me names. My brother nearly got into a fight with some guys at the weekend who were saying I’ve got someone else to take the blame for me.”
Owen, who suffers from epilepsy and anxiety, says the hate campaign is also affecting his family.
Mum Anne Marie intercepted a terrifying call on her son’s phone, which prompted her to contact police.
“He took a call and I got him to bring the phone down to me. It was silent, and then they said, ‘see you Owen. You are a dead man walking’. They said they were going to attack the house and the car and then drag him out and attack him.
“I told them to come to my door and tell me that and then the phone went dead,” says the mum of three.
“The first time we contacted police they said they’d send a car round, which never came. The second time they said it was nothing to do with them.”
Owen is also terrified that his dad will be targeted.
“I’m afraid of someone taking it out on him because we have the same name,” he said.
The Belfast man hopes going public about his ordeal will finally clear his name in connection to the knife attacks, and the people hiding behind their keyboards will realise the effect that spreading lies can have.
He is now terrified to leave his home alone and says the thought of going out at all is distressing.
“I worry about getting attacked while I’m on my bike. If that guy had got me off my bike what would he have done to me? You can imagine how frightening that is.
“I’m scared to go on Facebook to read all the nasty stuff that’s been written about me. I’m scared to leave the house.
“I just want to stay in my bedroom but even when I go to sleep, I have nightmares that I’m being attacked.”
His only hope is that people will eventually realise he had no connection to the knife offences and move on.
But he remains baffled about how he ever came to be associated with the attacks.
“The fact that someone has got my number to make threats makes me think this was started by someone who knows me and doesn’t like me,” he said.
“I don’t know how this started but I just want it to end.
“There was no raid on my house. I wasn’t arrested because of those attacks and I had nothing to do with them.
“I just want people to leave me alone,” says Owen.
On Monday October 12 four women suffered stab wounds and two more women were punched during a 90-minute rampage which were committed by a man riding a mountain bike.
A woman pedestrian was stabbed in the first attack on Castle Place in the city centre at 7.42pm.
Four more women were stabbed and two were punched during a one-and-half hour period in south and central Belfast.
Last Saturday at Laganside Magistrates Court it emerged 38-year-old Dermott McIlveen had admitted his involvement in all the attacks.
McIlveen was charged with offences including five counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent and one of possession of an offensive weapon.
He was further charged with criminal damage against another man’s vehicle in an unconnected incident which took place on January 29.
His defence solicitor Brian Archer told the court Mr McIlveen had made full admissions to all the charges against him.
He said: “Mr McIlveen has made full admissions to all the charges. He is extremely regretful and remorseful and offers a full apology to his victims.”
Mr Archer said his client was not applying for bail and said they had requested a full mental health assessment which had been arranged. Mr McIlveen was listed to reappear on November 13.0