'Horrible dark memories' | 

Man jailed for seven years over ‘devastating’ repeated rape of sister during childhood

"All I wanted to do is to hand all the hurt, pain and anger I've been living with all these years to the person that caused it all. I can't live with that pain anymore"

John Paul Hegarty. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

Olivia Kelleher

A 41-year-old man who was convicted of repeatedly raping his youngest sister when she was aged between nine and 12 has been jailed for seven years.

John Paul Hegarty, of Castle View, Little Island, Co Cork was aged between 15 and 18 when he raped his sister Nora at their family home in Glanmire in Co Cork.

Nora Hegarty, who is now 35, waived her right to anonymity in the case in a bid to encourage other victims of interfamilial abuse to come forward. She also wanted her brother to be identified for what he did to her at a formative age in her life.

Mr Hegarty was convicted by a jury last October at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork of 19 counts of rape as well as other offences.

Nora Hegarty, said that whatever the number of rape charges on the indictment, she was raped by John Paul on an almost daily basis for three years.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Hegarty detailed the torment she endured at the hands of her brother. The court heard that the abuse only ended when she started menstruating as John Paul feared that she would become pregnant.

Ms Hegarty said in her statement that the abuse had derailed her life.

"There are no winners in all of this. All I wanted to do is to hand all the hurt, pain and anger I've been living with all these years to the person that caused it all. I can't live with that pain anymore.

Nora Hegarty at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork. Photo: Cork Courts Limited

“I played happy families so much that I ended up as bridesmaid at his wedding. I knew what John Paul was doing. He was trying to make sure his dirty secret didn't get out again.

“It breaks my heart that there are families torn apart from all of this, but I couldn't go on suffocating.

“John Paul took my childhood from me and I can never get it back. In fact, he destroyed my whole life. Because John Paul began sexually abusing me at such a young age, all I am left with is horrible dark memories, feelings of being scared, of not understanding what was happening to me.”

Nora said that she used to "hope and pray" that John Paul would leave her alone on any given day.

"Memories of my body and mind being so programmed just to lie there and stay quiet while he abused me on such a frequent basis. I feared sleep.

"I tried to stay awake but would eventually fall asleep waking up again in sweats. To this day, I have to have a light on when I sleep and wake up in sweats."

Ms Hegarty told the court that she has suffered severe depression and anxiety arising out of what occurred to her when she was a young girl.

On her 30th birthday, she reported the matter to gardaí as she couldn't live with it any longer.

"I did nothing wrong but all through my life I felt it was me in the wrong. I was not going to be silenced anymore. I did this for all the people out there in the same situation as me. I did it for all of them so that they might have the courage to speak out. I want to say to people in my situation 'Don't be afraid. You will never know the strength you have until you actually need it.'

“I am annoyed and hurt that John Paul did not plead guilty so that I would not have to go through a trial. He was found guilty and the truth is finally out."

Mr Hegarty was convicted of 19 counts of rape, one count of oral rape and four sexual assaults. He was found not guilty of the 25th count on the indictment of anal rape.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said that cases of inter-familial sexual abuse cause "devastation" not only to the victim, but to the families impacted by it.

She said she was struck that the mother of the victim “found herself in the awful position of having to give evidence in a trial where her daughter was the victim and her son the perpetrator”.

She stated that John Paul repeatedly inquired of the victim as to whether she had started menstruating and that Nora thought what was occurring was normal as she "knew no other reality".

Ms Justice Murphy praised Ms Hegarty for her "cogent, articulate" victim impact statement and said that John Paul Hegarty, who was self-employed in the field of computers, still did not accept the verdict of the court.

Ms Justice Murphy said Mr Hegarty, who has no previous convictions, had in the past admitted sexual activities had occurred with his sister but had “minimised it".

She added that she was of no doubt that Mr Hegarty had invited Nora to be a bridesmaid at his wedding in order to "silence" his victim.

She jailed Mr Hegarty for eight years, suspending the last year of the sentence.

"He (John Paul) stole her childhood and he derailed her adulthood. The abuse had a devastating impact on her life."

Ms Justice Murphy said that she had sympathy for "all of the people damaged" by what Mr Hegarty had inflicted on his youngest sibling.

Ms Hegarty thanked her mother for being supportive of her as well as her uncle Dave and aunt Norma, Det Sgt John O’Connell, gardaí, her legal team, her friends and the Support After Crime Service.

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