Sex offence allegations and vile items sent in post – store workers ‘two years of trauma’ during hate campaign

Sainsbury's Horden.
Sainsbury's Horden.

A store supervisor has told of her “two years of trauma” after a colleague launched a vile hate campaign against her.

As part of the vendetta against Tracey Lough, manager at Horden’s Sainsbury’s store, Matthew Gibson sent her several sick items through the post following a work-related investigation.

Gibson, 42, also wrote to Horden businesses and a school in the village, wrongly claiming Ms Lough was a convicted sex offender and including the names of three fictitious child victims.

Magistrates said the items were “grossly offensive” and that the sex offender claims had caused Ms Lough a “great deal of embarrassment”.

As part of his punishment, Gibson has been made subject to a 10-year restraining order banning him from contacting Ms Lough.

Today Ms Lough, 45, spoke of her relief that Gibson had been brought to justice.

She said: “It’s been two years of trauma, I was his manager. It wasn’t really about the sentence, for me it was about putting an end to it.”

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court heard Ms Lough was asked to investigate an internal matter involving Gibson, two years prior to the offences.

The court heard that nothing was found against Gibson, but he later implicated Ms Lough in a bullying complaint.

Gibson then worked at the Sainsbury’s store at Durham City’s Arnison Centre, where Ms Lough shops and on one occasion she had no choice but to use his till during a busy period.

But a few weeks later, Gibson made a complaint that he felt threatened by Ms Lough, although this was resolved.

Then a day later a letter arrived at the Horden store which was addressed to Ms Lough, who lives in Durham City.

Prosecutor Andrea Milson said Ms Lough opened the letter and it contained a condom and a fluid was later tested and confirmed to be semen.

“She was quite shocked and had a few tears and she spoke to colleagues who advised her to contact the police,” said Ms Milson.

Then weeks later, she received another letter, and upon opening it, found a used sanitary towel.

The court heard Ms Lough had her suspicions it may have been Gibson, but was concerned and not sure who it was.

Then on November 12 last year, a letter was sent to the Horden store containing a note saying Ms Lough was a sex offender.

A copy was also sent to a cake shop in Horden and a local school.

“It stated she was a manager at the shop and had a lot of dealings with the community,” said Ms Milson.

It said “please beware” that Tracey Lough is a “convicted sex offender and works at Sainsbury’s in Horden and is convicted of abusing three children between nine and 11”.

Ms Lough, 45, had to assure Sainsbury’s its claims weren’t true.

Ms Milson said the items were “clearly distasteful” and Ms Lough wanted “closure”.

Gibson, of Lund Avenue, Durham City, admitted harassment between July 6 and November 12 last year.

Michelle Gallagher, mitigating, asked justices not to impose a restraining order as Gibson has since resigned from Sainsbury’s and doesn’t know where Ms Lough lives.

She added: “He has never been before a court before and is never going to be again.

“He is sorry for all he has done, he was acting out of character.”

Chairman of the magistrates’ bench, Ian Huitson, said: “The victim has surely been traumatised and embarrassed in the local community by your actions.”

Alongside the restraining order, Gibson was sentenced to a 12-month community order and told to pay Ms Lough £100 compensation, with £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.