THE former postmistress of Doohoma Post Office apologised to her neighbour for sending anonymous ‘slanderous’ letters to her and her son which resulted in her losing her job.
Anne Heston of Doohoma, Ballina, appeared before Belmullet District Court charged with harassment and indecency under the Post Office Act in relation to letters addressed to Ms Anne Lavelle and her teenage son which were described as ‘slanderous’ and of a sexual nature.
Ms Heston (52) was the Postmistress of Doohoma Post Office until last November when she was forced to resign as a result of the charges against her. She admitted to sending the letters and apologised to Ms Lavelle and her son for what she did.
Garda Jennifer Byrne told the court that on November 15, 2016, Ms Lavelle received a letter to her home in Geesala that related to her son. On November 21, 2016, a second letter addressed to Ms Lavelle’s son was intercepted before it was delivered.
Ms Lavelle also told gardaí that prior to this she felt harassed and intimidated by Ms Heston, who she claimed made hand gestures at her when they met on the road while driving.
Garda Byrne said she interviewed Ms Heston on November 17, 2016, and Ms Heston denied any knowledge of letters or harassment. However, on November 21, 2016, she admitted sending the first letter.
Later that day Ms Lavelle arrived to the station in Belmullet with another letter that was addressed to her son. Ms Heston also admitted to sending this letter when she was interviewed on December 8, 2016.
It was claimed in court that there was an allegation of bullying between the sons of the two women when they attended national school, and in a statement to gardaí, Ms Heston said she wanted the bullying to stop. She said she was mortified about what she had done and admitted that she would not like to receive letters like that. In relation to the letter addressed to Ms Lavelle’s son, she said she picked up the pen and paper out of anger and was at a loss to explain its contents.
Mr Cathal Deasy, solicitor for Ms Heston, said his client was a single mother and that her son was her only child. He said there had been issues between the two boys and that since the letters incident, she has been receiving the help of psychiatric services to deal with underlying issues she has.
Garda Byrne said Ms Heston had no previous convictions and there has been no other complaints since the incident.
Ms Lavelle addressed the court and stated that her husband works in London during the week and has to return every Friday since the letters were received, as she cannot cope being on her own. She said she is living on her nerves and just wanted to live in peace. She also claimed that the incidents were affecting her son’s health.
Mr Deasy said Ms Heston was the postmistress of Doohoma Post Office for 29 years and that she had lost her livelihood as a result of her actions towards the Lavelles. He said she was suffering from depression at the time of the incidents and that her ‘erratic behaviour’ was out of character for her.
Judge Deirdre Gearty said she believed that it may be appropriate for Ms Heston to interact with the Probation Services, and Mr Deasy agreed that his client would cooperate fully with them. She adjourned sentencing until June 13 for the preparation of a probation report.