herald

Wednesday 19 September 2018

'Callous killer Joe took two lives from us'

Ten years after Joe O’Reilly got life for the murder of their daughter Rachel, Rose and Jim Callaly tell Alan O’Keeffe how the killer’s lack of remorse adds to their pain and why they believe his actions led to the death of Rachel’s sister

Rose and Jim Callaly, parents of murder victim Rachel O’Reilly, blame killer husband Joe O’Reilly for the breakdown in health of their other daughter Ann
Rose and Jim Callaly, parents of murder victim Rachel O’Reilly, blame killer husband Joe O’Reilly for the breakdown in health of their other daughter Ann

The parents of murder victim Rachel O'Reilly have revealed they believe her killer husband is also responsible for their other daughter's death, as the 10th anniversary of his conviction approaches.

They believe Joe O'Reilly is partly responsible for the breakdown in the health of their daughter Ann, who died of cancer less than three years after he was jailed for the horrific crime.

"I put down Ann's death to his murder of Rachel and how Ann was living in fear while he was out and about for three-and-a-half years before his conviction," said Jim Callaly (77).

Rose Callaly (75) dreads the day when O'Reilly is released from his life sentence.

"The only thing I hope is I'm dead when he gets out. I hope I'm not around," she said.

One decade ago this week, a jury delivered a guilty verdict in the marathon murder trial.

O'Reilly was shown to have devised an elaborate plan to murder his wife and to make it look like an intruder bludgeoned the 30-year-old mother-of-two to death.

He even sent texts to his wife's phone after he killed her. He attacked her during his mid-morning visit to their rural bungalow home in The Naul, Co Dublin, on October 4, 2004.

Alibi

His alibi was that he was busy in Dublin on work duties that morning.

But that alibi was blown apart by a meticulous garda investigation involving tracking his movements through his mobile phone.

Rachel with Joe O’Reilly, who is serving life for her murder
Rachel with Joe O’Reilly, who is serving life for her murder

"The 'guilty' word was great. It meant that he got justice," said Jim, recalling the long ordeal of the trial.

The Callaly family suffered a second devastating blow when Rachel's sister Ann died from bone cancer at the age of 32.

"My second daughter's death... A lot of it was due to what happened to Rachel," said Jim, a retired plumber.

Ann was terrified of O'Reilly during the years he remained free while gardai worked on the case against him.

Her parents believe the extreme stress she suffered contributed to her getting cancer.

"Ann was living in an apartment up in Santry and if she heard a door creaking, she was in fear that he was coming to get her," Jim said.

Joe O’Reilly’s infamous appearance on the Late Late Show
Joe O’Reilly’s infamous appearance on the Late Late Show

Her mother said that Ann, a single woman who had been happy in her own home, ended up moving back into the family home in Whitehall in Dublin during the "horrendous" years following Rachel's murder.

"Ann was never the same girl after that. She was absolutely terrified," Rose said.

"She was afraid he would get into the house.

"And then she wouldn't get into a taxi on her own.

"Her whole world was knocked upside down. And he caused it.

"She was terrified. Jim swears it caused her cancer."

For several weeks after he murdered Rachel, O'Reilly continued to visit her parents' home as he played out his deception of being the grieving husband and son-in-law.

Jim said: "The b*****d used to come to our house after the murder and he'd sit here in the house with us having meals after the murder. He'd eat huge amounts."

Rose said: "The last time he was here in our home, it was only a few weeks after the murder.

"He had been coming fairly regularly up 'til then. And I couldn't bear to look at him.

"On his last visit, he was in the kitchen. And I was making up a sandwich and I couldn't look at him that day.

Agitated

"I'd only speak to him with my back to him. I just couldn't hold it any longer and he knew it. Ann was getting very agitated, saying 'Mam, Mam' and I said 'I can't Ann.'

"Ann knew what he had done. She was getting agitated. Well, he never came back after that day.

"When Ann died I felt I had nothing left at all in me. Because going through something like that - if a child belonging to you is murdered, it's horrific and just uses up everything that keeps us going.

"You don't realise that until something big happens again and you're just gone. Ann will be seven years dead in September and Rachel was six years dead when Ann died. There's only two weeks between their anniversaries.

"We usually have a Mass sometime in late September for the two of them in the house.

"I've been in both situations. I've been in a situation where my child has been murdered. Ann had a very sad death from cancer. But, there's a difference.

"There's something absolutely horrific about your child being murdered.

"To think that it was her husband, who she should have trusted with her life, that he was the one to do it. It's just horrendous," she said.

It is almost 13 years since O'Reilly murdered their precious daughter.

