‘Change laws in Michelle’s memory’ - sister of tragic Kildare woman speaks out

Sharon Hennessy. Photo. Jimmy Fullam.
The heartbroken twin sister of a young woman who took her own life a year after she was sexually assaulted in Kildare town has vowed to campaign to change the law for victims of sex crimes.

The heartbroken twin sister of a young woman who took her own life a year after she was sexually assaulted in Kildare town has vowed to campaign to change the law for victims of sex crimes.

Sean Thackaberry (20), of Maryville, Melita Road, Kildare town, was sentenced last Tuesday 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 near her home in the early hours of January 30, 2011.

He was also declared a sex offender.

Ms Hennessy, who was 26 at the time, faced local intimidation and bullying in connection with the attack in the months before she took her own life.

“It is good news but it is bitter sweet,” said Sharon talking to the Leinster Leader after the sentencing.

“We wanted him to serve more time for what he did to her.

“I’m disgusted over the way she was treated in the town.

“Her reports of bullying were ignored. Maybe she would still be here.

“The gardai tried their best but it was not enough.

“He [Sean Thackaberry] should not have been able to live across from us after what he has done.

“He made no apology to my family in court and he has shown no remorse.

“His legal team said his family didn’t condone what he did.

“But whether a person is dead or alive they still deserve justice.”

Sharon, who appeared on the Late Late Show last Friday night, said she made a promise to Michelle, a sky diving fanatic, to tell her story to the world.

“We buried Michelle on a Friday and I stood over her grave four days later on our birthday.

“I said to her ‘I’m going to tell your story to the world’.

“I now have messages of support from people in Canada, America and Australia who have heard her story.

“Dealing with sexual assault is never easy - especially if you have sucidal thoughts.

“I just had to get justice for Michelle and now hopefully she can rest in peace.

“Michelle was a bubbly extrovert before the assault but after that night she was never the same again. He took the life from her.”

Sharon said the family was overwhelmed by the flood of support they have received in the last week.

“It’s a pity [Michelle] didn’t know the amount of support out there.

“It’s too late for Michelle, but maybe not for somebody else,” she said.

Sharon now wants to see reform for victims of sexual assault, as well as the Sex Offender’s List made accessible to the public.

“If you look at any other country if somebody is accused of sexual assault they are locked up until it goes to court,” she said.

“It is not good enough to be walking around the town while the victim is living there.

“I didn’t expect anything like the response we have had since the Late Late Show.

“People have messaged me on Facebook, who were also sexually assaulted and have now decided to go for counselling.

“There are so many people not reporting these crimes in this country out of fear that it won’t go their way.

“A lot of it has to do with shame and embarrassment.

“I want to see reform. I am getting strength from Michelle.

“It keeps me going and it’s helping other victims but it can be quite draining and it can’t bring her back.”

nFull report of Sean Thackaberry sentencing - page 9