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Saturday 25 November 2017

Tragic Michelle "felt safer in the air than on the ground"

Family makes plea for victims of sexual assaults to report these incidents to the Gardai

Sharon Hennessy holding a picture of her late twin Sister Michelle at her home yesterday evening
Sharon Hennessy holding a picture of her late twin Sister Michelle at her home yesterday evening
Michelle Hennessy, who took her own life after attack by Sean Thackaberry
A shrine for Michelle at her home in Co Kildare

The heartbroken twin sister of a sex assault victim has spoken of how her sister, who loved to sky-dive, was a different person after her horrific ordeal and how she felt safer in the air than on the ground.

Sean Thackaberry (20), of Maryville, Melita Road, Kildare town, has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison, with the final two-and-a-half suspended, after he pleaded guilty to the attack on Michelle Hennessy.

In an emotional interview on tonight's Late Late Show Michelle's sister Sharon spoke of how her sister's life was changed utterly after she was sexually assaulted in January 2011 yards from her home. In October of last year, Michelle took her own life.

"She was bubbly and she wouldn't let anyone get her down and lived every day to teh fullest but after the attack, she wouldn't go out of the house," Sharon said.

"She went into herself a lot and she wouldn't talk about anything. She was afriad to go out and when she did start to go out again, she wouldn't go to the ladies on her own, she wouldn't go to the bar on her own.

"She quit skydiving as well but she went back afterwards and she said to us that she felt safer in the air than she did on the ground.

She became insecure and quiet, it wasn't her. We lost her that night."

Following her attack, Michelle was subjected to intimidation: "If she went out there would be a lot of things said to her that upset her a lot.

"She was called a liar and people said that she was ruining this guys life and that really got her down."

Michelle was attacked by Thackaberry when she was walking home through Kildare town in the early hours of January 30, 2011. She was 26 at the time, and Thackaberry was 18.

Thackaberry, who has an intellectual disability, threw her over a wall and subjected her to an aggravated sexual assault which lasted 20 minutes.

Michelle was rescued when a passing garda patrol heard her screams and gave chase to Thackaberry.

During the trial, the court heard written testimony from the victim but no oral evidence as Michelle had already died.

Thackaberry was convicted of sexual assault, after the defence asked for the charge of rape to be dropped, based on Michelle's written evidence as well as medical reports from the time.

When asked if she felt justice had been served, Sharon said: "Not really... I think he should have been made an example of.

"A case like this had never happened in Ireland."

Sharon made a plea at the end of her interview to those who were contemplating suicide to seek help and for victims of sexual assault to report the crimes they have suffered.

"If her story tells you anything, it's that there is justice there and you can get it. You might have to fight for it," she said.

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