Clare man jailed for life for murdering his partner Sharon Bennett

Family of mother-of-two described her killing by Patrick Ballard (35) as a nightmare from which they cannot wake up

The father of 29-year-old Sharon Bennett, who was repeatedly kicked and had her head “danced on” by her partner in a public toilet, has said that their lives are “devastated” and described her murder as a nightmare from which they cannot wake up.

PJ Bennett told the Central Criminal Court on Friday that he was sorry he had let his daughter down and that he did not protect her enough. He added: “I would like to say that I don’t blame the Ballard family for what happened to my daughter. I blame Patrick Ballard only; we have all lost here”.

Mr Bennett also told the court how Covid restrictions meant the family were not permitted to see Sharon in intensive care for five days after she was admitted to hospital, and could not hold a proper funeral when she died.

Sentencing judge Mr Justice Paul Burns noted that the circumstances of the killing were “truly harrowing and grim” and said that this was “yet another violent killing” where the victim was a woman and the perpetrator was a man with whom she was in a relationship. He said she had been subjected to a “brutal and sustained attack” in a public toilet at the hands of the accused and that Ballard had “brushed aside efforts of another man to intervene”.


The judge said that the deceased, mother-of-two Sharon Bennett, had a difficult life as she suffered from problems with alcohol. “I want to make clear that she is totally blameless in this matter, only the accused is to blame for what happened,” he emphasised.

The testimony was heard as part of an emotional victim impact statement read on Friday to the Central Criminal Court, where Ballard was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment for murdering his girlfriend Ms Bennett. The sentence was backdated to January 28th, 2021, when he went into custody. The court heard that Patrick Ballard, who told gardai that he “danced” on the deceased’s head, has 140 previous convictions dating back to 2006, which include assault and theft.

Of these, 94 are public order offences, 21 are theft and seven are for assault, the most recent in October 2018 when he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Ballard (35), formerly of Ashford Court Hotel, Ennis, Co Clare, appeared at the court on Friday for his sentence hearing, having pleaded guilty on Thursday, just two days into his trial, to the murder of his former partner. He had initially pleaded not guilty, when the trial opened last Monday, to murdering Ms Bennett in the Market area of Ennis on January 28th, 2021.

Ms Bennett died in hospital in Limerick two weeks later on February 10th, 2021, due to her injuries. Ballard and Ms Bennett were in a relationship at the time of the murder and Ms Bennett was a mother of two girls, then aged nine and six, from a previous relationship.

Speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice Building on Friday, Mr Bennett said: “I’d like to say that I came here for justice for my daughter, we got justice, he got a mandatory life sentence for the brutal murder he committed on my girl. As far as I am concerned life is still not long enough. I hope he dies in jail”.

“Everyone’s lives are devastated. Her two girls are left behind. Sharon was a good girl, she had an unfortunate end but she was a loving daughter and a loving mother and we loved her to bits and our lives are devastated and so are a lot of others”.

Before sentencing the defendant, Mr Justice Burns said that this had been a “terrible ordeal” for the Bennett family and that Ms Bennett had two daughters whom she loved deeply.

The judge added: “She was involved in a relationship with the accused for a couple of months. As a result of the attack she lost her life and her two children lost their mother and won’t have her there when they need or want her”.

Referring to the Covid-19 restrictions, the judge said that the Bennett family had gone through a particularly upsetting and difficult ordeal.

Mr Justice Burns finally extended his condolences to the Bennett family.