The daughter of a man lured to his death by the UVF 40 years ago has said she wishes she had never heard the name of her father’s murderer, after revealing she has been tormented by death threats and vile messages by cyber bullies.
Seaneen McErlane (42), who in 2010 discovered that the man convicted for the double murder of her father John and her uncle Thomas McErlane was Billy Hunter, a member of staff at Asda on the Shore Road, told how she has received “trolling, death threats and abusive messages of the most vile nature” since making her first public statement in 2012.
Earlier this week, Ms McErlane joined Twitter and revealed that the type of abuse she previously received on Facebook has again been directed towards her.
Seaneen was just two years old when her father and uncle were murdered by their workmate Billy Hunter in the Mount Vernon estate after he had invited them there to play cards. Her mother discovered three weeks after the death that she was pregnant with Seaneen’s younger sister.
Seaneen only became aware of the name of her father’s murderer after a complaint of a sectarian nature was made against him at Asda on the Shore Road and the incident was covered widely in the media. In the aftermath of the revelation campaign groups and protests were organised by loyalists in support of William Hunter’s employment at the North Belfast store.
However, in 2012 tensions escalated again when Hunter took his own life by setting himself on fire. Tributes to the double murderer were left at the store and a book of condolences was opened for staff.
Up until Hunter’s suicide Seaneen explained how she had tried to remain anonymous, choosing not to engage in the media coverage of her father’s killer. She subsequently discovered that she had unknowingly been served by Mr Hunter after shopping in the store while working as a teacher in Dominican College, Fortwilliam.
“Until 2012 I remained anonymous. I only came to the fore as a result of my ongoing concerns around the reaction of the community, I was concerned safety, both my own and the wider community, she said.
“There was an undercurrent of anger and fear and my worry was around the potential actions of the relevant parties. I felt that I was given no choice in making this decision. If I had a choice it never would have reached this decision. Too many people had already lost their lives and I felt it was my responsibility to attempt to bring calm and de-escalate what was happening. Making this decision was difficult as I was in no way responsible for the circumstances. I knew that my life would change.”
Seaneen, who has worked in crisis intervention for many years, including working with victims and survivors of the Troubles said that she has no regrets about disclosing her identity because she believes lives may have been saved by her choice.
“Social media is solely responsible for facilitating this behaviour but there is no adequate support for the victims of such abuse,” added Seaneen.
“The PSNI must address this concern as a matter of urgency.”
“Twitter seemed like a forum to keep up to date with current affairs and local issues but unfortunately, as I have found, it can also become a platform of hate.”