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Jailed: postman who killed mum and girls on Xmas day

He said the girls were asleep when he brought mum's body into the bedroom

The man who murdered Sharon Whelan and her two daughters in the Republic of Ireland was yesterday sentenced to consecutive life terms.

Evil killer Brian Hennessy told gardai he did it to avoid his girlfriend finding out that he had sex with the victim.

"I just strangled her with my two hands around her neck," Hennessy told gardai. "I killed her in the living room."

Hennessy, a postman from Windgap, Co Kilkenny, pleaded guilty yesterday to all three murders, which took place on Christmas Day last year, after telling gardai he was "so, so sorry" for what he did.

He denied that he killed 30-year-old Sharon Whelan to prevent her telling people he had raped her.

The court heard he strangled Ms Whelan before setting fire to her home at Roscon, near Windgap, on December 25 last. Seven-year-old Zara and two-year-old Nadia died in the fire.

DNA evidence linked Hennessy to the house of the family, with whom he had only a passing acquaintance.

He said the children were asleep when he brought their mother's body into the bedroom.

"I sat on the bed. I didn't know what to do," he said. "I saw the kids. It made me more sad that I'd taken their mother away on Christmas.

"I don't know why I did it," he said about setting two fires. "I never thought about the children. I was worried about the murder."

He said he knew what he had done to the Whelan family was unbearable.

"I will never be able to cope with this so God help them," he said. "I'm so, so sorry. I don't know what else to say."

Mr Justice Barry White imposed two consecutive life sentences and one concurrent life sentence for the murder. He spoke of the "devastation" felt by Sharon's family and said that Hennessy had deliberately set fire to the house in the knowledge that two young girls were asleep inside.

The judge also said that there could be "no more poignant time of year" for a person to lose their life than at Christmas, and that Brian Hennessy had "deprived two young girls of the excitement of finding what Santa had left them as presents" and their mother of witnessing that joy.

The State did not proceed with three other charges on the indictment. Hennessy had pleaded not guilty to the most serious of those charges and a jury of one woman and 11 men was sworn in.

Detective Sergeant Jim Lyng told Tom O'Connell, prosecuting, that Sharon Whelan was last seen alive at about 11pm on Christmas Eve, when the foster father who raised her dropped off gifts for the children.

Christy Whelan parked away from her house and went only to the door so the children would not hear him. All three generations were to spend Christmas Day at Christy and Nancy Whelan's house.

Instead, neighbours found the farmhouse engulfed in flames the following morning and the three bodies were recovered from the downstairs bedroom at the back of the house.

Rigor mortis had set in on Ms Whelan, who was naked from the waist down.

Post-mortem examinations showed that both girls died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation, but their mother's cause of death was strangulation.

Ms Whelan's family sobbed as details of her injuries were read out. There was no evidence of a long struggle.

The DNA profile found on Ms Whelan's body matched Hennessy's.

Det Sgt Lyng arrested Hennessy on January 15 in his home when Hennessy denied involvement.

He later admitted going to the house, although he barely knew Ms Whelan. He claimed she brought him to the bedroom where her two daughters were sleeping, turned on the light and had sex with him.

In the fifth garda interview he admitted to killing Ms Whelan.

When asked why he killed her, he said it was because she was going to tell people they had been together and that his girlfriend would find out.

He denied the garda's suggestion that it was so she wouldn't tell people that he had raped her.

Source Irish Independent

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