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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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First Dates star avoids jail after pleading guilty to harassing celebrity chef Dylan McGrath

She bombarded the chef with nuisance phone calls and disturbing messages about “demons and souls”.

A MODEL WHO admitted harassing celebrity chef Dylan McGrath has been spared a jail sentence and a criminal record but has been given a lifetime ban on contacting him.

RTÉ First Dates star Daphney Sanasie, 26, kept pestering the Belfast-born Masterchef judge after they had gone on two dates in early 2015, Dublin District Court had heard.

She bombarded the chef with nuisance phone calls and disturbing messages including texts about “demons and souls” because she thought it was funny, the court was told.

The model and student from South Africa, who has an address at Jamestown Road in Dublin 8, pleaded guilty to harassing Dylan McGrath (39) from 9 September until 21 November 2015.

The offence can carry a 12-month jail term but Judge Michael Walsh held yesterday that it it did not reach the threshold for imposing a criminal conviction but he imposed an indefinite ban on her contacting him directly or indirectly and ordered her to stay away from his place or residence, restaurants and places of business.

He found McGrath had given her mixed signals and at one point in a message to Sanasie he was “impolite to say the least”.

Guilty plea

Sanasie did not address the court but told reporters after the hearing that she was thankful to her fans for their messages of support and she had no hard feelings for Mr McGrath.

She said she was glad the case was over and it arose out of a misunderstanding.

She had entered a guilty plea last month and the case was adjourned until yesterday when Judge Walsh finalised the case. Sanaise switched to her third set of lawyers just as the hearing began.

Evidence

The court had heard earlier that McGrath felt threatened and in fear and that “her behaviour was not normal” but she confessed to gardaí that she did it to annoy him and she just thought it was funny.

90200067_90200067 Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Judge Walsh said yesterday that after careful consideration of the evidence and the log of messages, he found that in the messages up until 9 September there was nothing of any significance in them that could be humiliating, intimidating and abusive or designed to wear McGrath down or cause him stress.

Sometimes, he said, there were mixed messages and signals coming from McGrath’s texts, including: “What’s wrong darling? I’m having dinner at a conference in Spain” or “I love that coat from your photo” and “I feel like that” and the meaning behind that was difficult decipher.

However, after 9 September, their relationship took a nasty turn and things became somewhat strained.

He accepted she was hurt and upset and he added that it was suffice to say the narrative of one of Dylan McGrath’s messages would be unacceptable in most people’s eyes and “was impolite to say the least”.

He noted that some civility was restored at one stage when he text her to say: “Forgive you, I do”.

However, he also noted that on one occasion after he had asked her to stop, there were 45 messages from her on the same date.

Under the influence

In assessing the gravity of the offence, he accepted defence counsel Gareth Robinson’s submission that the messages were sent at times when she was under the influence of alcohol.

McGrath, was not present for the hearing, but last month when she pleaded guilty he had come to court and later told reporters, “I’m glad it’s over”.

Prosecution counsel Seamus Clarke told the court that McGrath is a well-known chef and owner of restaurants in Dublin who has also appeared on Masterchef.

The harassment was principally via phone calls, normal text messages and others via WhatsApp, he added.

Garda Colm Kelly agreed with Mr Clarke that McGrath made a formal complaint on 20 November 2015.

McGrath explained to Garda Kelly that he had been introduced to her by a mutual friend in December 2014. On 7 Februrary 2015 they met for the first time and their second date was a week later, on Valentine’s Day.

The court heard that from then on he had no personal contact with her but there was contact by texting and WhatsApp messages and phone calls. After that, the contact was mostly from her but intermittently contact came from him.

Garda Kelly agreed McGrath had become “concerned at the tenor” of some of the messages particularly in March 2015 when he told her to stop texting him.

The court was furnished with printouts of the messages.

Clarke told Judge Walsh that one message from McGrath said “Stop texting” followed by another, “Stop texting me” and he referred to not having patience for the silliness of her messages.

Trips to restaurant

The court heard that in summer 2015 he became concerned because his brother had been contacted asking for him to cook for a famous footballer’s wedding. The court heard she had turned up at his restaurant with two security guards and a photographer and was shown around because she was supposedly organising the footballer’s wedding.

Dublin bar stock Dylan McGraths Fade St. Social restaurant in Dublin. Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Then there was communication from McGrath telling her not to come to the restaurant. He told her he had family issues and he did not want drama. On 17 August 2015, she replied with a message saying: “It was about time I acted like a grown up and let this go.”

Judge Walsh was told on 9 September 2015 between 4.27 pm and 5.01pm, there were three messages “of a graphic nature” and he replied to her saying he was sick of them.

He text her back saying he tried to ignore them and he “did not want any more stupid texts” and he told her to “pull it together and stop being selfish and indulgent”.

He then got another message saying she had been in a car accident which never happened. This was followed by a number of messages “mentioning demons and souls”.

He told her on 9 September 2015 that he wanted no more contact from her “and he felt threatened and in fear because her behaviour was not normal”.

Garda Kelly agreed that McGrath feared she would come to his restaurant after she sent a text claiming she had an interview there for a job as a hostess, which was untrue.

On 9 September, he again told her to stop but on 28 September she sent him a text saying she had been in a car accident. There were phone calls which he ignored but they were followed by a text message from her saying: “Pick up. I want to clear some things between us.”

Over one weekend in mid-November 2015 he received 20 SMS messages and 75 via WhatsApp from her.

In one of them she said “she knew where he lived after he moved and she said they could meet in a cafe close to his address”, the court was told.

On 24 October 2015, she text him again to see if she could come to his restaurant but in a text response he made it clear to her: “I have to be left alone, you’ve gone too far, you should speak to someone”. He also sent her a message saying, “NO MORE CONTACT EVER PLEASE”.

She replied: “Say sorry to me then, an apology for being ignored.”

Her next message read: “You have to forgive me, seriously, last chance.”

Over 100 messages

Judge Walsh heard that he followed that with “Forgive you, I do”. From 9 September until 21 November, there were 120 texts, WhatsApp messages and phone calls.

He was concerned by some of the calls where he could hear laughing from the other end, “and he knew it was her because he recognised her distinctive voice”.

On 1 December, gardaí went to her home and seized a number of phones. When interviewed she admitted she used them to contact McGrath and that he had replied with requests for her to stop but she did not think that they were serious.

Garda Kelly said Sanasie, who has no prior criminal convictions, admitted she did it “because she wanted to annoy him and thought it was funny”. All the unwanted messages and calls were done when she was under the influence of alcohol, Judge Walsh heard.

Following the arrest she stopped contacting him, Garda Kelly said.

McGrath did not want to give a victim impact statement. Garda Kelly said that it caused the chef a lot of undue stress and at the time when he had been suffering from problems with his back.

Pleading for leniency, defence counsel Gareth Robinson said his client came to Ireland two years ago as a student and in that time she got modelling and TV work.

Before leaving South Africa both her parents died and it was her intention to return there after the case has ended.

The model was known as Federica Sanasie when she appeared on the first series of the hit matchmaking TV series First Dates last year.

McGrath – one of Ireland’s best known chefs – was a proprietor of Mint in Ranelagh in Dublin which was awarded a coveted Michelin Star before opening the Rustic Stone Restaurant by Dylan McGrath on South Great George’s Street in Dublin city-centre. He later became a judge on the Irish version of Masterchef which went on to be a massive hit.

Related: First Dates star admits bombarding chef Dylan McGrath with disturbing messages

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