'It's not our place to forgive' say parents of murdered Jill who was killed and a £1 coin forced down her throat
The family of a teenager murdered 25 years ago say they will never get her back, but her killer still has a long life ahead of him as he reaches the end of his sentence. They say they will never forgive him.
Jill Bishop was only 18 when she was killed by Michael McLaughlin, then aged 23, after a Halloween disco in 1991.
Her badly-beaten body was found the next day behind the wall of a house on the seafront in Bray, Wicklow. A £1 coin had been forced down her throat.
Jill had gone to the disco with her 16-year-old sister, Karen, and met McLaughlin there by chance for the first time.
When they all left the disco everything seemed to be fine, and Karen walked ahead with others to give her sister space with McLaughlin after her big night out.
Karen arrived home to her parents, Ciaran and May, at around 3.30am, but two hours later there was still no sign of Jill.
"I knew she was dead. I said to Ciaran, 'She's dead, she's in a heap somewhere'," Mrs Bishop said.
McLaughlin is now 48 and coming near the end of his life sentence. He gets regular temporary release from prison.
Although there is no official date for him being released, which has to be granted by the justice minister after approval by the parole board, the Bishops know freedom is inevitable for him in the not-too-distant future.
McLaughlin began getting day release in 2012, the beginning of the road to getting out for good.
As a long-term prisoner convicted of murder, he had to build trust with the authorities, and his temporary release gradually became more regular and for longer periods.
He is now being prepared for life in a society that has changed dramatically in 25 years. He was last allowed out last weekend.
Although a quarter-of-a-century has passed since Jill's murder, her family remember it as if it had happened only yesterday.
"At 48, he will still be a relatively young man despite having served 25 years in jail," said Mr Bishop.
"People are living much longer now, but Jill never got beyond 18. We won't have her ever again.
"The State supports prisoners like McLaughlin, but what support do we get? Nothing whatsoever.
"We were never given counselling or anything, yet he seems to be a priority for the system.
"We're told he won't be able to live or be in areas like Bray, but who polices that? How do we know we won't bump into him in the city some day?
"At the moment we know he is in jail, and when he is out on temporary release we are informed about it, but after his release we just won't know where he is."
Mrs Bishop said: "We will never forgive him. People have asked us could we ever forgive him, but it's not our place to forgive him - only Jill could do that, but she's not here.
"I wake up every morning at 3.30 - the time Jill was supposed to come home.
"Out of the £10 we gave her we got £3.78 back from the gardai in a plastic bag. We remember every detail like it was yesterday.
"When Jill's body was found, one of her contact lenses had been knocked out in the attack. She would have been practically blind without it in the darkness, and with the weather and her arthritis she would not have been able to run. She was defenceless."
Karen said that from the day of the murder, McLaughlin seemed to come first in the eyes of the State.
"I remember being brought down to the garda station to try and give a statement, but I had to wait outside in a squad car because he was in there. I was the one forced to wait, it seemed wrong," she said.
"Nobody understands how a murder affects a family. It was my first disco. As a girl that age I seemed overlooked afterwards. All the attention from the gardai was focused on my parents. The siblings seemed to come down the line."
Jill and Karen also have a brother who has a family of his own.
"Jill never got to see our grandchildren," Mrs Bishop said.
Her husband added: "I visit her grave every day. We never forget Jill."
The couple praised the gardai for the work they did in bringing McLaughlin to justice, especially John O'Mahony, who is now Assistant Commissioner.
"He has visited us every Christmas without fail," said Mrs Bishop.
Belfast Telegraph Digital