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Killer who murdered his girlfriend was free to kill a second woman

Killer who murdered his girlfriend was free to kill a second woman

Paul O’Hara (pictured), 48, was on life licence after serving 15 years for killing a former partner when he met businesswoman Cherylee Shennan

A convicted killer who had already murdered one girlfriend was left free to kill a second following a catalogue of police and probation service blunders, a jury has ruled.

Paul O’Hara, 48, was on life licence after serving 15 years for killing a former partner when he met businesswoman Cherylee Shennan.

They began a relationship but within weeks manipulative O’Hara, who had been diagnosed with psychopathic traits in prison, began controlling and beating the 40-year-old mother of one.

Over the following months police missed several chances to stop the ‘high-risk violent predator’.

When unprepared and unarmed officers did finally go to Miss Shennan’s home, O’Hara attacked them before stabbing his girlfriend to death. 

At the conclusion of a four-week inquest in Preston last week, a jury ruled that the failure to recall O’Hara to jail contributed to Miss Shennan’s death in March 2014.

Last night Betty Roberts, Miss Shennan’s mother, said her daughter would be alive today if the police and probation services had done their jobs properly.

They began a relationship but within weeks manipulative O’Hara, who had been diagnosed with psychopathic traits in prison, began controlling and beating the 40-year-old mother of one (pictured)

‘Probation and police had all the information they needed to stop this, but they let it happen,’ she said.

‘We as a family have to live with that knowledge, and without Cherylee, for the rest of our lives.’

O’Hara had served 15 years for stabbing 21-year-old ex-girlfriend Janine Waterworth to death in 1998 after she dumped him. 

He was released on licence in April 2012. About 15 months later, in 2013, he met Miss Shennan, a former beautician, at the second-hand shop she ran.

O’Hara had served 15 years for stabbing 21-year-old ex-girlfriend Janine Waterworth (pictured) to death in 1998 after she dumped him

Miss Shennan – described as vivacious and bubbly – was vulnerable at that time and was being treated for depression having separated from her long-term partner and father of her 12-year-old daughter earlier that year.

Six months into their relationship Miss Shennan confided in her sister, Ellen, that she was being domestically abused and was terrified of O’Hara, who by then had broken her nose, her jaw and held her at knifepoint.

Relatives alerted police but when frightened Miss Shennan tried to retract her complaint, they accepted her explanation and O’Hara was not recalled to prison.

Last night Betty Roberts, Miss Shennan’s mother, said her daughter (pictured) would be alive today if the police and probation services had done their jobs properly

Around a fortnight later, however, following a terrified call from Miss Shennan to say she had been repeatedly abused and was scared for her life, probation officials called police and stressed ‘we need to get him arrested’.

Despite knowing O’Hara was a convicted murderer and had previous convictions for violence against women, police failed to arrest him or launch an emergency response.

More than an hour later, they simply sent two officers to Miss Shennan’s home in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, with no stab vests and just a baton between them.

Miss Shennan was stabbed to death on the street outside her home in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, (pictured) after O’Hara saw officers entering the house

O’Hara – who had been watching the house and had seen them arrive – then burst in, attacking one officer with a hammer, leaving him unconscious and with serious injuries. 

He held the second, female officer at knife-point, before chasing Miss Shennan as she tried to escape, stabbing her multiple times in the street. 

She died at the scene. O’Hara was convicted of her murder and is now serving a whole life tariff, meaning he will never be released. 

The inquest jury said a catalogue of blunders, including a failure of the probation services and police to communicate and share information, or properly recognise and manage O’Hara’s risk meant opportunities to save Miss Shennan were missed.

Coroner James Newman said he would be issuing a prevention of future deaths notice to the Ministry of Justice, the North West Probation Service and Lancashire police to help stop a similar tragedy happening again.

Sarah Ricca, solicitor for Miss Shennan’s family, said: ‘What Cherylee’s family have exposed, with the help of the inquest jury, can only be described as institutional resistance to providing a decisive and effective response to violence against women.

‘The jury’s findings should be a wake-up call to those that hold power in society, to root out this institutional resistance, before more women’s lives are lost.’

A Lancashire police spokesman said significant changes had been made in multi-agency work and risk assessments since the ‘truly horrendous’ murder. 

A probation spokesman said it had undergone a ‘complete reorganisation’ since March 2014, with a significant number of operational changes and improvements made.

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