‘A big relief’: Family of Nora Sheehan respond to cold case conviction of Noel Long

Family of Ms Sheehan (53) praise gardaí and prosecution lawyers, saying conviction has given them ‘peace’

The family of a Cork woman murdered over 40 years ago have told how they will be forever grateful to the gardaí and the prosecution legal team who secured justice for their loved one when her killer was finally convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

The family of Nora Sheehan, a 53-year-old mother of three from Kilreendowney Place, Ballyphehane in Cork said that they could never thank the gardaí enough, both serving and retired, as well as prosecution counsel, Brendan Grehan SC and his team for securing a murder conviction against Noel Long.

Long, from Maulbaun, Passage West, Co Cork was convicted last week of the murder of Ms Sheehan, between June 6th and June 12th 1981 at a place unknown in the state following a three week trial at the Central Criminal Court at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

The eleven person jury took five hours and 32 minutes to unanimously find Long guilty after hearing evidence that a DNA sample found on a vaginal swab taken from Ms Sheehan’s body in 1981 and preserved was found to be a match with a DNA sample taken from Long in 2021.


The case, which made Irish legal history as it marked the longest span between a murder being committed and a conviction being secured, followed the opening of a Cold Case Investigation in 2008 and relied heavily on advances made in DNA technology to link Long to Ms Sheehan.

Speaking to RTÉ Prime Time’s Barry Cummins, Ms Sheehan’s sons, Jerry and James, her granddaughter, Katie Sheehan and her sister, Sadie Paisley, told how they will be forever grateful to all those involved in securing justice for their loved ones – both the gardaí, the legal team and the scientists.

Jerry Sheehan said finally seeing Long sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his mother was a huge relief, coming 42 years after he was first charged with the killing only for the state being forced to abandon the prosecution in 1981 following the deaths of two key state witnesses.

“A big relief. Everyone was hoping it would come – they [the retired gardaí] wanted it as well – their attitude is ‘our life isn’t fulfilled until this is over’, some of the guards are in their 80s and their 90s now and they were living for this day, you know,” said Jerry Sheehan.

His brother James Sheehan, who described his mother as having her “own individuality”, said that they were so grateful for what the gardaí and prosecution team had achieved. “The gratitude we have for the investigators and Brendan Grehan [prosecuting counsel] and his team – it’s unaccountable.”

Jerry Sheehan, who described his mother as somebody who “loved animals and loved seeing children happy”, said her murder had broken his father, Jimmy, who was “bouncing along” until his wife’s death and he passed away just four years later in 1986.

“We cried a lot for a couple of days [after the conviction] but we’ll get through it – it [the conviction] gave her peace, it gave my father peace, it gave the family peace,” said Mr Sheehan, adding his mother’s willingness to talk to anyone probably cost her life when she flagged down Long in his car.

Ms Sheehan’s granddaughter, Katie, said she hoped that Long’s successful prosecution and conviction after 42 years would make people realise that even the smallest piece of information in such cases can be crucial and can help bring killers such as Long to justice despite the huge lapse in time.

“This family has spent 42 years praying that this day would come but [people should realise] every single piece of information helps, it’s never too late to get justice for your loved ones – what happened to her is every woman’s nightmare, it really is,” she said.

Ms Sheehan’s sister, Sadie Paisley, who lives in the UK, recalled how she heard on the radio that a woman had been killed in Cork city and her body had been found dumped in Shippool Woods near Innishannon in West Cork and she immediately rang home to be told the dreadful news.

“I always listen to Radio Éireann, you get the news and oh my God, I heard this terrible news and then I phoned home and then that’s when I got the message from the post office – I couldn’t believe it – that was when the shock set in that it was actually her,” said Ms Paisley.

“I couldn’t believe that she could [be murdered like this], you know, somebody who was so gentle ... I just hope he [Long] rots in hell for what he did ... it really tells me we are in a cruel world sometimes – that it’s something that really did happen but please God, may she rest in peace now.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times