'Justice has been done – now we can start to grieve'
ONE of the last things Jill Meagher did before she left the office on the night of her death was to send some photographs to family in Ireland.
She had taken the funny pictures, which used special effects to distort the face of her uncle Michael McKeon, on her final visit here last September.
Sitting at his kitchen table in his family home yesterday, Michael quietly told how he now realises that Jill had sent these photographs in the final hours before her death.
He treasures these last precious memories of his beloved niece who was "so photogenic in every picture ever taken of her".
"That's what I remember about Jill – she was always up for a bit of craic," he said.
The brutal manner of her death is now "part of our family", he said with devastating simplicity.
"We can't forget the event, but we can try to remember the better parts of her life."
He said the family will now try to move on and try to "draw a line in the sand".
The Drogheda man, who had been a guest at Jill's wedding, will travel to Australia in three weeks' time, visiting his brother, George – Jill's father – and Jill's mother Edith, in Perth, as well as Jill's husband, Tom, in Melbourne and another brother.
"It would have been nicer to be going in different circumstances," he said.
The sentencing of murderer Adrian Bayley has been a great relief to the family, who had just wanted an end to the judicial process.
"Justice has been done – but it doesn't bring her back," he said. "Hopefully now that the court case and the sentencing are over, the family can now began to grieve Jillian in a normal manner."
With 14 other cases involving Bayley due to be heard in the Australian courts next year, Mr McKeon said he was mindful of not saying anything which might jeopardise the chances of these women getting justice.
However, he said the whole process was very difficult "for any family whose daughter had been raped and killed".
"There are no words that can describe the consequences to the husbands, fathers, mothers and families of these women," he said.
Faced with this situation and propelled into the judicial system is like being "caught in the headlights of a car," he added.
In a statement, the family said Jill had lived a "full and happy life" with Tom, filled with family and friends.
"Details of what happened to Jill are distressing and no words can describe the consequences of this."
However, due to the work of the Australian police and courts, "a certain justice has now been done", the statement said.
Jill's aunt Catherine McKeon Halpin said the family was "delighted" justice had been done and that there was "never a chance he will do this to another woman or that another family will go through what we have been going through ... and will never stop going through".
The family had to "pick up the pieces", but memories of their "beautiful niece" would always be with them.
Jill's cousin Richie Burke said the process was very hard on all the family and they were happy it was over.
In Cabinteely, Dublin, Jill's mother-in-law Joan Meagher, spoke of the family's "relief" that killer Bayley would be elderly by the time he returns to the streets, if ever.
Mrs Meagher stressed that if Bayley had not been released early from his last prison sentence, then her son – Jill's husband Tom – would still be able to look forward to a future with his college sweetheart.
Mrs Meagher said she hoped that her son would now be able to go on to "grieve in private".
She said the fear and terror that his wife must have suffered in her final moments repeatedly went through her son's mind. "I hope that will calm down for him eventually," she said. "It was a terrible tragedy and so needless."
Eventually, she hopes he might return to Ireland but any such decision would be his own.