A Mothers Grief and Pain, a very Tragic Story, Justice, a Mother Deserves to Get?

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Mother wants justice for two daughters who died by suicide amid abuse claims

10th July 2022

A mother who lost two of her daughters to suicide within two months has said she wants “justice for my girls”, claiming their deaths were sparked by an alleged sexual assault.

Jacqueline Reilly from Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh was left devastated when 23-year-old Shauna took her own life in 2016, having been allegedly abused by a so-called good samaritan who first got in touch with her to offer to pray with her

Having spotted her at a church she did not usually attend, the man contacted her online. 

He spoke of his faith and persuaded her to allow him to visit her home, but it is claimed instead of praying he dragged Shauna upstairs, assaulting her and bruising her arms.

The agony for Mrs Reilly, her husband Michael and their other daughter Emma continued seven weeks after Shauna’s death when older sister Michelle, unable to live without her sister, also died by suicide.

She was 33 years old and engaged to be married.

The mystery around the circumstances of Shauna’s final few months alive was then uncovered by Mrs Reilly when she found her daughter’s diary and her mobile phone.

  • Shauna, who was vulnerable, had experienced a dependency on alcohol and turned to faith to help her. On her phone were dozens of messages from the man, who described himself as a member of a church, offering to “help” her.
  • One message read: “Tell me about you putting your trust in the Lord, Shauna. Let me know if you would like to pray any time, Shauna.”
  • Another read: “If you would like me to call after tea to have prayer, let me know.”
  • And there in black and white was Shauna’s neat handwriting articulating her fear of not being believed, her anxiety at what she had experienced, and her suicidal thoughts.

“I can’t speak. I’m searching for words, but the words in my vocabulary are all over the place. It’s impossible. I think writing helps me. But it’s obviously not helped enough,” wrote Shauna.

“Even when I think about it when I go to speak — my head goes back there; I panic, I feel sick — it’s just an awful feeling. I guess that’s why it’s so hard for me to speak … just thinking about it.”

  • She said she felt “embarrassed by talking about it”, describing it as a “taboo” issue. “The thought of talking about it in any real way terrifies me,” she wrote.
  • Before she died, Shauna visited Enniskillen Police Station where a statement of complaint was taken. Police seized and bagged items of Shauna’s underwear, which was submitted by the North’s Rape Crime Unit for forensic examination.
  • A week after learning the findings would soon be known, Shauna was dead. She never got to read the results of the forensic examination.

Mrs Reilly has said her daughter was “terrified that people would not believe her even when the forensics came back [as they did in December 2016] to prove she was telling the truth”.

The Public Prosecution Service could not proceed due to the “inability of the defence to challenge Shauna on her evidence”.

For Shauna’s mother, the grief and anger are as raw today as six years ago.

“I am very angry that nothing came of it,” she said. “Why would someone that age get into contact with a 23-year-old who he knew was vulnerable? Her confidence was low, she would not have spoken to strangers, but he gained her trust.” 

Mrs Reilly, who can only rest by her daughters’ graves — where they are buried side by side — “and chat away to them”, is determined to get justice for them.

Silent for six years, she said she is speaking out now only because she has “exhausted all other avenues”. “I want to do what is right by my girls so that nobody else has to experience this,” she said

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