A MURDERER, who has been told he will spend the rest of his life in prison after stabbing his former girlfriend to death, had killed before.
Paul O’Hara had only been out on life licence for 23 months, after serving 14 years behind bars for the murder of Janine Waterworth, before he killed Cherylee Shennan.
The 43-year-old attacked Cherylee with a hammer, tried to strangle her and stabbed her with a kitchen knife after she tried to run to safety. During the attack he also knocked a police officer unconscious and threatened another with a knife.
Cherylee died at the scene of the attack in Rawtenstall despite paramedics’ desperate attempts to save her.
Yesterday O’Hara pleaded guilty to murder, wounding with intent to cause GBH to a police officer and assault with intent to resist arrest.
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Speaking after the hearing, a spokesman for the Parole Board, who allowed O’Hara his freedom, said they ‘deeply regretted’ the circumstances that led to Cherylee’s death.
And Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner said ‘serious questions’ must now be asked to find out why the defendant was freed and allowed to kill again.
Preston Crown Court heard how O’Hara planned to kill Cherylee, 40, because he was afraid she had told police about how he had previously assaulted her.
He feared his life licence would be revoked and he would be sent back to jail.
The hearing was told they had started a relationship in July 2013 after O’Hara applied for a job working with businesswoman Cherylee at her second hand furniture store in Heywood.
Officers visited Cherylee at her home in Hardman Avenue, Rawtenstall, after receiving a call that O’Hara had assaulted her, fracturing her jaw. She had denied the attack on two previous visits, claiming she had fallen down the stairs.
But she contacted O’Hara’s probation officer on March 17, admitting what he had done to her and that she was frightened of him.
When two public protection unit officers arrived, O’Hara, who had drunk at least a bottle of vodka that morning, was waiting in his car.
Just seconds after they went into the house, the killer burst in through the back door with a hammer and started hitting Cherylee.
Det Sgt Damien McAllister tried to put himself between O’Hara and his victim, but was hit over the head, knocking him unconscious.
As Cherylee lay on the floor, O’Hara got on top of her and tried to strangle her. Det Con Karen Kenworthy, who was also in the house, hit him with her baton and the attacker backed off into the kitchen where he grabbed a large knife.
A police spokesman, speaking after the hearing, said: “Det Sgt McAllister was only unconscious briefly and he and Det Con Kenworthy were trying all they could to get Cherylee through the front door.
“They were pushing her out of the front door. O’Hara then turned his attention to Det Con Kenworthy and threatened her with the knife.
“She thought her time was up.”
O’Hara, of Honiton Close, Heywood, then burst out of the house and chased his former girlfriend down the street where he ‘calmly’ stabbed her in the arm, chest and face five times.
During the mayhem, one of the detectives made an emergency call and other officers started arriving on the scene.
Marion Durkin, a close friend of Cherylee, said after the sentencing that lots of neighbours had gone out to see what all the commotion was about.
She said: “I saw the police cars screaming past.
“My son told me what happened and I was shocked. I could not take it in. I was really, really upset.
“You see things on the television and you think that it is terrible, but when it happens to someone you know, it puts a whole different slant on it.”
Police caught up with O’Hara in Hall Carr Road moments later, where he was pepper sprayed and arrested.
He had tried to post the murder weapon through the letterbox of one of the neighbouring houses.
Judge Anthony Russell QC told the defendant, who has a history of violent behaviour: “This was indeed a most brutal and savage attack. I am left in no doubt that you intended to kill Cherylee Shennan.
“You are a very dangerous man, particularly to women with whom you form a relationship.”
He also sentenced O’Hara to 10 years imprisonment for the wounding of Det Sgt McAlister and 12 months for assaulting Det Con Kenworthy.
Judge Russell added: “I wish to pay tribute to the courage shown by both police officers in dealing with this terrible incident.
“They displayed not only courage in carrying out their duties, but dealt with the situation coolly and professionally.
“They were faced with overwhelming brute force and are to be commended for the manner in which they performed.”
Lancashire Police had been made aware by the probation service that O’Hara had been released and that he would often go to Rawtenstall to stay with Cherylee.
He was allowed parole as the board was satisfied it was no longer necessary to keep him behind bars at HMP Kirklevington Grange, in Yarm, Cleveland, for the protection of the public.
When he was let out, he was told he must remain on licence for the rest of his life, meaning he could be recalled to prison at any time if he was considered to be a risk.
Standing on the court steps after the hearing, Det Supt EddieThistlethwaite said: “O’Hara is a horrendous, dangerous man, especially to women. But he is no longer a danger because he is going to be in prison for the rest of his life.
“I have had 27 years as a police officer and I have seen lots of violence. But this is one of the most shocking, made worse by the fact he had killed another partner.
“He is not mad, he is bad.”
Jonathan Storer, senior district crown prosecutor for Crown Prosecution Service North West, said after the sentence was passed: “Paul O’Hara carried out a calculated and unprovoked attack on his partner and on two police officers. He attacked the officers as they did all they possibly could to save her.
“An extremely dangerous man has been taken off the streets where he can no longer pose risk to the public.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry said: “It is clear in this case the Parole Board’s decision was wrong, with tragic consequences.”
He said he would bring the issue up in parliament.
A review is now set to be led by the Parole Board to see if lessons can be learnt to avoid future tragedies.
A spokesman said: “The Parole Board deeply regrets the circumstances which led to the murder of Cherylee Shennan by Paul O’Hara.
“In cases such as this one, the board is committed to doing everything it can to learn the lessons that will help to prevent further tragedies.”
THE MOMENTS THAT LED TO A SECOND MURDER
March 1998 – Murders Janine Waterworth in Oldham after lying in wait for her at her home
November 23, 1998 – Sentenced to life imprisonment after a trial at Manchester Crown Court
April 2012 – Released on life licence after meeting with the Parole Board
July 2013 – Starts a relationship with Cherylee Shennan
March 1, 2014 – Cherylee’s stepdad calls police saying O’Hara broke his daughter’s jaw. Police go round that day but she denies the attack
March 3, 2014 – Police visit again to ask Cherylee about assault. O’Hara may be hiding in the wardrobe
March 17, 2014 – Police go for a third time after receiving more information about the assault
2.50pm – 3pm – O’Hara launches his attack on Cherylee and the police officers. Police are dispatched
3.05pm – O’Hara is arrested in Hall Carr Road after murdering Cherylee and attacking the two officers
March 18, 2014 – He appears at Burnley Magistrates Court
March 20, 2014 – O’Hara appears via videolink at Preston Crown Court for a preliminary hearing
June 30, 2014 – He admits killing Cherylee, wounding Det Sgt Damien McAllister with intent to do him grievous bodily harm and assaulting Det Con Karen Kenworthy with intent to resist arrest