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Sisters fear paedophile stepdad will reoffend now he's out of prison

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John Joe Patterson leaves jail yesterday

John Joe Patterson leaves jail yesterday

John Joe Patterson leaves jail yesterday

Two sisters who waived their right to anonymity after their stepfather was jailed for sexually abusing them when they were children have said they fear he will reoffend after he walked free from prison yesterday.

John Joe Patterson (60) was sentenced to eight years in November 2015, with the final 18 months suspended.

He was released yesterday from the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise after serving less than five years.

Yesterday, Emma and Vanessa Witherow, now aged 33 and 29, said he showed no signs of remorse and fear he could be a threat to others.

Mammy

Patterson was found guilty by unanimous verdict at Nenagh Circuit Court in 2015 of 39 counts of sexual assault on Emma, which began when she was aged nine.

The court heard Patterson would abuse her, then give her €50 and tell her: "Good girl. Don't tell mammy."

He pleaded guilty to one of three counts of sexually abusing Vanessa, who was also nine when the abuse began.

"I'm sick to the stomach that he's back out and could be in the area where we still live," Emma said.

"He showed no remorse and I fear he'll reoffend.

"Five years was a stupid amount of time to be sentenced, considering how he destroyed our lives for ever."

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Sisters Emma and Vanessa Witherow at court in 2015

Sisters Emma and Vanessa Witherow at court in 2015

Sisters Emma and Vanessa Witherow at court in 2015

Patterson tried to conceal his identity as he left the Midlands Prison just before 11am yesterday.

Wearing a dark fleece, face mask and flat cap and carrying a plastic bag of belongings, he tried to shield his face from photographers with a file that had his name written across the front of it.

He was driven away from the jail in a silver-coloured car driven by a man who had arrived early in the morning and waited in an adjacent car park.

Despite his crimes, Patterson's wife Frances - the girls' mother - has stood by the paedophile and insisted he is innocent.

Patterson is originally from Cashel, Co Tipperary, but has an address in Kilclooney, Thurles.

He and Frances used to run a Christmas hamper delivery service.

"We don't have a relationship with our mother," Emma told the Herald.

"She has seven grandchildren and will never have contact with any of them. That has been the situation for 13 or 14 years now. We will never speak to her again."

At the time Patterson was sentenced, Emma said her mother "totally denied everything she heard and said I was only attention seeking".

In a desperate attempt to get away from Patterson, Emma left the family home when she was 18, taking Vanessa (13) with her.

Ignored

"I went to my mother for help, as a child should be able to do, but she gave me no help and ignored my plea," she said.

Frances Patterson held her husband's hand throughout the 2015 sentencing hearing, which lasted more than three hours.

The couple have two young sons together who do not see their sisters.

Patterson told gardaí his only defence was his wife was ill and he was "under pressure".

Judge John Hannan said he represented "the dark underbelly of Irish family life".

He had "destroyed" the sisters' childhood and their relationship with their brothers and mother.