The gruesome deaths of two beautiful young women this past week set an awful reminder that murderers walk amongst us.
Though rare, evil lurks just a little under the surface, striking innocent, random women, who just happen to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time like 14 year old Ana Kriegel in Lucan and 24 year old Jastine Valdez in South Dublin. Both hadn’t even reached the prime of their life. The loss to their families is unimaginable.
On the face of it, 40 year old Mark Hennessy, who brutally murdered Jastine seemed quite normal- a construction industry worker with a wife and two children aged two and eight months. When people have kids, you assume they’re safe enough. They have empathy, compassion, they’re too tired to conjure up such hideous acts.
Neighbours in Bray, where he lived said he ‘kept to himself.’ “I didn’t really know him’, ‘he seemed polite,’ ‘there was never any indication of any trouble or anything like that,’ ‘he was quiet.’’ We’ve heard those words before. How could these people not know- how could his family not know we ask?
But what do you do? Arrest someone who is ‘quiet?,’ ‘slightly odd,’ ‘keeps to themselves?’ They don’t all fit that stereotype. I remember Malcolm McArthur from the early 1980s. He was exuberant, used to walk around Baggot Street in a white outfit and dickie bow. I saw him at the check out of Quinnsworth on Baggot Street before he killed nurse Bridie Gargan in the Phoenix Park and subsequently shot farmer Donal Dunne in Offaly. He had a son, who was my age. It was called ‘unprecedented, bizarre and grotesque’ at the time. He didn’t seem like a menace to society.
I also spent a few summers with Morgan Schreurs, who murdered a woman in her apartment he met in a bar in Belgium in 1999. He stole her car afterwards. Morgan was fun -an insatiable party animal who would stay up for days. In hindsight, there was always something odd about him. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it.
I sensed as soon as I met him that he couldn’t leave the country. By his own admission, he was exiled here. Once he fell from a building, through several layers of scaffolding only to get into his car and drive away with broken ribs and several injuries in order to avoid hospital.
But murder is the last thing on your mind when you’re at a rave with someone, where you meet all sorts of dodgy characters. Had I known Interpol were looking for him in 2011, after he left Ireland, I would have gone straight to the cops and told them all I knew of him. Luckily he’s serving 25 years in Belgium. Hopefully he won’t get parole.
Why he did it, I have no idea. How many times it could have been me or any of the females we hung out with, many.
How can you penetrate a killer’s brain? What makes them do what they do? How did Morgan justify his life after what he did? I don’t know. There are more questions than answers.
Mark Hennessy was known to gardai but was not considered to be a serious criminal. He was on bail after a drink driving offence, from which he fled the scene. He had two convictions- one for abusive behaviour while intoxicated in a public place in the late 1990s one for possession of cannabis in 2000. Unfortunately none of these offences would allude you to believe that he would kill.
If men, and its generally always men, pop up on the police radar every few years for public disorder offences or drunk and disorderlies, the fact that their crimes are far apart, will work in their favour. In parts of the the US, three strikes and you get life. Actual life in prison.
Could that be a solution to keeping potentially dangerous men, who pose a threat to society from causing harm? The wrong people would spend time in prison though. With the gift of hindsight, we collectively imagine, how wonderful it would be to extract would-be killers from society before they strike.
So what can occur in Ireland to make women feel safer? Men are the biggest threat to women, and to each other. Obviously only a few men, this goes without saying, but women, particularly, despite equality, will never equal men in physical strength.
Firstly, sexual crimes need to get harder sentences. A man who rapes a woman shouldn’t walk the streets after a few short years. A man, who gets sentenced for raping women ten years apart, shouldn’t be walking the streets again. Look at Adrian Bayler, who murdered Jill Meagher in Sydney. He had numerous rape and sexual assault charges under his belt.
In 2008, monster Brian Hennessy, unrelated as far as I know, raped and strangled Sharon Whelan in Kilkenny, before torching her house which lead to the death of both her children too. It’s too much to take. He was denied parole in April 2018, but will be eligible again in three years time. How?
Life should mean life. Imagine how her family must feel, knowing that monster who could potentially walk around the neighbourhood where he killed three people in just three years time. It’s disgusting. On top of that, women also need to be part of the solution. We can’t avoid random evil, but the equality debate shouldn’t make us expect men to do the right thing. We don’t fear other women when we walk down a dark alleyway. Feminism has given us empowerment. Metoo has focused on non issues and wasted police time to a certain extent. Murderers don’t care about #metoo, the see it as a distraction.
I found a dead body of a woman on the canal in the 80s. Murder isn’t new. So don’t walk down that street alone at night. Don’t get separated from your friends. Be wary of strange men. Learn kung fu. Push for self defence classes to be introduced in schools. Force your daughters to be vigilant.
And never forget, when it comes to violence and murder. It’s a man’s world.