Saturday 21 October 2017

'It was like losing my own daughter'

Loving couple had planned to have children before Jill's brutal murder, says her mother-in-law

Jill and Thomas on their wedding day, with family members. Thomas’s mother Joan Meagher is on her son’s right.
Jill and Thomas on their wedding day, with family members. Thomas’s mother Joan Meagher is on her son’s right.
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THE mother-in-law of murdered Jill Meagher has told how her entire heartbroken family now hopes predator Adrian Ernest Bayley will spend the rest of his life behind bars so no one else faces such an ordeal.

Joan Meagher told how Bayley's appearance in a Melbourne courthouse to plead guilty to the murder had brought back all the trauma of her death for the family.

"It is nearly as if it all happened again," said Mrs Meagher. Along with her husband Kevin, they watched the reports on the case from their home in Cabinteely, Dublin, while Thomas's younger sister Katrina came home early from work.

It emerged Bayley served a total of just 11 years in prison despite a more than 20-year history of violent sex crimes.

The 41-year-old was on parole when he raped and strangled the 29-year-old ABC radio employee.

She had been walking to the home she shared with husband Thomas in a Melbourne suburb when the attack occurred last September.

"It was heartbreaking, really. It just brought it all back to the beginning again yesterday when I heard the statements, especially from Thomas.

"He is going to have to start his whole life again."

Mrs Meagher said they too felt Bayley should not have been on the streets.

"It can't happen to somebody else. Jill is still dead and it is not going to change," she said.

"He was on parole after serving eight years of an 11-year sentence but he abducted several times. He wasn't getting any better. He killed her because he would have done 20 years if she had reported him."

Mrs Meagher said the family did not yet know if Thomas would return to live in Ireland and would not be able to make any decision until the sentencing hearing was completely finished.

"His home is here any time he wants it but he has to make his own mind up about it. I'd love him to come back but I know he has a lot of friends over there as well. That will be his own decision and it is a bad time for him to be making decisions anyway," she said.

As a mother, she was already aware her son was suffering panic attacks since the loss of his wife. Yet, it was in his heartfelt victim impact statement that she heard the extent of his trauma.

"I didn't realise I suppose that he was suffering from insomnia and fear."

Mrs Meagher said her son was now better prepared to talk about the terrible trauma of Jill's death as he was getting grief counselling.

"I think that is helping him to express himself – the way he feels. I find when I am talking to him on the phone and that, that he is more open than he would have been before."

Mrs Meagher said her son Thomas and Jill had been planning to have children. Now, the entire family feels that future has been ripped from them.

"We are very grieved and we were going around in tears all day," she said of the day Bayley pleaded guilty in court.

"She was like a daughter, it was like losing a daughter," she said.

"I don't know how we go on from here, how Thomas goes on from here. He won't ever be the same again but I'd like him to be happy again.

"It was so brutal. They never did anything to anybody, they never hurt anyone. She was lovely, terribly kind and considerate."

Mrs Meagher said she had treated her so well when she went over to stay with them for a month in 2011.

The family has many great memories from the time after they met as college sweethearts in 2000 on UCD's Belfield campus, their wedding day in 2008 and how well Jill had treated her on a month-long trip made to Melbourne in 2011.

"She was lovely. She was part of the family. Her parents were in Perth and Thomas and herself were together all that time, so she often stayed here," she said. "They were only home before she was murdered. They had only just gone back."

Irish Independent

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