Cork man gets life for 'horrific' stabbing murder


A Cork man who brutally stabbed a young woman to death and also stabbed her best friend repeatedly in a frenzied knife attack was jailed for life by a judge at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Justice Carney jailed Peter Whelan for the murder of Ms Nicola Sweeney (20), a student, at her home at Underwood House, Rochestown, Cork, on April 27th this year.

In an unusual step the judge sentenced Whelan to 15 years' imprisonment to run consecutively with the life sentence for the attempted murder of Ms Sinead O'Leary (20), a student, on the same date.

Sentencing Whelan, Mr Justice Carney told him the only matter to be said in his favour was that he had taken practical steps to bring forward his pleas of guilty to the two offences. The judge said the sentence for murder was mandatory and sentenced Whelan to life for Ms Sweeney's murder.

He sentenced Whelan to 15 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder of Ms O'Leary and added:"Due to the particularly horrific circumstances of this outrage I direct that the sentence be consecutive."

Whelan (20), Ashgrove, Underwood, Rochestown, pleaded guilty to the murder of Ms Sweeney and the attempted murder of Ms O'Leary. He lived with his family just two houses from the scene of the brutal murder.

Ms Alice Fawsitt, prosecuting, said Nicola and Sinead were in Nicola's house preparing to go out when Sinead saw a man whom she did not know approaching her. She was knocked to the ground, kicked and punched and she screamed for help from her friend, Nicola.

Whelan took out a knife, and Sinead received multiple stab wounds all over her body. Whelan then left her, and she ran downstairs and locked herself in a downstairs bathroom where she stayed in the dark.

A short time later she went back upstairs and found Nicola on the floor unconscious. Nicola had suffered multiple stab wounds all over her body. The State Pathologist, Dr John Harbison, found that her death had been caused by haemothorax or bleeding into the chest as a result of a single stab wound to the chest that penetrated her heart.

Supt Brian Callan told the court that Nicola and Sinead were preparing to go out when Whelan attacked them around 11 p.m. He said Sinead was on the bed curling her hair and Nicola was in an ensuite bathroom when Whelan came along the corridor.

The superintendent said Whelan pushed Ms O'Leary to the ground and tramped on her, and Nicola then came out of the bathroom. He started to stab Sinead repeatedly and frenziedly all over her body. Whelan then went towards Nicola, who ran back into the ensuite bathroom but was unable to shut the door. Whelan forced the door in on top of her.

Sinead managed to run downstairs and lock herself in a bathroom. When she opened the door again she called out for Nicola but got no response. She went back up the stairs to find Nicola lying on the floor. She found a mobile phone and phoned gardaí and her own parents. Sinead gave a description of the attacker to gardaí, who noticed a man answering the description at the gateway of the Sweeney house. Whelan admitted his involvement in the crime and brought gardaí to his house, which was the second next door to the Sweeneys.

Whelan told gardaí: "I should have done lots more. It's in my head. He told me to do it, he did. I don't know why I did it." He said: "Just me. I was just kill myself (sic) or someone else. I didn't have the courage to do it to myself." When asked why he had attacked the two girls he replied: "It was anybody." Whelan had drunk up to five pints of lager before the attack.

He said he went into his house and got two knives, then went to the Sweeney home's back door,which was unlocked.

Whelan told gardaí he heard voices upstairs and went to the bedroom where he saw a girl and started stabbing her. He chased the other girl who had come out back into the bathroom and started stabbing her. When asked where he stabbed her, Whelan replied: "Everywhere and anywhere." He said that he then just ran downstairs and went home.

Whelan said he had picked the Sweeney house at random. There was no motive of robbery or sexual assault in the attack. Asked if he was remorseful, Whelan said: "Very remorseful. I don't know how I am going to live with it, putting that girl in her grave."

Supt Callan said Whelan had received treatment for alcohol and substance abuse at a centre in Bruree between January and April and had finished his treatment just two weeks before the attack.