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Justice for tragic Michelle as sex attacker gets seven years


Michelle Hennessey. Photo: Mark Condren

Michelle Hennessey. Photo: Mark Condren

Michelle Hennessey. Photo: Mark Condren

A MAN has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for the violent sexual attack on a young woman, who took her own life a year later.

Sean Thackaberry (20) was walking Michelle Hennessey home when he subjected her to an aggravated sexual assault in Kildare in the early hours of January 30, 2011.

Ms Hennessey was rescued when a passing garda patrol heard her screams and gave chase to Thackaberry. The court heard Ms Hennessey, who was 26 at the time, faced intimidation and bullying in connection with the attack in the months before she took her own life.

Mr Justice Barry White said it was difficult to ascertain the exact nature of the assault but he was satisfied that it lay on the upper-middle range of the scale.

Michelle's twin sister, Sharon Hennessey and her family smiled through tears as they left the court.

"Today, Michelle finally got her justice, it's just a shame she is not here to see it herself. She can now rest in peace knowing justice has been done for her," Sharon said.

With no victim to give evidence at a trial, bringing Thackaberry to court was always going to be a challenge.



Thackaberry, of Maryville, Melita Road, Kildare Town, was originally charged with rape but his legal team offered a plea to the lesser charge of aggravated sexual assault. Sharon believes it was the right decision.

"We would have liked a lot more but under the circumstances it's the best outcome that we possibly could have got considering she wasn't here to tell the story herself," she said. Sharon said Michelle had two passions – travelling the world and skydiving. In the year after her sister's death Sharon decided to honour her memory and help others. Mr Justice White also declared Thackaberry a sex offender and ordered him to engage with the probation services on his release.

Ms Hennessey was about 250 metres from home when Thackaberry threw her over a wall into a patch of waste ground.

"According to the accused, what took place next amounted to an aggravated sexual assault which lasted for 20 minutes," counsel said.

A garda patrol heard the victim's screams and found her "upset, screaming and hysterical". Thackaberry fled and was caught after a chase on foot.

Ms Hennessey was brought to hospital. She had bruising to her face and injuries around her body and genitals.

Mr Justice Barry White suspended the final two-and-a-half years of the seven-and-a-half year term in light of Thackaberry's co-operation with gardaí and low intellectual functioning.