My Catfish Story

The Fairy-tale

Meeting through a mutual follower on twitter in early July we got chatting and we hit it off immediately. His picture at the time was just of the back of someone with the most wonderful shoulders I’d ever seen. I fancied him something rotten.

There was lots of getting to know each other; there was lots of flirting and cute times. There was imagery of hugs and kisses and cuddling up together. This was exactly what I needed, getting back in the game felt wonderful. Virtual intimacy was a new concept to me but it all felt so easy with Chris.

He seemed quite taken with me also and I was beaming, just like a giddy teenager. Born in Galway, he lived in London and we wanted to meet. I agonised over the meeting. Would it be cheesy? I had always hated the idea of public displays of affection but I wanted physicality with him so much. This guy got me, he understood me and he seemed interested in me – faults and all. I had recurring doubts about this method of meeting someone but he was always so good at reassuring me.

He always said the right things. He certainly wasn’t perfect though, he was a practicing catholic and I am an avid non believer in all things theological. He seemed to get offended at the littlest things sometimes, he was extremely oversensitive. Also, he seemed to have been heavily influenced by his time living in California in his words and beliefs. He was gorgeous and he was crazy about me, how could I not be bowled over?

At this point he had changed his photo and I had some pictures of him and he had a few pictures of me. He sent me photos of his family, some of them were on twitter. I’d had some online conversations with his sister Heather and his cousin Jon. They seemed to be a really lovely family.

The distance was difficult but he would be here in September. It was good that I had really gotten to know him before meeting him. I was so confident we were compatible. There was only one risk, pheromones. If they’re not right there’s really nothing you can do but I disregarded this and went with my heart. My friends said I needed to speak to him on the phone. I didn’t want to. I believed that a phone call couldn’t add anything except awkward silence and apprehension. All that was missing from our relationship was physicality and a phone call couldn’t provide that.

The Nightmare

Shortly before he was due to visit, he’d been getting headaches and nosebleeds. I pleaded with him to get them checked out. He said he was fine but I was worried. His sister Heather was staying with him in London for the weekend. He suddenly fell out of contact for a while and then I started to get garbled messages. They were badly typed and barely coherent, he was heavily medicated.

A sudden panic alerted me to how far away he really was and how isolated from his world I felt. I pleaded with him to tell me where he was so that I could visit. With this distance came the immense feeling of loss and the realisation that although I’d spent months getting to know Chris, I wasn’t actually a part of his real world or him a part of mine. I wrote a long letter and emailed him.

He balanced his medication so that he could message me properly and tell me all about his diagnosis. He had a Brain Stem Glioma. Enter Google. I was devastated, there seemed to be no coming back from this. Nothing in Google told me it was terminal but the statistics in Wikipedia were grim to say the least. The decision to have me visit him in hospital was postponed because a treatment plan needed to be worked out first. I was in no position to walk away at this point, I felt totally invested in Chris. I started looking at where he could be, where he lived, what he worked at. It didn’t add up. It only took a few hours for the realisation to sink in. I’d been part of a really long and twisted scam. But to what end? It appeared to never be about money or revenge, why did Chris do this? Who was Chris, did he exist? Who had I been talking to?

The Deception

While I was trying to get my head around all of this some messages between the different characters in the story seemed to indicate that Chris had died.

Jon Learys Loss, @ChuckBrownMD

Then Heather private messaged me which never explicitly said, but it seemed clear to me, Chris was now dead.

Private Message re Solicitor @HotLavenderGirl

There was talk on twitter that they were all travelling to Galway on Tuesday for prayers. I contacted his parish who confirmed that there was no such family with that name in the parish and there were no prayers, funeral or memorial of any sort scheduled.

One week after the prayer service there were messages concerning travelling with a blind man for surgery to Boston. The surgery took place and then it was mentioned that Chris was in recovery. So he hadn’t died after all. Another week later, it seems that Chris was to undergo 5 weeks of chemotherapy in Boston.
Travelling with a blind man, @ChuckBrownMD

Chris is in recovery, @HotLavenderGirl

Then a private message from Heather, this time she apologises to me.

