Monday 19 August 2019

Man who sexually abused stepdaughters jailed for eight years - girls' mother stands by her husband

The girls' mother Frances holds her husband John Joe Patterson's hand as they arrive at Nenagh Court. Photo: Brian Gavin Press 22
The girls' mother Frances holds her husband John Joe Patterson's hand as they arrive at Nenagh Court. Photo: Brian Gavin Press 22
Emma, Vanessa and Laura Witherow arriving at Nenagh Court. Emma and Vanessa Witherow bravely waived their right to anonymity. Photo: Brian Gavin Press 22

David Raleigh

A father who sexually abused his stepdaughters over a ten-year period has been jailed for eight years with the final 18 months suspended.

Despite his horrendous crimes, John Joe Patterson's wife Francis, who is also the girls mother, has stood by her paedophile husband.

Emma and Vanessa Witherow bravely waived their right to anonymity so that Patterson, 55, who ran a Christma s hamper delivery business in Co Tipperary, could be named in the media.

The former bus driver and milk man, originally from Cashel, but with an address in Kilclooney, Moyne, Templetuohy, Thurles, previously denied nearly 40 counts of sexual assault on Emma, which began when she was aged nine.

He also made her sit through five weeks of evidence at his trial earlier this year before a jury unanimously found him guilty on the 39 counts of sexual assault.

Today Emma, a mother of two, 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.

Emma, (28), 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."

In a desperate attempt to evade Patterson, Emma aged 18, left the family home, taking Vanessa (13) with her.

"I went to my mother for help as a child should be able to do, but she gave me no help and ignored my plea," Emma said.

The court heard how Patterson would pull down Emma's pants and underwear sexually assault her from behind.

She said Patterson would give her €50 and tell her: "Good girl. Don't tell mammy."

The assaults continued on a daily basis for ten years.

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

Despite her husband's guilty plea, Francis Patterson still refuses to believe her daughters accounts.

Vanessa, 24, told Gardai that Patterson first abused her while riding with her on a quad bike.

He later "trapped" her in a shed, and would "trust himself" against her with his erect penis.

"Our lives have been torn apart by out mother standing by him," the mother of three said.

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

The court heard he is his wife's sole carer and is in receipt of a carers allowance.

Francis Patterson held her husband's hand throughout today's sentencing hearing which lasted over three hours.

The couple have two young sons who do not see their sisters.

At times Patterson wiped tears from his eyes as details of the abuse were revealed in court.

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

Judge John Hannan said Patterson represented "the dark underbelly of Irish family life".

He said Patterson had "destroyed" the sisters childhood and their relationship with their brothers, and their mother.

After sentencing, Vanessa and Emma said they can never forgive their mother or father.

"No, there will be no forgiveness, definitely on my part. None of them will ever darken my door again," Emma said.

"It is hard because everyone needs their mother." "I am a mother myself and I would never do that to my kids."

Vanessa added: "It's a mother's job to protect her children and she didn't protect us." "She let us down."

Vanessa said that she could never forgive her mother either: "No, no, that's a definite no." "Never will I speak to her again."

The two women described their hurt at being called liars until today.

"It was very hurtful. We weren't lying, we were telling the truth, and this proved it today," Vanessa said.

"To be constantly called liars over and over again was so hard. But (our allegations) are proven, and it's closed today, and everyone knows now we were telling the truth," Emma added.

"It's been so hard for the last eleven years for me, the torture, and losing members of the family. It's just been so hard," Vanessa added.

Losing out on a relationship with their brothers was hard, they said.

"I'm still kind of in shock over the whole thing but losing out on my brothers and stuff has been so hard," Emma said.

"I love them, I always will."

Vanessa added: "We understand it's hard for them, but it's John Joe's fault. It's not ours."

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