Why did he die, did he scream? If he did, why didn't I hear him? Did he suffer much?


The following is the victim impact statement delivered by Robert Holohan's mother Majella at yesterday's sentencing hearing:

"I thank people for offering to help me with this victim impact statement but I think you have to lose a child to realise what effect it is after having on me and my family. I wrote this myself.

I am Majella Holohan, mother of Robert Holohan. I have been married to Mark for the last 15 years. We had three children. Rob was our first-born, he was 11-years-old when he died. We have two other children, Emma aged nine and Harry, aged five.

After Harry was born I became a full time homemaker and occupied myself looking after my family and providing for them as best I could. Our life revolved around our children and we had an idyllic rural life and we were a very happy family.

Rob was our pride and joy.

In all the hundreds of letters I received over the last year people have commented on what a beautiful-looking child he was. He was a beautiful child. I mean that in relation to his physical appearance and his nature.

From the moment Rob was born, he brought enormous joy to my husband and I and indeed my parents, William and Mona, and our families. Rob was a character. Rob had a lot of friends through school, GAA and the pony club.

He loved the outdoor life and before he owned his own pony he mucked out at local stables and took riding lessons. He loved all animals and used to help my father with his greyhounds and he had his own dog Taz, a beautiful Labrador. After school, Rob would be over at the horses. He loved it. He would come home filthy and exhausted but always looking forward to the next day. After about two years, we decided that this was indeed more than a whim, so we bought Rob his own pony. You would think we had paid thousands for her and that she was a famous horse.

He was thrilled with her and decided to call her Stella. Rob groomed her and kept his saddle and bridle spotless. Every photo was of Rob hugging Stella.

Once a year, Rob helped out at a camp for the mentally handicapped and gave children spins on his pony, most of you probably read this in one of the newspapers. He had a good nature, he gave up his bedroom and slept in the guest bedroom when I took Chernobyl children in the summer.

He told me on a trip to Euro Disney that Space Mountain was easy. He laughed as I closed my eyes and I was petrified.

When I wasn't feeling well he made scrambled eggs and tea (he had added too much salt!), but as mothers do, I ate it. Rob was not very academic but with private grinds in English to help with his dyslexia, he was well able to keep up with his class. He was a brilliant swimmer and has a lot of certs for swimming. Anyone that calls to our house is amazed at his lovely artwork.

Rob had a diagnosis of ADHD and dyslexia, a condition that I suffer from myself. I don't regard it as a stigma. We sought the best advice possible, including advice from a private education psychologist and a private child psychiatrist. Rob had medication to ameliorate the adverse effects of the ADHD and as far as we were concerned, that condition was well controlled and he was a happy outgoing child. We had plans for Rob's future education including sending him to Midleton College.

We had planned for his future.

Mark and I had made wills, in which we had left our family home to Rob. Parenting can be difficult and you start at the beginning with sleepless nights and so on, but as our child got older he blossomed and we were looking forward to our future with Rob.

My husband Mark is interested in outdoor activities and sport. He spent a lot of time with Rob and looked forward to doing so in the future. Mark enjoyed taking him fly-fishing and doing the things that fathers do with their sons.

We felt secure living in the rural area where we did. We felt secure in letting Rob visit with his immediate neighbours, including the O'Donoghue family. If Rob had to go anywhere we would, of course, drive him and collect him. However, we felt that it was safe for him to call on his next-door neighbour. We did not have the slightest suspicion in relation to his friendship with Wayne O'Donoghue, you cannot (and should not) keep one's children in a glass case. One has to let them develop and form relationships.

If one is over-protective, one's children will never be able to stand on their own two feet.

My husband and I have known Wayne O'Donoghue and his family for the past 10 years since we first moved into our house in Ballyedmond. Rob adored Wayne and looked up to him like an older brother.

We trusted Wayne completely.

From when Rob was a young age, six or seven, he used to play games with Wayne, soccer, make tree houses, etc.

