Migraines, panic attacks and flashbacks started to haunt Sarah Monahan’s days and nights.
Trolled by a sick online stalker, the former Hey Dad..! favourite was suddenly forced to relive the sex abuse that stole her innocence behind the scenes.
Happily married and living in Florida, the proud survivor thought her nightmare was over when long-time co-star Robert Hughes was convicted and jailed for 10 child sex offences.
But then a troubled stranger started to bombard her public Facebook page with hundreds of messages in support of Hughes and other paedophiles.
‘The first one came out of nowhere,’ says Sarah, 39, who is speaking out to help other victims of abuse.
‘Just when I was finally happy, I got this crazy stalker!
‘I had relocated to Florida with my husband Matt. We were moving on and there had been no mention of Hughes for a long time, because we were between appeal hearings.
‘And then I woke up one day last year to find 20 horrible posts on my Facebook page – and every one had a picture of Robert attached.’
At first the troll called himself Mr Kelly – the surname of the zany family at the centre of the hit 1980s sitcom. But as weeks went by, he adopted 15 other pseudonyms, such as ‘George Pell = Hero’, ‘Sydney Sex Fiend’ and ‘Don’t Tell Mummy’.
‘At first, it just freaked me out,’ Sarah explains. ‘I started getting migraines immediately, and I hadn’t had any for months. Then there were nightmares and panic attacks...’
Her voice trails off as she remembers the ordeal, which lasted several months.
‘I didn’t know where this man was and I was worried for my personal safety. Then I kind of figured he must be in Australia, so it was more annoying than threatening,’ she adds.
‘But it became like a full-time job deleting his stuff. Most of it was pretty gross and it was very upsetting, triggering flashbacks for a lot of my followers, who are also sex abuse survivors.
‘He would comment on every single reply on a thread, so it was constant – dozens of posts in a day. My phone was dinging all the time with his messages. And he started harassing other people he found on my Facebook page.
‘I didn’t know who this guywas, although it was clear he was very pro-paedophile. He congratulated every single sex offender, loved Robert Hughes and said he thought [jailed entertainer] Rolf Harris was awesome.’
Shocked, disturbed and anxious to protect other people, Sarah started out simply deleting the man’s comments and blocking his many user profiles.
But after she received a particularly vile story of a baby being abused, the feisty campaigner was prompted to contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Weeks later, Australian Federal Police officers swooped on a home in Bendigo, Victoria and arrested registered sex offender and self-described ‘loner’ Luke James Wallis.
The 34-year-old later pleaded guilty to an online harassment charge, plus a further child pornography offence, and is due for sentencing later this month.
For the full story, see this week’s New Idea – out now.