herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

'He killed one-third of our family, it's a disgrace he may be given parole'

John Whelan, whose sister and two nieces were murdered, is campaigning for minimum jail terms for killers
John Whelan, whose sister and two nieces were murdered, is campaigning for minimum jail terms for killers

The family of a woman murdered along with her two young children on Christmas morning are to plead with the parole board to reject any application for early release by their killer.

The Whelan family warned that it is "totally wrong" for the onus to be on the loved ones of murder victims to campaign to keep killers behind bars until a proper sentence is served.

Brian Hennessy is now eligible for parole despite having served less than eight years of a life sentence for the murders of Sharon Whelan (30) and her daughters, Zarah (7) and Nadia (2), in 2008.

Hennessy received a life sentence in November 2009 after being convicted of strangling Sharon in her Co Kilkenny home near Windgap.

The postman later told gardai he set fire to her house in a bid to conceal what he had done and that he had sex with the victim. He rejected claims he strangled Ms Whelan to conceal the fact he had raped her.

Remorse

The two girls were asleep in their bedroom when he started the fire and died from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Despite his protestations of remorse, Hennessy appealed his Central Criminal Court sentence and is now serving a concurrent life sentence for all three killings.

Sharon's brother John and his family will make a detailed submission to the parole board asking for any early release request to be rejected.

The submission will revolve around their insistence that Hennessy has not spent long enough behind bars, the gravity of his actions that Christmas morning and the fact that three people, including two children, were callously killed.

John, who has become heavily involved in the victim's rights group AdVic, said reform of the parole system was urgently required.

"The system is cruel," he said. "He [Hennessy] is only serving one life sentence and we are still waiting to find out which one he is serving," he said.

"People must remember that one-third of our entire family was wiped out that night. It is important that people also remember he is serving one life sentence for three murders."

Mr Whelan said his family struggles to escape the horror of what Hennessy did.

Disgraceful

"As a family we have to make a presentation or submission to the parole board. The onus is on the victims' family to outline why he should not be released. It is disgraceful," he said.

The family's submission will be presented to the parole board for the hearing, which is expected to take place early next year.

Hennessy's legal team will have access to the document in advance of the hearing.

"This man took three lives in the blink of an eye and now he is eligible for parole. As a family it brings us back to day one and we relive the horror," said John.

"The State is allowing this to happen not only to our family but to all the families of murder victims. To allow someone to be eligible for parole after just seven years is wrong. It is far too early.

"We are fighting for a mandatory minimum sentencing tariff system so that murderers will have to serve minimum sentences starting from 25 years and going up to 30 and 35 years and whole-life terms.

"We have to plead to keep him in prison, it is bizarre. We should not have to do this - this is compounding our grief and is highly traumatic," he added.

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