25 January 2006

Court holds its breath as mother tells killer of her family’s ‘living hell’

Irish Examiner

By Claire O’Sullivan
25 January 2006

IN the eight days when her son was missing, Majella Holohan quietly suffered the horrors of imagination.
Where was Robert, what was being done to her beautiful 11-year-old boy?

In the 10 days of the trial, her words were governed by the rules of the courtroom, strictly tempered by the parameters laid down by the State to give Wayne O'Donoghue, her son's killer, a fair trial.

Yesterday, she was no longer forced to be an impassive witness to her son's murder trial. No longer silenced, she spoke on behalf of her son, giving voice to his body, dumped in the wilds near Inch Strand.

Glancing at Mr Justice Paul Carney for direction to start, Majella tucked a stray blonde hair behind her ear, looked straight ahead and started to read.

Over the next 20 minutes, the courtroom saw and felt a mother's agony and heartbreak at being robbed of her eldest son and of watching her husband and children being ripped asunder by grief and disbelief.

Afterwards, Mr Justice Carney sentenced O'Donoghue to four years. With time already served, he will be out in less than two years.

No sentence would have been long enough to soothe the pain of the Holohan family. The days after Robert's disappearance, last January, were described as a "living hell" when Mark and Majella fought to "keep composure" in front of their two youngest children.

"Horrendous thoughts" went through her mind and the "days and nights got longer and longer", she said.

The family also had to contend with rumours that they were involved in Robert's disappearance.

"The depth of pain was unbelievable," said Robert's mother, her voice shaking.

Robert's vivacious personality and love of life, always a feature of the murder trial, was recalled yesterday in heartbreaking detail.

"He was a great character," said his mother, who told the court that her son loved his life, his family, his grandfather, his labrador, Taz, and his horse, Stella.

The court heard about Robert's selfless nature when Chernobyl children came to their home on holiday, he gave up his bed and when Wayne O'Donoghue's car was burnt out, Robert wanted to hand over his savings to help him buy a new one.

"He had a beautiful physical appearance and nature He was a happy, outgoing child," said Majella. As she turned her focus to Wayne O'Donoghue, the anger and resentment rose to the surface.

"I didn't have the slightest suspicion in relation to his friendship with Wayne O'Donoghue... I trusted Wayne completely," she said, with the air of somebody aghast at their naivety.

As for the heartbreaking hunt for Robert, it was clear yesterday that Majella will never forgive Wayne for the nine days of unnecessary torment he put her through.

"All of this could have been avoided if he had made an anonymous phonecall. He was so barefaced, cunning and devious... I don't know how anyone could be so deceitful," she said.

From the moment Majella Holohan started speaking, the courtroom was entranced but as she told Wayne what he had done to her family, people held their breath.

Wayne never lifted his head. Nor did his mother. His father just stared ahead resolute. His former girlfriend sat upright.

The Holohan's sorrow and loss will be with them for the rest of their lives. Majella once lived an "idyllic rural life", but now she lives a never ending nightmare.

Every time she passes the O'Donoghue house, the questions begin again.

How many mothers have to drive past the scene of their 11-year-old's death and ask "Did he scream? If so, why didn't I hear him?".

"Why did Wayne not call me, a doctor or his parents or someone? Why were there no fingerprints on Rob's phone even Robert's own fingerprints? Who wiped it clean and deleted images? What was Robert doing in his bedroom at 7.30am that morning when he supposed to be on a sleepover somewhere else?"

Majella Holohan, in the witness box yesterday, came across as a tormented woman who wants answers. It is doubtful that she will ever get them all now.

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