Woman, 68, suffering from erotomania harassed innocent man for 15 years

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A 68-year old woman suffering from erotomania had harassed an entirely innocent Tralee man for 15 years – under the delusion he was in love with her.

The “entirely innocent man” had to change address and his family had suffered real distress over the years because of her behaviour, the Circuit Civil Court in Killarney heard.

They had met 40 years ago, but the obsession began in 2002.

Some 28 phone calls were made between January 11-16, 2018, alone, the Circuit Criminal Court in Killarney heard.

Kate Burgess, of Dowling Hostel, Listowel, Co Kerry, pleaded guilty to harassment of the man in Tralee on dates between January and April 2018.

Tom Rice, prosecuting, said the acts before the court involved telephone calls, but previously there were”more grievous” breaches, including entering the man’s house.

Katie O’Connell, defending, said it had never been Burgess intention to cause this man difficulty.

“Her psychotic delusion meant she 100% believes he’s in love with her,” Ms O’Connell said.

Burgess had been married with a family and had worked in a factory and had been a fitness instructor. She had a breakdown in 1991 and was unable to work since; she was separated. 

She now lived in sheltered accommodation.

A team of probation officers, gardaí and psychiatric and the homeless service had come together to help and she was now getting weekly injections, and was taking her medication, the barrister outlined.

She had come to insight into her behaviour under psychiatric treatment and had not come to garda attention in two years, Ms O’Connell said.

“This is one of these very sad situations. She is doing the right thing now,” said Ms O’Connell instructed by David Ramsay, solicitor.

Detective Sergeant Gary Carroll told how the victim lived with his wife and children in Tralee. He used his phone for work and could not change the number. 

Calls would be made at night and messages left. She had gone to his home several times uninvited and in the evening, and had found out where his sister lived and called to her.

“All he wants is for himself and his family to be left alone,” Detective Sgt Carroll said.

Calls would be made at night and messages left, the court heard. Picture: File photo
Calls would be made at night and messages left, the court heard. Picture: File photo

Burgess was infatuated with the man. She behaved when on medication but in recent weeks had told Det Sgt Carroll she was thinking of come off her medication, and this was of concern to him.

Burgess had received a number of convictions already and had served a prison sentence for the harassment, he said.

The man and his family had done nothing to attract her attention and he and his entire family including his sister and children had suffered real distress, Judge Helen Boyle said in sentencing.

There were 15 complaints and 16 separate cases and a number of convictions over the years in what was “a long campaign” of harassment.

“I cannot ignore that you have repeatedly over the years engaged in harassment of this man,” the judge told the woman.

The family had not wanted to go to gardaí but had no choice, she noted.

The “comprehensive psychiatric report” was of suffering from a delusion, paranoid psychosis an eroto-mainiac variant.

Judge Boyle imposed a 12 months suspended sentence, suspended for two years, on the conditions sought by Mr Rice including she follow a strict psychiatric regime, not enter Tralee, 27km from Listowel, except for medical appointment, and not contact the man.

The judge said she had reservations about suspending sentences in the case of persons with mental health issues because of the level of awareness by the person. 

But she was doing so – on condition Burgess attended psychiatric services, and obeyed their direction.

“If you don’t not only will you be admitted involuntarily to a psychiatric facility but a prison sentence will be imposed,” Judge Boyle warned.

The judge commended Det Sgt Carroll’s handling of the case, saying it was “very fine example of policing”.



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