Evil will ‘walk free’ if murderer Frank McCann released, says sister-in-law

Woman claims brother-in-law sought to ‘dupe’ family after killing wife and child in 1992

A file photograph from 1998 of Frank McCann, who is serving two concurrent life terms.

A file photograph from 1998 of Frank McCann, who is serving two concurrent life terms.


A sister-in-law of convicted murderer Frank McCann has described how he attempted to “dupe” the family and others around him afer he killed his wife and child, and said he should not be released from prison.

McCann killed his wife, Esther, and their 18-month-old foster child, Jessica, who was also his niece, by setting their home on fire on September 4th, 1992.

Elizabeth Shorten, sister-in-law of McCann, described him as an “evil” psychopath, who had a twisted mind and “no moral gauge”.

McCann set fire to his home on Butterfield Avenue, Rathfarnham, Dublin, before fleeing the scene. Esther (36) and Jessica died inside the burning house. McCann later arrived back at the home and played the part of the distraught husband attempting to rescue his family.

He initially attempted to deflect suspicion from himself after the murder through claims he had received anonymous threats before the fire.

However, detectives began to focus on a decision by the Adoption Board to refuse the McCann’s application to adopt Jessica.

A woman had contacted the Adoption Board on April 17th, 1991, alleging McCann had fathered a child with her 17-year-old daughter.

The State’s case was that McCann killed his wife in a premeditated act because he did not want her to find out the reason the Adoption Board had refused their application.

Speaking to RTÉ Liveline on Tuesday, Ms Shorten said McCann had committed murder due to this threat to his “ego” over the adoption issue.

“His mind is so twisted and so warped, that he can think to preserve his status that he would kill his own wife and little adopted baby girl. We can’t have somebody like that out in society,” she said.

Ms Shorten had married the killer’s younger brother, Derek McCann, a number of days before the murders, and the couple were only told what had happened after returning from their honeymoon.

They were met at the airport by another brother, Bernard McCann, and Frank, who “collapsed” on the floor in front of them, she said. Looking back now she said it was obviously a staged “trick”.

Ms Shorten now recalled with “horror” another night where she sat with her brother in law, going through photos of Esther from her wedding, with him “spilling his faux crocodile tears”.

In the weeks afterwards, McCann was admitted into St John of God services for treatment, which she speculated was also “all part of this ruse”.

McCann, who turns 61 this week, has been serving a double life sentence in Arbour Hill Prison, following his conviction in 1996.

Several members of the McCann family and Esther’s sister, Marian Leonard, have expressed serious concerns in recent days he may be paroled and released from prison.

“He has no moral gauge to say that what he has done is wrong, so there is nothing to stop him, should the circumstances not go his way, to repeating those offences again,” Ms Shorten said. “He has never shown any remorse for what he has done.”

She said evil would “walk free” if he was paroled, and the families would “spend the rest of our lives hoping he doesn’t do something like this again”.

Con Cronin, a retired Garda detective who arrested McCann, said he did not act surprised or defensive when taken into custody.

Mr Cronin said McCann was considered a suspect “from the outset” in the case, and did not show “the slightest bit of remorse” during questioning.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Prison Service said it could not comment on the status of McCann ’s parole application, as it “does not comment on individual prisoner cases”.