Rose said: "I can't believe the years are flying in. Life changes so I just live the life I have now.

"I try to live each day. Some days I get up and, for no reason whatsoever, I'm down in the dumps.

"But I just realised we all have something to be thankful for.

"This is a far different life than we would have had. It's unbelievable.

"I keep looking back as if Rachel was still here."

The couple spoke about how they and their three sons were doing their best to live a normal life.

Rose goes on long walks and Jim likes to cycle.

They have had to endure the fact that O'Reilly never faced up to what he did and has persisted in his claims that he is innocent.

Rose said: " I honestly don't think I'll ever get closure. It's just huge. You just don't get closure.

"But life would be a lot easier if he would just admit it what he has done and if he didn't keep up this charade.

"Short of somebody standing watching what he did, it has been proven and the evidence is so strong.

"I never had any doubts whatsoever that he was guilty but I don't think he has any soul. I don't think he has any feeling at all. I think he's very, very cunning. Some people tell me he has himself convinced. He's definitely not normal.

"I always knew that that arrogance in him means he will never admit to what he has done. Never.

"The truth of it is I never got to know him.

"He was sort of a loner but he would let you know a certain amount but he would never get too close.

"Anytime he would have anything going on in our house he would sort of end up with the children.

"He'd break away from the group and he didn't mix much with the adults.

"Nobody ever got to know anything much about him," she added.

Cheating

But before Rachel's murder, she did not have any reason to doubt that he was a good husband to her daughter.

They certainly had no inkling O'Reilly was cheating on Rachel.

"I knew that Rachel was always mad about him. I never had any doubts about him being a good husband.

"I know now how cunning and two-faced and evil he is," she said.

"When I found out he was having an affair, it came as a terrible shock."

She later discovered Rachel had her misgivings and had confided in a friend that, for her children's sake, she was going to have to do something.

Rose said that she has encountered many people whose loved ones have been murdered. She met many through support groups for relatives of murder victims. She found that anger was something everyone had in common.

"Anger never seems to go away with anybody I met," she said.

"That awful anger never goes. I didn't really think I was angry at the beginning.

"I tried my best not to be angry.

"I feel very angry when I think of Rachel as a young lady starting out on life. She never really got a chance at it.

"And I think he was undermining her life before that even happened," she said.

She spoke of O'Reilly's sheer arrogance in planning and carrying out the murder and then maintaining his ever-lasting charade of innocence.

Grateful

She feels grateful for the technological advances that enabled gardai to prove he did it.

"So God moves in his own way," she said.

"It would mean a lot if he would just admit what he's done. And then there's some hope.

"But for a person to commit such an horrendous planned murder to then get out... I certainly wouldn't feel happy about it. That's where he should be. Why should they let him out when he's still saying he didn't do it?" she said.

Rose feels grateful, too, that, over the years, they have somehow managed to get on with their own lives amidst their terrible grief.

They are comforted at the thought of O'Reilly locked up behind bars.

"He's still in there, thank God.

"I think if he was to turn around and admit it, he would set himself free. It would be in his own head that he would help himself," she said.

She cannot contemplate ever forgiving him.

"It would mean a lot to me if he was to confess, but he's never likely to."

Jim, however, is no longer concerned about O'Reilly admitting it.

Indeed, he hopes O'Reilly's stubborn refusal to own up will result in a longer imprisonment.

"I don't think he'll ever get out, to be honest. He would be a big danger to society. He's a psychopath," he said.

"I wouldn't even put confessing into his head because I don't want to see him getting out. He's thick enough.

"And he's very cunning. But he hasn't got the savvy," he added.

"To sit down and contemplate to murder somebody. It's a very evil thing to do.

"I'm sorry that the death penalty was done away with because he would be a candidate for it.

"To sit down and premeditate somebody's death, someone you are going to wipe out, you'd want to be pure evil to even think about it, and plan it.

"Planned it in his own mind meticulously but he slipped up in a few things," said the angry father.

"To think if he admitted it he could walk free. I want him to stay there.

"He never said anything in the court to defend himself.

"It's said he thought he was going to walk and that he got the biggest shock of all when the jury said 'guilty.'

Ordeal

"It was a terrible ordeal for us sitting in court.

"The worst thing of all for me was when we knew the person had committed the murder.

"I'm not saying it is any easier if it is a stranger. But to know that person, it was terrible," he said.

Then Rose said immediately; "Her own husband! It was horrendous for us."

Jim then said: "Rachel will be 13 years dead in October.

"We're serving our time out of prison.

"It's ruined our lives and the lives of our children too."

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