Thursday 13 December 2018

'I'm going to bash the autism out of your kids' - Mother 'living in fear' after threatening call

Fiona O'Leary is an autism rights campaigner based in Co Cork
Fiona O'Leary is an autism rights campaigner based in Co Cork
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A mother-of-five has complained to gardaí 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 that are 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 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 heard by Independent.ie, 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."

"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, it was horrific," Ms O’Leary told Independent.ie.

Ms O’Leary has two autistic sons, aged 25 and 13.

She says she is afraid to stay at home by herself out of fear and claims to have received more intimidating calls since.

A garda spokesman confirmed they had received reports of threatening phone calls but added "It is not the policy of An Garda Síochána to comment on named individuals and ongoing investigations."

In a statement to Independent.ie, the Scientology centre in Dublin said: "On 4 December 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."

Ms O’Leary says she called the centre using a different name to enquire about their Winter Wonderland which was set up in December.

She said she had concerns about children going to the Winter Wonderland after she was offered the Purification Rundown treatment.

Purification Rundown, trademarked by Scientology, is a detoxification programme which purports to rid the body of the harmful effects of drugs, toxins and other 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 like autism. Independent.ie has heard the telephone conversation.

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.

"The Purification Programme is a religious service taken by members on their own personal spiritual path. It is designed to help cleanse the body and hence the mind of harmful drugs and toxins that impede one's spiritual advance. As such we believe it can help anyone."

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