O'Reilly family still claim killer Joe is innocent

Conor Feehan and Cormac Murphy

RACHEL O'Reilly's family have won their battle over her headstone -- as it emerged her killer's brother still believes he is innocent.

Rachel's parents Jim and Rose Callaly have been able to erect a gravestone following a lengthy dispute with her husband Joe O'Reilly.

Over the weekend, the killer's brother strongly maintained Joe's innocence, but the Herald can reveal that a new headstone erected at Rachel's final resting place contains the word "murdered".

Joe is serving a life sentence for bludgeoning Rachel (30) to death at their home in Naul, Co Dublin, nearly seven years ago.

"Before Rachel was killed O'Reilly was her next of kin, but after he got convicted of her murder and lost his appeal he lost the right to be her next of kin and that title came back to Rose and me," Jim explained to the Herald.

"There had been an objection by Joe to me putting up a headstone, because I was going to use the Callaly name and not his, but that was all sorted out once it was clear we were next of kin again."

Jim always owned the plot in Balgriffin Cemetery, and had the paperwork to prove it. Until recently, the grave was marked with just a hand-painted sign simply saying 'Rachel'.

"It was probably the worst looking grave in the cemetery for a long time, so now we are pleased that the headstone is finally up," Jim said.

The headstone reads "Cherished memories of Rachel, murdered 4th October 2004" and included her sister Ann, who died from cancer last year.

But O'Reilly's brother Derek has now claimed O'Reilly did not carry out the horrific killing, despite overwhelming evidence against him.

Derek has also talked about the enduring relationship between Joe and his lover Nikki Pelley, with whom he had an affair while still married to Rachel.

"Joe is guilty of being a bad husband but he is not a killer," Derek O'Reilly told a Sunday newspaper.

"Joe and really the rest of my family have been portrayed as cold people but we are not. We are a warm and loving family," he added. Derek claimed they miss Rachel as well and said Joe "still loves her and still misses her".

"I grew up with Joe and I know him so well. He is a gentle giant. He could never be violent," he said in the interview. Derek questioned the prosecution's case, saying "there wasn't a drop of blood" on Joe or in his car.