THE brother of Sharon Whelan, who was brutally murdered along with her two daughters, has spoken out about the horror in an appeal for justice.
John Whelan was speaking yesterday on the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE Radio One, where he expressed his shock that his sister's killer was at her funeral.
Sharon Whelan was strangled on Christmas morning 2008 before her two young daughters were burned alive in a fire set by postman Brian Hennessy.
"I got a phone call at about a quarter to nine in the morning from my mum who was inconsolable," said Mr Whelan.
"I just got this thing of 'they're gone, they're gone' and it took me a long time to actually piece together what she was saying."
Mr Whelan said the horrific event was initially perceived as an accident, perhaps caused by Christmas lights, but the post-mortem soon revealed the terrible truth.
"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.
Zara (7) and Nadia (2) died in the fire.
"They went to bed that night and never woke up," he said.
Hennessy was found guilty of their murder in 2009, and was given a rare triple life sentence which was later repealed.
Before his conviction, Hennessy changed his plea to guilty and told how he killed the mum of two.
"I just strangled her with my two hands," he told gardai. "I killed her in the living room."
Sharon's brother told of his concern that a person found guilty of a homicide could potentially be granted parole in seven years.
"We got a call to let us know that Brian Hennessy has been successful in his appeal," Mr Whelan said. "He is now only serving one life sentence and we are still waiting to find out which one he is serving. He is for parole this time next year.
"At the end of the day, one third of our family was wiped out in one night."
Mr Whelan called for an end to concurrent sentencing and the introduction of starting tariffs, where a judge could hand down a sentence of at least 15 years.
"The idea that someone who commits a crime such as this can come before a parole board and look for their freedom, the effect that has on a family is very hard," he said.
Mr Whelan, the chairman of Advocates for Victims of Homicide Ireland (Advic), met Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on Thursday to air his concerns.
The meeting was described as "positive" and looked at addressing the issue of how murder convictions are viewed.