Brother of Kilkenny woman murdered on Christmas Day calls for tougher laws to protect women
THE brother of a young Kilkenny mother who was murdered along with her two daughters on Christmas morning has called for tougher laws to deal with violence against women.
Sharon Whelan (30) and her daughters Zarah (7) and Nadia (2) were killed by postman Brian Hennessy after he broke into their home at Windgap in 2008.
Hennessey raped and strangled Mrs Whelan before he set fire to the house in a bid to cover his tracks.
Now, as the tenth anniversary of their deaths approaches, John Whelan is pleading for tougher laws.
Mr Whelan and other families left devastated by the murder of loved ones have formed the Sentencing And Victim Equality (SAVE) group.
Save is campaigning for a minimum tariff on life sentences before a murderer can be considered for parole.
John said in an interview with the Sunday Mirror: “We need to change the system. The judiciary needs to cop on and refuse bail to anybody with a history of violence. That would save lives.
“Even if it changed in the morning it wouldn’t make a difference to our family. But there are others after us who it would help, up to 70 families every year.
“A life sentence should mean a life sentence. Families can’t live on if they feel they haven’t got justice.
“When you look at the level of violence, especially against women, it seems to be out of control and something needs to be done.”
The Whelan family recently held a special mass for the families of murder victims, and were heartened at the level of support they received.
Mr Whelan said his elderly parents Christy (76) and Nancy (72) have been devastated by the loss of their granddaughters because they were so close to them.
He added: “We are very family-focused. This Christmas Day we will all get together and visit the grave and go to the anniversary Mass for Sharon, Zarah and Nadia in Windgap. We’d always have three candles lit in the window over the Christmas period for them. It’s a sad time but you have to focus on what you have.”
Mr Whelan said he felt compelled to start writing his book as a tribute to his sister and his two nieces. He said gathering his memories has been “therapeutic”.
Sharon’s killer Hennessy was jailed for life for the triple murders. However, in 2010 he succeeded at the Court of Criminal Appeal in getting all three life terms to run concurrently.
He failed in a bid for parole earlier this year, but he is eligible to apply for early release again in three years’ time.