herald

Monday 18 June 2018

Garda probe into alleged threat to 'bash the autism out of' mum's children

Campaigner Fiona O'Leary
Campaigner Fiona O'Leary

A mother-of-five has complained to gardai after a man threatened her over the phone, saying: "You and your autistic kids will get their heads bashed in... I'm going to bash the autism out of them."

The intimidating phone call was made to Fiona O'Leary, an autism rights campaigner, last month.

Ms O'Leary founded Autistic Rights Together and has been highlighting therapies falsely sold as treatment for autism.

She claims that staff at the Church of Scientology in Dublin offered her a €1,500 detoxification programme that would cure her children of autism.

Since then, she has been actively campaigning against Scientology and the opening of the group's centre in Firhouse.

However, a spokeswoman for the Scientology centre has insisted that the threatening call was not made by anyone associated with it.

In audio, a young man with a Dublin accent told Ms O'Leary: "You and your five autistic kids will get their heads bashed in... I'm going to bash the autism out of them."

Ms O'Leary said: "We were at a petrol station and all my kids were in the car and we got a call from a private number.

"I had to put it on speaker phone so my husband could record it, and all my children heard - it was horrific."

Intimidating

Ms O'Leary has two autistic sons, aged 25 and 13. She claims to have received more intimidating calls since.

A garda spokesman confirmed they had received reports of threatening calls.

In a statement, the Scientology centre in Dublin said: "On December 4, 2017, he [a volunteer at the centre] was called by a woman called Fiona O'Leary, who lied to him about her identity and feigned an interest in the Centre.

"He was very upset when he realised she had got his personal mobile number and tried to deceive him and waste his time.

"He called her back and made what was clearly an expression of frustration, not a threat.

"Nevertheless, when we learned about it we informed him that despite the extreme provocation this was entirely unacceptable and he gave an assurance that he would not respond to provocation in the future. We believe he has honoured this assurance.

"The second call ["you and your autistic kids will get their heads bashed in"] is not him or anyone that we are aware of. We condemn all such behaviour."

During a call to the centre, Ms O'Leary claims she was offered the Purification Rundown treatment.

This is trademarked by Scientology, as a detoxification programme purporting to rid the body of the effects of drugs, toxins and other harmful chemicals.

A representative of the Scientology centre told Ms O'Leary over the phone that the 'Purif' works "100pc of the time" to cure conditions such as autism.

A spokeswoman for the centre said: "English is not his first language and he struggled a little in the conversation.

"However, he made no reference to any 'treatment' and certainly did not say that anything could cure autism."

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