herald

Thursday 12 December 2019

'Keep our Nichola's evil murderer out of Cork', beg family

Peter Whelan launched a savage attack on Sinead O’Leary and then Nichola Sweeney
Peter Whelan launched a savage attack on Sinead O’Leary and then Nichola Sweeney

The family of a young woman who was brutally murdered want her killer barred from Cork on any temporary prison releases as they cannot spend the rest of their lives "looking over our shoulders".

Peter Whelan (36) has been in custody for the past 17 years for a barbaric knife attack on Nichola Sweeney (19) and her friend Sinead O'Leary (20) in Rochestown, Cork, on April 27, 2002.

Nichola died from multiple stab wounds while Sinead survived.

Whelan, who was 19 when he carried out the attack after breaking into a neighbour's home, has been granted a number of escorted day releases over the past 18 months.

Outraged

This has outraged the Sweeney family and Sinead.

The Sweeneys maintain Whelan should continue to serve his life sentence.

They believe that if he must get escorted day releases, he should be ordered to stay out of Cork.

Nichola's brother, Sean, said what Whelan did that night was "truly horrific".

"I live in the area still - why should I have to be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life?" he told Cork's 96FM.

Sean named his daughter in honour of his murdered sister.

His younger brother, Christopher, said he does not believe he could remain in Cork or even Ireland if Whelan is released.

The killer broke in to the Sweeney home while the two young women were preparing to go out.

He never uttered a word as he launched a savage and unprovoked attack, first on Sinead and then on Nichola.

After punching and kicking Sinead, he lifted his shirt to display two knives he was carrying in his belt.

Nichola died at the scene from stab injuries she had sustained in the frenzied attack.

Sinead was critically injured but still managed to give gardai a detailed description of the attacker.

Whelan later returned to the scene of the crime to watch gardai, but detectives recognised him from the description.

He was arrested and later pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Nichola and the attempted murder of Sinead.

Consecutive

Such was the horrific nature of the attack that Whelan was given consecutive sentences.

He was given and has completed a 15-year sentence, having served 11, for the attempted murder of Sinead.

Whelan is now six years into a life sentence for Nichola's murder.

He is due before the Parole Board in early 2020.

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