Former trainee priest jailed over "horrendous" harassment of couple

Leader reporter


Leader reporter


Former trainee priest jailed over "horrendous" harassment of couple

Donegal town courthouse

A FORMER trainee Catholic priest was, this week, sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for his role in a “horrendous” campaign of harassment on social media, letter and by email.

In jailing 41-year-old Tryphon Mabanz Mbumba, who has an address at Old Clare Street, Judge Kevin Kilrane said he was a “hypocrite who wrapped himself in religion” as evidenced by his letters of apology that were read out in court.

During a hearing, Donegal District Court heard the defendant offered a copy of Pope Francis’s book “The Joys of Love” to the injured parties Alan Appolinaire Happi and his wife Isabella as part of that apology.

The defendant had earlier pleaded guilty to harassing Ms Happi on a date between November 1, 2012, and September  30, 2013 at and address in Donegal town.

He also pleaded guilty to a similar charge relating to Mr Happi on dates between July 1 2014 and November 30 2015.

The court heard the defendant set up a fake Facebook account and accused Donegal town taxi man and underage soccer coach Mr Happi of having affairs, being involved in terrorism in Northern Ireland and being a child rapist.

Tryphon contacted Ms Happi’s Facebook account telling her: “Be careful of Alan, he has two children in France and was having an affair.” 

Both Alan and Isobella said the false accusations had almost ended their marriage.

The defendant, the court heard, also sent emails to between 20 and 30 businesses in Donegal making serious allegations against the taxi driver.

The emails told the businesses to be very careful of the taxi driver and claimed he had been involved in terrorism in Northern Ireland and was a child rapist.

An accompanying photo of Alan Happi was sent with the email.

An emotional Mr Happi, who coaches underage soccer teams in Donegal Town told the court that he had been accosted on the street as a result of the emails which was sent to local businesses.

He said the defendant had been sending the highly offensive messages at the same time that he had visited Mr Happi’s family home in Donegal Town, before moving to Limerick.

The court heard that eight of the businesses had sent in complaints against the nature of the emails.

The court was told the defendant and his victim had once lived in the same hostel where Mr Appi was head chef.

Imposing sentence, Judge Kevin Kilrane said he wanted the people of Donegal to know there was “not a shred of evidence that the allegations before the court are remotely true”.

“I want the people of Donegal to know that they are respectable and hard working people”.

The judge complimented Mr Happi on the “dignified and sensible way he had dealt with the allegations and let the law take its course.

Judge Kilrane said the defendant was a Congolese national who had come to Ireland as a refugee where he met the victim who is from Cameroon.

He had been originally friendly with the couple and had often been in their home.

But, the defendant had launched a campaign of the most “vicious harassment of his two victims in the most appalling manner”.

And while the judge was not saying the defendant was an evil person his “acts were evil in the worst possible way”.

Judge Kilrane said the defendant said in a letter of apology that he did not intend to upset Isobella Happi but she was “absolutely tormented”.

And the defendant made his baseless allegations behind the cloak of anonymity.

The defendant accused Alan Appi of “everything short of murder”, the judge added.

Judge Kilrane said the defendant was suggesting that there had been a dispute between the parties, but the victim strongly denied this account.

Judge Kilrane said the defendant had a “good Catholic upbringing”.

He had studied for the priesthood for several years but his “vocation wavered”.

The judge said he had read the defendant’s apology and it said he was sorry for any harm he “may have done and any unintentional damage that I may have caused”.

But the defendant had written to many people making horrendous allegations against his victim yet maintained in a letter written yesterday that it was “unintentional”.

“He seeks to wrap himself up in religion. He is a complete and utter hypocrite”.

The judge said the defendant’s vindictiveness went “beyond explanation”.

“This man must go to jail for six months”, the judge added.

Recognisances for circuit court appeal were set at an independent surety of €3,000 with €1,000 cash to be lodged.