A patient was lying ill in hospital when she she received Facebook messages from an Eastwood woman threatening to kill her, a court heard.
The messages were sent to Joanne Southam by Emma-Claire Haron, 24, of Wellington Street, as part of a ‘love triangle’ feud involving a former boyfriend of them both, Damian Tomlinson.
Haron had heard rumours that Miss Southam was in hospital because she was HIV-positive, and she feared that she could also contract the virus because she had slept with Mr Tomlinson too.
However, Nottingham Magistrates’ Court was told that Haron had been provoked, and the rumours were part of a “vicious campaign” by Miss Southam herself who was, in fact, in hospital for a routine operation on her bladder.
Details of the feud were outlined by Donna Fawcett, prosecuting, who said that Mr Tomlinson jilted Haron to start seeing Miss Southam in February last year in a relationship that lasted until June.
Miss Southam soon began to receive abusive, insulting messages on Facebook from Haron, and things came to a head when she was admitted to the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham in July. “She was in hospital with symptoms of HIV, and can provide medical evidence,” said Miss Fawcett.
The court heard that when Haron began to send Facebook messages to Miss Southam in her hospital bed, the patient replied that if she was so concerned, she had “better get herself checked out”.
One of the messages she subsequently received from Haron read: “I am going to murder you. I am going to kill you with my bare hands after torturing you.”
Another said: “If I have AIDS as well, I have nothing to lose. Just remember I know where you are.”
Miss Southam reported the messages to the police, who arrested Haron. When interviewed by officers, Haron said that, initially, she heard that Miss Southam was in hospital because she was in danger of losing her child. Then she was told she might have cancer and then she heard it was HIV.
“She said all she wanted to do was get in the shower and bleach herself down,” said Miss Fawcett. “She said the possibility that she was at risk of AIDS made her angry and upset.
“She rang Mr Tomlinson 20 times to find out if the rumours were true, but he did not answer his phone and she became worried that he was cutting her off.”
Haron pleaded guilty in court to a charge of sending messages intended to cause distress and anxiety at the QMC on Saturday, August 1 last year.
However, her solicitor, Clare Roberts, defending, said Miss Southam had “not been telling the truth” about her hospital stay. “The messages sent to her were in response to a vicious campign by Miss Southam herself,” said Miss Roberts.
“Out of the blue, she said she had slept with Mr Tomlinson unprotected and that she could die.
“But later she told Mr Tomlinson to tell the defendant she was just winding her up. She has never had HIV, nor even a scan for HIV. She was in hospital for a routine operation on her bladder.”
The court heard that Haron was “a vulnerable single mum of good character with no previous convictions”. “She accepts she sent unpleasant messages and regrets them with hindsight,” added Miss Roberts. “But they were in reponse to what was being said. She saw a red mist.”
District Judge Leo Pyle sentenced Haron to a conditional discharge for 12 months after telling her: “I have taken into account the context of the messages. In my view, they were in response to a lot of provocation.”
A restraining order was also imposed on Haron, banning her from contacting Miss Southam for one year. She was told to pay court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £15.