Despite his horrendous crimes, John Joe Patterson’s wife Frances, who is also the girls’ mother, has stood by her paedophile husband.
Emma and Vanessa Witherow bravely waived their right to anonymity so that Patterson, aged 55, who ran a Christmas hamper delivery business in Co Tipperary, could be named in the media.
The former bus driver and milk man, originally from Cashel, but with an address in Kilclooney, Moyne, Templetuohy, Thurles, previously denied nearly 40 counts of sexual assault on Emma, which began when she was aged nine.
He also made her sit through five weeks of evidence at his trial earlier this year before a jury unanimously found him guilty on the 39 counts of sexual assault.
Yesterday Emma, 28 and a mother of two, told Nenagh Circuit Court how she remains “terrified” of Patterson.
“I always felt I had to cover up the body I had as it was dirty, ugly, not fit to be seen,” she said.
Emma broke down as she described how her mother still refuses to believe the abuse occurred.
“She totally denied everything she heard, and said I was only attention-seeking,” she said.
In a desperate attempt to evade Patterson, Emma, then aged 18, left the family home, taking Vanessa, aged 13, with her.
“I went to my mother for help as a child should be able to do, but she gave me no help and ignored my plea,” Emma said.
The court heard how Patterson would pull down Emma’s pants and underwear and sexually assault her from behind.
She said Patterson would give her €50 and tell her: “Good girl. Don’t tell mammy.”
The assaults continued on a daily basis for 10 years.
Patterson pleaded guilty to one of three counts of sexually abusing Vanessa, who was also nine years old when the abuse began.
Despite her husband’s guilty plea, Frances Patterson still refuses to believe her daughters’ accounts.
Vanessa, 24 and a mother of three, told gardaí that Patterson first abused her while riding with her on a quad bike.
He later “trapped” her in a shed, and would “thrust himself” against her with his erect penis.
“Our lives have been torn apart by out mother standing by him,” she said.
Patterson told gardaí his only defence for his sick acts was that his wife was in ill health and he was “under pressure”.
The court heard he is his wife’s sole carer and is in receipt of a carer’s allowance.
Frances Patterson held her husband’s hand during yesterday’s three-hour sentencing hearing.
The couple have two young sons who do not see their sisters.
At times, Patterson wiped tears from his eyes as details of the abuse were revealed in court.
After the sentence was imposed, Vanessa and Emma said they were “survivors” and no longer “victims of sexual abuse”.
Judge John Hannan said Patterson represented “the dark underbelly of Irish family life”.
He said Patterson had “destroyed” the sisters’ childhood and their relationships with their brothers and their mother.