by GERRY LOUGHRAN
(U.K.) Poison pen letters used to be a staple of crime fiction. Hand-written but unsigned, they would circulate around a closed community such as a small village, spreading poisonous lies about some innocent person until the writer was unmasked by a clever amateur detective.
Usually the culprit was the vicar’s wife. I thought that sort of thing had died out, both in fiction and, if it existed to any extent, in real life.
I forgot about the Internet. There you can be both anonymous and poisonous, and you don’t even have to pay postage. Claire Chirnside, 23, says she is the victim of a poison emailer, whose lies have already cost her her job.
Back in April, Claire was working as a temporary administrative assistant at a children’s centre in Wilmslow, Cheshire, when an email was sent to her managers claiming she was a con artist and had a criminal past.
The centre launched an internal investigation. Claire was subjected to an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check and asked to provide a credit report. Nothing detrimental was found and she was cleared to continue work. When the temporary position ended, Claire returned to her native northeast with her fiance, Lee North, and they settled in Northumberland.
Within weeks, she had secured a permanent job at the Royal Institute of British Architects in Newcastle, where she was praised for her customer service skills.
But within two months, the cyber stalker traced her and fired off a vindictive email to her new employers. Claire protested her innocence and explained about the previous incident, but she was sacked anyway.
It happened just three weeks before her planned wedding. “Someone out there is stalking me and spreading these rumours and it’s devastating,” she said.
“For the rest of my life, I am going to wonder if people I work for will get an anonymous email and I will be investigated over and over again.”
Claire said she will appeal against the architects’ decision. “What do I say next time I go for a job? Whoever is doing this could make me unemployable.”
Police in Cheshire and Northumberland confirmed they are carrying out investigations into reports of the anonymous emails.