‘Two young children were asleep waiting for Santa – they never woke up’ - Brother of murdered Sharon Whelan
‘One third of our family was wiped out in one night’
THE brother of Sharon Whelan, who was murdered along with her two daughters Zsara and Nadia on Christmas Day 2008, has spoken out on the horrific case.
John Whelan was speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio One.
Brian Hennessey set fire to Sharon’s home with her two children inside it in the early hours of Christmas Day in 2008.
Hennessy first strangled Sharon, before setting fire to the house with her two young children sleeping in it several hours later.
Speaking to stand-in host Keelin Shanley, he explained how the family initially thought it was an accident.
“Initially we thought it was just an accident, a house fire, Christmas lights, candles – you’d be thinking along that line.
“Very quickly it went from an accident to suspicious.
“At the port mortems it was discovered there was no smoke in Sharon’s lungs, she’d died before the fire started.
He said gardai believe Hennessy may have set the fire up to five hours after murdering Sharon.
“Brian Hennessy had raped and strangled Sharon, and waited to think what his next move would be, with two young children upstairs asleep waiting for Santa. They went to bed that night, and never woke up.
Mr Whelan said that through Hennessy’s work as a postman, he would have been aware that Sharon lived alone and was vulnerable.
“He would have known Sharon lived on her own and was quite vulnerable. He was out drinking all that day and decided to make his way down to Sharon.”
Hennessy then returned home to celebrate Christmas with his family.
“He made his way back to his own house, knocked on the door and fell asleep on the couch.
“He had Christmas day as normal, had dinner with his family, met his girlfriend later that day. He was at the funeral.
Up until the day of the trial, Hennessy protested his innocence – however dramatically pleaded guilty at the 11th hour.
He was sentence to three life sentences – two of which were to run concurrently.
Mr Whelan said there was a stunned silence in the courtroom at the sentence, as it was extremely rare.
"There was an audible intake of breath, and a wave went around the court, because it was so rare that sentence would be handed down.
However that sentence was overturned on appeal, and now Hennessy is serving all three life sentences concurrently.
He is also eligible to seek parole.
“We as a family are waiting to hear which one he’s serving that life sentence for.
“At the end of the day one third of our family was wiped out in one night. We are strong, we will get through things. My own wife’s family have been a rock for me personally.”
The family has called for an end to concurrent sentencing, and an introduction of ‘starting tariffs’.
The minimum term would have to be served before a convict was eligible for parole.