There was a nine-year age gap between Rob and Wayne. The age gap never seemed to bother Wayne. When Wayne's previous car was burnt out at the place of his employment, Rob was very upset about this, he cried and he wanted to contribute money from his own small savings to enable Wayne to purchase a new car.

This is how he felt about Wayne.

Our lives changed utterly and dramatically on the 4th of January, 2005. Rob and I had had our lunch together at around 1.15pm. He was delighted with his medal which he had got the night before at a GAA presentation. He spoke of the craic he had with his friends and his love of hurling.

He said in future he would give half and half to horse riding and hurling practice!

After his lunch he went out on his new bike, which he got for Christmas. He built a ramp out on the drive and I watched as he sped over it, laughing.

After coming in again he went back out again and went out the drive on his bike.

That was the last time I was to see my beautiful little boy. I rang him at about 3.30 and it rang out. I rang again at 3.45pm and Rob's phone went on to the messaging machine. After ringing a few more times I sent my daughter Emma down to O'Donoghues' house to see if Rob was there.

That is how much confidence I had in the safety of our rural area that I felt safe in sending my eight-year-old daughter next door to collect her older bother.

I telephoned neighbours to check if Rob was there. I telephoned the O'Donoghue household and Wayne O'Donoghue answered the phone. Wayne O'Donoghue told me that he hadn't seen Rob since about 2.15pm. I had a normal conversation with him.

As word spread of the fact that Rob was missing, neighbours and gardaí called. At around 9.30pm, Wayne O'Donoghue, his two brothers and father called. Wayne O'Donoghue sought to reassure me and told me not to worry, that Rob would be found and he would be all right. In my presence, he telephoned Rob's mobile phone and told me that there was no answer.

I rang Rob's phone a couple of times and left messages. 'Rob, this is Mam, please phone me!!'

Later that evening, Rob's bike was found and the gardaí wanted somebody to identify it. I asked Wayne O'Donoghue if he would be able to identify it and he did. He returned to the house and told me it was Rob's bike. To realise that your child is missing is a nightmare. I prayed and prayed Rob would return home that night. We remained up all night in the company of the gardaí.

The following days and nights during the search were a living hell for us all. Trying to keep our composure in front of Emma and Harry was very hard. Breaking down, they watching us crying, they waking up at night crying looking for Rob and being inconsolable.

The horrendous thoughts that were going through my mind, wondering where Rob was being kept, the terrible things that were being done to him.

There were also numerous rumours and innuendo about our family, all of which were completely false. These hurt terribly, as did the fact that Wayne O'Donoghue intimated to the guards that he heard screams from our house and that Mark used to more than beat Rob. The only screams that were heard from our house were screams of joy and happiness and Mark only chastised Rob the same as any normal father would. These were mean and nasty suggestions to make. He also said he couldn't cope - this from a man who strangled a child and tried to blame the child. Mark stayed at home each day in case Rob would come in. I kept ringing him on his mobile phone, but there was no answer.

I knew Rob was terrified of the dark and I was so afraid for him. The days and nights got longer and longer. The lack of sleep, the anxiety, the frustration that he was not being found, the utter despair. The depth of the pain was unbelievable. All this could have been avoided if Wayne just made an anonymous phone call.

On one of these days I recall seeing Wayne O'Donoghue walking past our house. I knocked on the window and beckoned him to come over to the house. He jumped the ditch and came up and I said to Wayne that it was desperate about poor Rob and I observed that Rob had loved Wayne. He just nodded his head.

I asked him to come in for a cup of tea but he declined as he said his boots were dirty. I told him that he was doing "too much" (searching). He walked back down the lane.

I still can't believe how he was able to face me that day in my own kitchen, so bare-faced, when he knew that he had killed my poor boy and had dumped his body in black bin-liners in a ditch at Inch.

