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PIC: Double murderer who killed wife and baby gets taste of freedom

Frank McCann
Frank McCann

This is smirking double murderer Frank McCann getting a taste of life outside Arbour Hill Prison, where he is serving a life sentence for torching his wife and 18-month-old foster child to death when he set fire to their house.

Almost 25 years since the Dublin publican set his own Rathfarnham home ablaze, killing wife Esther and little Jessica, McCann has started a new job at the jail, cleaning the prison officers' quarters.

This sees him walked from the prison, out onto the public street, and into the area used by officers further down the street.

McCann, who has expressed no remorse for his evil crime, is not handcuffed while outside the jail, but is accompanied by a prison officer.

Our exclusive pictures show a smirking McCann, casually dressed in summer sports clothes, talking animatedly with a prison officer as he enjoyed temporary freedom.

"He doesn't engage with the rehabilitation services, doesn't show any remorse, and considers himself a step above the other prisoners, looking down on them," said one source.

"His new job is seen as a recognition of trust, in that he gets to step outside the gates unrestrained, even though there is an officer with him."

In September 1992, McCann knew that a secret from his sordid past was about to become known to his family, as authorities were doing background checks as part of their application to adopt toddler Jessica.

The fact that the swimming coach had fathered a child with a 17-year-old girl with special needs was about to become known and ruin his reputation, so McCann made the sick and twisted decision to kill Esther and Jessica to hide the truth.

Esther (36) had no idea of the double life her husband of five years was living, or of his plan to keep it a secret.

Nor did she have any notion of the sex-abuse scandal that was about to unfold around two of her husband's close friends, national swimming coaches George Gibney and Derry O'Rourke.

The pair, who were often entertained in her home by McCann, would both subsequently be charged with a string of sex-abuse offences against young swimmers in their charge.

In 1993, Gibney was charged with 27 counts of indecent assault and unlawful carnal knowledge. When a young swimmer first revealed that she had been abused by Gibney, it was Frank McCann she confided in.

McCann defended Gibney against the allegations and Gibney left the country in 1993. He has never been extradited.

Derry O'Rourke abused more than a dozen young women and was arrested and charged with 90 counts of indecent assault, sexual assault and unlawful carnal knowledge in 1995.

He was jailed in 1997 and served nine years of a 12-year sentence.

In the autumn of 1992, McCann, a former competitive swimmer who coached young athletes, had just returned from the Barcelona Olympics with the Irish swimming team.

The little girl, Jessica, that McCann and Esther planned to adopt was the daughter of Frank's adopted sister, Jeanette, who grew up with him, his brothers and parents in Terenure.

Jeanette, then aged around 18, had asked Frank and Esther to adopt Jessica shortly after her birth in March 1991.

She and Jessica lived with the couple for a few months, and in May 1991 they applied to adopt her.

Later, Esther told her sister that she planned on having it out with Frank over unexplained delays in their application to adopt Jessica.

She was not aware that McCann was stalling because it would reveal the real truth about his double life.

By September 1992, as far as Esther knew, there was still no decision from the Adoptions Board, and Esther repeatedly rang for news of the application.

Finally, she was given an appointment for September 7. Getting that appointment would prove fatal - the net was closing in on her husband's double life.

It later emerged that McCann had fathered a baby son with a 17-year-old swimming student who had special needs.

Unknown to Esther, the baby was born just three months after she married him.

Father Michael Cleary had stepped in to organise the baby's adoption and keep the matter hidden, but, on hearing about McCann's application to adopt Jessica, the mother of the teenage girl complained to the Adoptions Board. The application was rejected.

At the time of the fire, McCann was reportedly having a sexual relationship with another teenage girl, a 16-year-old.

Gardai and Esther's family believe that McCann tried to kill her and Jessica three times prior to setting fire to their home on Butterfield Avenue.

Esther once woke to find an electric blanket burning at the end of her bed.

On another occasion, she had to leave the house with Jessica due to a suspected gas leak. It was later found the leak had been caused by somebody deliberately separating the gas points beneath floorboards.

Esther also once drove her car away from her sister's house only to find that the brakes weren't working. The attempts to kill were always made when Esther was with Jessica.

On the night of September 4, he finally succeeded.

McCann timed a gas cylinder and a blow torch, left them on the hall table and left the house to go to his pub, The Cooperage, in Blessington.

He arrived home when the fire was in full blaze and even attempted to enter the house in an apparent bid to save his wife and foster child.

Following the fire, it quickly emerged that he had made at least three previous attempts to kill them.

During the Garda investigation into the fire, McCann attempted to blame someone with a personal vendetta against him. He also tried to blame his wife, whom he claimed might have been smoking in the house and started the blaze that night.

In fact, in the run-up to the killings, he had concocted a series of fake threats against him and daubed paint on the walls of his pub that said: 'Burn, you b*****d'.

On the day of the funeral, McCann behaved bizarrely. He insisted that the family shouldn't wear black, and while being driven to the home of a relative of Esther's for food following the funeral service, he looked out of the car at local girls and shouted: "I'm a free man!"

That evening, he returned to Dublin to attend a surprise 60th birthday party that he had organised for his mother.

Just weeks later, he went on holiday to California, leaving Esther's family to pay for the funeral costs, despite having received a payout from the insurance company following the fire.

McCann was arrested and charged in April 1993, around the same time that his pal Gibney was being charged with sexual-abuse offences.

His first trial, in 1994, fell apart when he tried to set fire to himself with a gas lighter in a toilet at the Four Courts. It was 1996 before a second trial got under way.

In August that year, McCann was found guilty and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for the murders.

Twenty-five years later, he continues to do time at Arbour Hill, where he previously worked alongside killer Malcolm McArthur in the prison library and completed a degree in computer science, followed by a PhD.

Esther's family have previously said they fear a day will come when he is released. Every three years he is entitled to seek parole and Esther's family makes submissions as to why he should be kept behind bars.

"I can't describe the feeling of being near him," one relative has said.

Esther's sister Marian said: "It's fear mixed with sadness, anger and regret, everything. You are literally paralysed by his presence.

"He killed Esther and Jessica to maintain his reputation, Possession, ownership and image meant everything to him. It was what he thrived on in swimming circles.

"He had lots of chances to change his mind, and you would think that after three failed attempts he might have given up, but he was absolutely determined to kill."