Heather apologises, @HotLavenderGirl

In the past few days Chris has begun to message again after 7 weeks of silence. He confirms he is in Boston being treated for cancer.

Chris confirms his cancer, @GalwayDuckman

Why Tell The Story

It’s hard to get one’s head around this at first since there’s no apparent monetary gain, why the deception, why bother? It may be a need for an emotional reaction and now that I look back I can see how each time I reacted or responded I was pushed for more, as if my words were the addicts fix and I just kept on feeding their need.

Was I exceptionally naïve? Possibly, but I’m ok with that. What really sets me off is that this is not the first time they’ve done this, not the second either and I feel I need to make some effort to prevent them doing it again or to at least alert people to their antics. I want to try and prevent someone else feeling the pain I was subjected to. The people in the photos of which there are many have no idea that their faces are being used to this end. I want to give the innocent people involved an opportunity to clear their name.

Am I emotionally scarred by this set of circumstances? I don’t think so. I’m angry that these imaginary people have spun me a line for so long. I would love to say that it hasn’t changed me but I suspect it has hardened me and for that I hate them. I wish they could feel the same hurt that I have felt. I want their Facebook, Twitter and Lockerz accounts together with all photos they used exposed so that they lose any and all reputation they may have earned over the past 18 months of interactions. I see Chris has changed his twitter handle to @MaddDuckLuv from @GalwayDuckman and the script of the story seems to haved restarted.

In The Real World

There are some very real links between some of the characters and Vancouver. The account @MauiMickey, (Michelle Hiebert, a very real person) could simply be more another pawn in this game. There is nothing to indicate she has ever met any of these people. There is some evidence however to indicate that she has a phone number for these fictional characters.

The only real world evidence of Jon Leary, @ChuckBrownMD

There is a personal photo on one of the family Facebook pages which is actually that of a hockey player from Vancouver named Dan Hamhuis and the Jon Leary character once seemed to follow Vancouver ice hockey quite eagerly.

Jon Learys Lockerz account contains photos of wines from 2 different wineries in Canada, neither of which are available outside North America.

Disturbingly, this Lockerz account also contains pictures of somebodys children and most recently a newborn baby.

Sometimes the characters all seem to have quite distinct personalities and I wonder if it could really be just one person feeding a twisted need. I guess it could be some bizarre Simms type multi-player game and not just one person, I suppose I’ll never know.

The Facts

  • @ChuckBrownMD, Jon Leary is not a paediatric surgeon; he’s not a registered doctor in Ireland at all. He does not work at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Jon Leary was not born in Ireland and does not live here.
  • @GalwayDuckman or @MaddDuckLuv Christian Brian Joseph O’Neill, aged 39 was not born in Galway. He was not an Orthopaedic surgeon in London; he is not a registered doctor of any description in United Kingdom.
  • His parents have never existed as a retired teacher and doctor in Rosshill, Galway.
  • @HotLavenderGirl Heather O’Neill, aged 29 was not born in Galway, Ireland. All of Heather O’Neill’s photographs are stolen from Heather Pennell, @Heather_Pennell a photographer from Vancouver.
  • Every tweet, email and photo was sent via Blackberry which destroys any possible IP address data.
  • These are the peripheral accounts that claim to be family or close personal friends of Jon Leary. Not one of these characters could be verified as existing in the real world.
  • @DavidtheMacDad
    • does not exist in Ireland nor does his wife Colleen Leahy-McRae
  • @SweetTarHeelGal
    • Jons wife, does not exist in Ireland and did not give birth in Galway on 19 November and did not have a car accident in April.
  • @Griff8675309
    • is not a healthcare professional at St. Vincents Hospital, Dublin.
  • @FiQuinlan
    • is not a registered nurse in Ireland
  • @WhitneyMcInnes
  • @McIrishTales
  • @Riverdancer14
  • @Lolal2009
  • @MegOMoney