A man who required Garda protection in Co Kildare after being falsely identified on social media as a sex offender is considering taking legal action.
David Murray was in Monasterevin in Kildare on Friday when a "mob" began abusing him and accused him of being convicted child abuser Anthony Luckwill.
About 30 people gathered during the incident before Mr Murray was escorted out of the town and back to Dublin by local gardaí.
"I've had about six hours sleep since Friday morning," he told The Irish Times on Monday. "I'm still seeing people on Facebook saying, 'Why would he be accused if he wasn't guilty?'"
Mr Murray, a civil servant, had been in the town looking at houses during the week. At the same time rumours began to circulate online that Luckwill had been spotted in the town.
Luckwill, who has convictions in several countries for sexual offences, was released from prison last year after serving a sentence for abusing two teenage boys.
I told them 'I'm innocent, you've got the wrong guy.'
He had posed as a casting agent to convince his victims’ mothers to leave them at his Navan, Co Meath, apartment where he engaged in sexual activities with them.
Since his release, rumours have regularly circulated online alerting parents that he was staying in various parts of the country.
These rumours led to the publication on Friday evening of an article on the website Kildarenow which cited online reports that Luckwill was in Monastrevin.
The article was also published on Facebook, which prompted one reader to upload a candid photo of Mr Murray, which had been taken in a local pub, claiming that he was Luckwill.
About an hour after publication, Mr Murray was sitting down outside Supervalu in Monastrevin to rest his feet after the day’s househunting.
“I had no inclination that anything could possibly be about to happen. I was just walking around, not trying to hide my movements from anyone,” he said.
Three cars pulled up and the occupants got out and “made vague statements of me being all over Facebook and my photo being in every Garda station.”
‘You’ve got the wrong guy’
They accused him of being Luckwill and of “following” children in the town.
“I told them ‘I’m innocent, you’ve got the wrong guy.’ They said ‘we don’t care, we don’t want to know.’”
Mr Murray said he implored the group to call gardaí to clarify he wasn’t Luckwill but they refused. He then sought refuge nearby in Finlay’s Pub but was followed by one of the men who continued making the accusations.
“The man was also asking passersby by on the street to join in,” Mr Murray said.
Mr Murray borrowed a phone from someone in the pub and called 999. While he waited for gardaí, one of the group entered the pub and started taking his photo.
Nobody who accused me provided a shred of evidence that I was Anthony Luckwill.
Two gardaí arrived and escorted Mr Murray to a patrol car to protect him from the crowd gathering outside.
“There was about 30 people outside the pub. The garda said to them ‘I’ve told you before it’s not him.’ But they weren’t listening.”
Gardaí drove Mr Murray to his home in Clondalkin. Some social media posts by locals later claimed he had been arrested.
“These people don’t want to listen to anything that they don’t already believe,” he said.
A Garda spokeswoman described the matter as “a public order incident” and stressed Mr Murray was completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
She urged people to avoid taking such matters into their own hands and to contact gardaí if they have concerns about a person.
There is no evidence Luckwill himself was in the town or in Kildare.
At 5am on Saturday morning Mr Murray began contacting Kildarenow asking them to clarify the situation. The article was subsequently deleted.
On Saturday afternoon, the website published a statement apologising to “that innocent person who gardaí also confirmed is not Anthony Luckwill.”
Mr Murray said he is now considering taking legal action against the website.
He is also concerned the photographs taken of him in the pub will be circulated online again.
Content Manager with Kildarenow Senan Hogan said it the incident "was extremely regrettable.
“We would absolutely disassociate ourselves from the person who posted the image.”
Mr Hogan said his first priority on receiving a complaint from Mr Murray was to delete the original article. He said the reason for the delay in issuing a clarifying statement was because he needed to take legal advice.
A spokeswoman for Facebook said it is aware of the incident and is investigating.
For Mr Murray, the incident has ended any plans he had to move to Kildare.
“I’m trying to get down to buy an apartment or house in Kildare because I’m dealing with a serious anti-social situation where I live. Now all those plans are gone.”
"In the Salem Witch Trials the accusations were sufficient to convict a person. Nobody who accused me provided a shred of evidence that I was Anthony Luckwill."
He said that even if Luckwill was in the town, it does not excuse the actions of the crowd.
“Let the police handle it. They’re trained and they’ve the legal authority to handle it.”