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Saturday 20 October 2018

'If my sister's killer is released, I'll have to look over my shoulder' - Man who murdered wife and child due for release

Swim coach who murdered wife and child in house blaze due for release

Esther with her sister Marian Leonard
Esther with her sister Marian Leonard
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The sister of a woman murdered by swimming coach Frank McCann fears that she will "have to look over her shoulder for the rest of her life" if he is released.

McCann killed his wife Esther and their 18-month-old daughter Jessica when he deliberately set their Rathfarnham family home ablaze in September 1992.

He has been in prison for more than 20 years but is edging closer and closer to being released. McCann is lined up for computer courses as part of that process.

Esther's sister, Marian Leonard, has criticised any plan to release McCann, saying her safety and that of her family could be at risk.

"I don't accept that I should have to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life. I think the Parole Board are looking on him as a bed-blocker and they just want to release him to free up space," she said.

Threat

Frank McCann’s victims, Esther and baby Jessica
Frank McCann’s victims, Esther and baby Jessica

"He's not an old man and I feel he still poses a threat," she said. Ms Leonard now intends to write to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to express her concerns over McCann's possible release.

"He has the final decision. I just can't understand what the Parole Board are thinking. They are being very naive to think it would ever be safe to release this convicted child murderer back into any community."

The publican and swimming coach set fire to the home on Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham, in September 1992, and quickly fled the scene.

Esther (36) and their daughter Jessica (18 months) were inside the house at the time, as he had planned. McCann then arrived back to the house and acted the part of the distraught husband attempting to rescue his family - all for the benefit of concerned neighbours and rescuers.

In fact, it was the fourth time he had tried to kill the mother and child.

The truth was that McCann had a dark secret. When he and Esther had started the procedure for adopting Jessica, who was a daughter of Frank's own adopted sister, alarm bells started to ring.

Unknown to Esther, he had fathered a child with a 17-year-old swimming student with special needs. When the family of the young student learned of the plan to adopt Jessica, they grew concerned at his suitability for the role of father and lodged an objection with the Adoption Board.

Later, it emerged that had tried on three occasions to kill them, all in the summer of 1992. First he cut the brake lines in Esther's car. Then, he caused an electric blanket on her bed to catch fire by stripping electric wires. His third attempt entailed heating and separating gas pipes, causing a massive gas leak in their home.

Through his swimming connections, McCann was also friends with two dangerous sex offenders - national swimming coaches George Gibney and Derry O'Rourke.

Two decades later, McCann is still in Arbour Hill Prison. The Parole Board has told Esther's family that as part of pre-release training he has had supervised time out and is being lined-up for further day trips. He is also being enrolled for computer training two nights a week in a Dublin college.

Ms Leonard said: "It has to be the daftest idea ever to send this man to college to be 'upskilled' on computers. Look at the damage that other predators have been able to do across the internet.

"Frank McCann was enough of a danger to be locked up for life without now giving him more resources to use when he gets out."

Irish Independent

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