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Man who abused stepdaughters over decade represents "dark underbelly of Irish family life"

“I went to my mother for help as a child … but she gave me no help and ignored my plea,” Emma Witherow – now 28 – said.

Image: Shutterstock/albund

A FATHER WHO sexually abused his two stepdaughters over a ten-year period has been jailed for eight years with the final 18 months suspended.

Despite his horrendous crimes, John Joe Patterson’s wife Francis, who is also the girls’ mother, has stood by her husband.

Emma and Vanessa Witherow waived their right to anonymity so that Patterson, 55, who ran a Christmas hamper delivery business in Co Tipperary, could be named in the media.

The former bus driver and milk man – originally from Cashel, but with an address in Kilclooney, Moyne, Templetuohy, Thurles – previously denied nearly 40 counts of sexual assault on Emma, which began when she was aged nine.

He made her sit through five weeks of evidence at his trial earlier this year before a jury unanimously found him guilty on the 39 counts of sexual assault.

Emma, a mother of two, told Nenagh Circuit Court yesterday how she remains “terrified” of Patterson.

“I always felt I had to cover up the body I had as it was dirty, ugly, not fit to be seen,” she said.

Emma, (28), broke down as she described how her mother still refuses to believe the abuse occurred.

“She totally denied everything she heard, and said I was only attention seeking.”

In a desperate attempt to evade Patterson, Emma left the family home aged 18, taking Vanessa (13) with her.

“I went to my mother for help as a child should be able to do, but she gave me no help and ignored my plea,” Emma said.

She said that after the assaults Patterson would give her €50 and tell her: “Good girl. Don’t tell mammy.”

The assaults continued on a daily basis for ten years.

Abuse

Patterson pleaded guilty to one of three counts of sexually abusing Vanessa, who was also nine years old when the abuse began.

“Our lives have been torn apart by our mother standing by him,” the 24-year-old mother of three said.

Patterson told gardaí his only defence for his actions was that his wife was in ill health and he was “under pressure”.

The court heard he is his wife’s sole carer and is in receipt of a carer’s allowance.

Francis Patterson held her husband’s hand throughout yesterday’s sentencing hearing, which lasted over three hours.

At times Patterson wiped tears from his eyes as details of the abuse were revealed in court.

Survivors

After the sentence was imposed, Vanessa and Emma said they were “survivors” and no longer “victims of sexual abuse”.

Judge John Hannan said Patterson represented “the dark underbelly of Irish family life”.

He said Patterson had “destroyed” the sisters’ childhood, their relationship with their two brothers, and their mother.

He jailed Patterson for eight years with 18 months suspended for the assaults on Emma and imposed a concurrent three-year sentence for the assaults on Vanessa.

Read: Garda injured after being attacked with bottle in Dublin

About the author:

David Raleigh

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