trolls

Exposed: The ‘spiteful’ trolls aiming online abuse at distraught family of missing Corrie

Nicola Urquhart (left), mother of missing 23-year-old Corrie McKeague, and April Oliver, 21, girlfriend of the RAF serviceman, who has revealed she is expecting his child. (April Oliver/BBC Look East/PA Wire)
Nicola Urquhart (left), mother of missing 23-year-old Corrie McKeague, and April Oliver, 21, girlfriend of the RAF serviceman, who has revealed she is expecting his child. (April Oliver/BBC Look East/PA Wire)

THE mum of missing Corrie McKeague has been subjected to fresh agony at the hands of poisonous trolls.

With the torment of a search for her missing son continuing, the airman’s devastated mother has been left at her wits’ end – after being subjected to cruel and unfounded allegations from people who claim his family know more about the disappearance than they are letting on.

Corrie’s police worker mum Nicola Urquhart has been taunted by convicted sex offender Andrew Ashman, 50, and partner Amy Wilson.

Amy, 24 – who launched a private investigation firm with convicted criminal Ashman in 2014 – approached Corrie’s family, asking for paid work to help find the missing airman.

But when their offer was rejected, it provoked an ugly online reaction, as Ashman and Wilson claimed Corrie’s family covered up his disappearance as part of a bid to keep tens of thousands of pounds donated to them by well-wishers.

But Nicola, from Dunfermline in Fife, told The Sunday Post the pair – and other trolls – had caused her a “great deal of stress” at a time of huge emotional turmoil, adding: “I’m at a loss to see why they do this? I’m stunned.”

However, when The Sunday Post caught up with the pair last week, they denied doing anything wrong.

Andrew Ashman
Andrew Ashman

Ashman said: “What’s wrong if it’s us saying Corrie has disappeared and his mum is covering it up? I’m entitled to my opinion.”

This is not the first time the pair have targeted families of missing people.

The mother of Damien Nettles, a 16-year-old who disappeared from the Isle of Wight in 1996, was also left aghast following contact with the pair.

Valerie Nettles said the pair became abusive towards her and her supporters before she severed all contact.

Nicola is amazed some people have been so insensitive while the search for her missing 23-year-old son continues.

Perth-born Corrie – who moved south due to his work with the RAF – vanished following a night out in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on September 24 last year.

Police fear the senior aircraftman – who was wearing a pink Ralph Lauren shirt and brown Timberland boots – could have been crushed by a bin lorry and have been searching a landfill site near Cambridge where his body is feared to be.

But officers have so far failed to make a breakthrough despite combing through more than 3000 tonnes of waste in the hunt for the missing dad-to-be, whose girlfriend April Oliver, 21, found out she was pregnant two weeks after he went missing.

Corrie’s disappearance has prompted huge public interest, with more than 128,000 members on the Find Corrie Facebook page alone. Nicola said the messages of support had provided her family with solace during a distressing time.

“It’s been a real comfort to us,” Nicola added. “We’ve received so much support.”

However, she added there had been “a few spiteful people” – referring to the unwelcome interference from Ashman and Wilson.

The Sunday Post has looked carefully at the pair’s background.

In 2014, they set up a company called Paradox UK, said to specialise in private investigation work, particularly high-profile missing cases. According to online searches, the company is still active.

Indeed, the majority of dealings Ashman appears to have had with the legal profession and the police force have come as part of his lengthy career as a criminal.

In 2007, he was jailed for two years for posing as a solicitor and gas fitter to dupe a number of victims, including a recently bereaved widow.

During the investigation, police discovered he had downloaded 775 images of sickening sexual images of children.

He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years and banned from creating false identities and aliases as well as ever working with children.

However, in December 2015, he was sent to prison again after a police spot-check discovered he’d been using bogus ID details online, potentially endangering children.

At the hearing, Exeter Crown Court heard how Ashman claimed to be investigating and making television documentaries about the Madeleine McCann case at the time. He was also pretending to be an MI5 spy.

The Walter Mitty figure has made a number of hurtful online accusations about Corrie’s family. On one site, he said: “The whole Corrie McKeague story is a scam.”

He accused devastated Nicola of knowing where Corrie was, saying: “She has conned the UK public into donating money and making money from TV appearances.”

We tracked the couple to Torquay in Devon where they rent a modest flat. They weren’t at home when we arrived in the seaside town but Ashman’s mum said: “He’s gone to London to be with his granddaughter. He told police he was going there, so he’s done nothing wrong.”

We contacted Ashman by phone and, speaking with Amy in the background, he said: “Amy approached Corrie’s family to carry out research work on her own behalf.

“It had nothing to do with me – I’m not involved in private investigation work any more.

“So what if Amy posts on the internet under names? I’m entitled to my own opinion. So is she.

“What’s wrong if it’s us saying Corrie has disappeared and his mum is covering it up?

“I’m a private citizen. I can tell by your voice you are one of them – a Scotch – who believes all the rubbish they are saying that Corrie’s come to harm.

“It’s a lot of rubbish. If you keep trying to contact me I’ll call the police on you, this is harassment.”

Amy removed her blog after she was contacted by The Sunday Post. “I am happy to apologise to the family, if they wish,” she said.

“My partner is trying his hardest to get on with life and has been completely out of trouble for almost two years. It is not online abuse and no one has said it to be true.”

However Caroline Lyons, an activist who works with the families of missing people, said: “This pair must be stopped…they are preying on vulnerable people.”

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