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Claims Web stalker responsible for offensive postings

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A senior secretary sacked over allegations that she posted offensive and racist messages in a cyberlounge says she was the victim of an orchestrated campaign to smear her name.

Hazel Mahon, who worked as PA to four chief general managers during her 25 years with the Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS), was dismissed for gross misconduct after allegedly abusing her Internet access at work.

Mahon protested her innocence at an employment tribunal in Manchester this week, testifying that the offensive messages were not authored by her but by an "Internet stalker" posing as her, Manchester Online reports.

Mahon, 56, from Oldham in Greater Manchester, told the tribunal that her problems began after she posted a number of innocuous messages on the Johnny Thunders Cyber Lounge Web site asking about how she might be able to get hold of music videos for he son. She left her email address at CIS in postings to the site.

After this, Mahon began receiving pornographic emails at work. And a number of offensive posting made in her name were posted on the site.

CIS told the tribunal that it satisfied that Mahon herself posted the offensive messages, the content of which was liable to bring the mutually-owned insurance group into disrepute.

Former personnel manager Peter Smith told the tribunal: "She [Mahon] was quite clearly identified through her email address and had anyone seen what was being communicated it would have reflected very badly on the chief executive, the CIS as a whole, and Mrs Mahon herself."

Mahon, who had previously been warned over her attendance record, claims Co-op chiefs were determined to boot her out. CIS failed to properly investigate the source of the messages or computer evidence before sacking her, she alleges.

Mahon claims unfair dismissal.

The case continues. ®

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