By David Raleigh
A father who sexually abused his stepdaughters over a 10-year period has been jailed for eight years, with the final 18 months suspended.
John Joe Patterson's wife, Francis, who is also the girls' mother, has stood by her husband.
Emma and Vanessa Witherow 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.
She sat 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.
Today, Emma, 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.
The 28-year-old 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 an attempt to evade Patterson, Emma left the family home at the age of 18, taking Vanessa (then 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, Francis Patterson still refuses to believe her daughters' accounts.
Vanessa, 24, 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.
"Our lives have been torn apart by out mother standing by him," the mother-of-three said.
Patterson told gardaí that his only defence for his 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 carers' allowance.
Francis Patterson held her husband's hand throughout today's sentencing hearing, which lasted over three hours.
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 relationship with their brothers, and their mother.