Wednesday 21 August 2019

'He's locked up and I have closure... but I will never have closure with my mother'

Emma, Vanessa & Laura Witherow arriving at Nenagh Court
Emma, Vanessa & Laura Witherow arriving at Nenagh Court
John Joe Patterson, who has been jailed with his wife, Frances

Fiona Dillon and David Raleigh

Two sisters who bravely waived their right to anonymity so that their abuser step-father could be identified have told of their relief that he is behind bars.

Emma and Vanessa Witherow have spoken out following the court case that saw John Joe Patterson (55) jailed for six-and-a-half years.

The former bus driver and milkman, originally from Cashel but with an address in Kilclooney, Moyne, Templetuohy, Thurles began abusing the girls when they were just nine years old.

Despite his horrendous crimes, Patterson’s wife Frances, who is also the girl’s mother, stood by her paedophile husband and held his hand throughout a three-hour hearing at Nenagh Circuit Court yesterday.

Emma (28), a mum of two told Pat Kenny on Newstalk today that she thinks she is still in shock after the sentence was handed down. However, she said it was “overwhelming” and she also had feelings of relief.

“I was expecting him to get a bit more,” she said about the sentence.

John Joe Patterson, who has been jailed with his wife, Frances
John Joe Patterson, who has been jailed with his wife, Frances

“But the fact that he is locked up and doing time for what he did... it’s hard to tell how I feel really because I am still in shock with it all. But I was expecting him to get more, but the fact that he is locked up, and I have closure now it’s a good thing I suppose,” said Emma.

However, she said that there will never be closure in relation to her mother’s decision to stand by Patterson.

“There will never be closure there.

“I am a mother myself and I would never do that to my kids,” she said.

Meanwhile, giving her reaction, Vanessa (24), a mum-of-three said that her mother was “not entitled to the name mother.”

“You don’t do that to your children. I mean she is going to be the lonely one now. She picked him over us, and I hope she regrets it,” said Vanessa.

“It’s been a long road and yesterday was the finish and the courts and justice, so it’s overwhelming,” she said about the hearing yesterday.

Emma also spoke about the abuse which began at the age of nine.

“At nine years of age, I didn’t know what was going on. As I got older, I knew it was wrong. I was so terrified of him. I still am, at nine years of age you couldn’t possibly know what was going on,” said Emma.

She said it wasn’t until her later years that she told her mother.

“Vanessa told mammy when she was younger. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I told mammy.”

She left home at 18 taking Vanessa, who was nearly 14, with her.

“I wasn’t leaving her there, for her to be his next victim. I didn’t know that she already had been,” said Emma.

“She never stopped me from taking Vanessa,” Emma said.

She said Patterson came to her rented home after she gave birth to her own child. “After I had my son, he came to my home where I am living now. The abuse didn’t happen that day.”

She was holding her son in her arms. He told her to put the baby down.

Emma said no, “I’m not that girl any more and that my partner would be home.”

He never came back.

The girls paid tribute to the gardai, and said they were believed from the very beginning.

Vanessa said: “They couldn’t have done enough for us, and still now the support in terms of messages this morning, ‘ how are you doing’, the support has been unreal from the garda station in Templemore and all the guards involved, and all the barristers and everyone involved in the case.”

She also spoke about the impact of the abuse on her life.

“Your confidence, your self-esteem, those are things you have to work on every day to try and build yourself back up and I have got stronger,” she said.

Meanwhile, Emma said that she will be the “complete opposite” to her mother. “I won’t put my kids through what she put us through.”


Emma and Vanessa Witherow, bravely waived their right to anonymity so Patterson (55), who ran a Christmas hamper delivery business in Co Tipperary, could be identified.

After the sentence was imposed, Vanessa and Emma said they were "survivors" and no longer "victims of sexual abuse".

Emma, a mother of two, yesterday told Nenagh Circuit Court how she remains "terrified" of Patterson. "I always felt I had to cover up the body I had as it was dirty, ugly, not fit to be seen," she said.

The 28-year-old broke down as she described how her mother still refuses to believe the abuse occurred.

"She totally denied everything she heard, and said I was only attention seeking."

She said that after the sexual assaults Patterson would give her €50 and tell her: "Good girl. Don't tell mammy".

The assaults continued on a daily basis for 10 years.

Patterson pleaded guilty to one of three counts of sexually abusing Vanessa (24), who was also nine years old when the abuse began.

Vanessa, a mother of three said, said: "Our lives have been torn apart by our mother standing by him."

Patterson told gardaí his only defence for his sick acts was that his wife was in ill health and he was "under pressure".

Irish Independent

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