I feel he was so cunning and devious to be able to look me straight in the face and ask me, 'Had we any news on Rob?' I don't know how anybody could be so deceitful. Then to be told that Rob had been found dead after some eight days searching. Our 11-year-old beautiful son, that he was dumped in a ditch. It was a miracle that he was found at all. The scene at Inch was a wilderness.

That what was his perfect little body was so badly damaged that we could not see him, could not hug him or hold him to say goodbye. To my horror I discovered that his little body was to be left out overnight until the State pathologist visited the scene the following day. One cannot imagine how any mother or father would feel to learn that their child's body was to be left out in the wild overnight, and the weather was so bad.

I thought that we may get his body back on the following day, but it was not until the Friday that it was returned to us. When the hearse came to our house, the little white coffin was sealed. All we got was a lock of Rob's hair. This could all have been avoided too if that phone call was made.

On the day that we got Rob's body back, I remember looking out the window and seeing Wayne walking his dog in the lane between our two houses. I knocked on the window to catch his attention. Wayne O'Donoghue put his head down and kept walking.

I wanted to ask him to say one of the prayers of the faithful at Rob's funeral. Wayne never looked up and I thought nothing of it at the time. I just presumed that he did not hear me. It is fortunate that I didn't speak to him because I would hate now to think of Wayne O'Donoghue having any act or part in Rob's funeral.

I cannot get out of my mind the image of the body of my precious, beautiful boy Rob being dumped at a ditch in Inch. He was only 11-years-old and left to the elements for nine days. You wouldn't do it a dog. Having to tell my daughter Emma who was eight was one of the most horrible experiences that I have ever faced. I tried as best I could to explain to Harry, then aged four, that his older brother was dead.

They could not comprehend that Wayne had killed Rob, Wayne being his friend. They both had to have counselling. Emma still cries a lot and Harry still doesn't understand. He still calls out for Rob and both ask a lot of questions about death and heaven and where is Rob gone.

To bury your child is a nightmare, but to bury him in these circumstances, it is impossible to describe the depth of despair, the utter hopelessness, the injustice that was done to Rob and ourselves.

The day of Rob's funeral was surreal. People turned out in their thousands and were extremely supportive. The ceremony was beautiful but heart-breaking. What made it worse was that the suspicion was on us and everyone that we knew. The truth was Rob's killer was still on the loose and we had no idea as to what happened to Rob.

I worried were Emma and Harry safe. I felt as if my whole life was falling apart.

Who would do such a thing, to kill an innocent child and let it go on for long?

Rob was everything to me.

I loved him so much and he reminded me of myself, more so than my two other children.

In 2004, he was in Croke Park wearing his red-and-white jersey supporting Cork. His favourite player was Seán Óg Ó hAilpín. The 2005 final between Cork and Kilkenny was very emotional. I couldn't watch it, thinking that Robert should be there with us watching his favourite team win and his favourite player collecting the cup.

Other special occasions such as birthday parties, Christmas, which were family times of joy and closeness are now times of tears and sorrow. The fact that Rob was killed so close to our family home is very hard to cope with each day I pass the location where it happened. We will have to sell.

This brings questions into my head, like why did he die. Did he scream? If he did, why didn't I hear him? Could I have done something? Did he suffer much?

Our doctors have told us to try and get on with our lives but how can we, knowing there was semen found on my son's body?

Would you kill someone for throwing stones at your car? The forensics couldn't find the stone marks on the car. If it was an accident, why didn't he call me, or a doctor or his parents?

Why were there no fingerprints found on Rob's phone - even Rob's own fingerprints? Who wiped it clean and deleted images from it?

Wayne contacted him at 6am in the morning? Why did a 20-year-old contact an 11-year-old at that hour of the morning? What was Robert doing at Wayne's bedroom at 7.30am when he was supposed to be at a sleep-over at his other friend's house?

Why did my little boy ring 999 later that morning as the phone shows he did?

Why were Rob's two runners off when he was supposed to cycle away that day?

Whatever happens here today, even if we move house or leave the country, there is no place to go, no place to hide from this nightmare - it is there every minute of every hour of every day."