Why a killer jailed in 1994 is now the state’s longest-living prisoner
September 11, 2022
Convicted murderer Deborah Hannon is Ireland’s longest-serving female prisoner. The Limerick woman has been in prison for 29 years after being convicted of stabbing in 1994.
Although most convicted killers serve 18 years, efforts to reintroduce the Limerick killer into society have failed. And today she remains where she feels safest: at the Dóchas Center at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
The mother-of-one was jailed in 1993 for stabbing 17-year-old Tracy Butler to death on a Limerick street. Along with Suzanne Reddan, who was also convicted of murder, Hannon stabbed the teenager 14 times.
The victim had an additional 35 cuts and bruises. Hannon later told Gardaí she used a Stanley knife on Ms. Butler’s face.
Hannon was 17 and revenge was her motive. Reddan was a 26-year-old mother of three and admitted to hitting the terrified teenager before stabbing her in the chest.
She doesn’t seem to be able to cope with life on the outside at all. It is now institutionalized. She seems to prefer her life in Dóchas with its structure
In her final minutes, Mrs Butler managed to reach the hallway of a house on Ballynanty Road.
She was bleeding profusely, could hardly breathe, and asked for water. She asked for an ambulance but died shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Reddan and Hannon killed Mrs. Butler in revenge for the death of Hannon’s father, William, with whom Reddan had a relationship. He had died 10 days earlier after being beaten up on a Limerick street.
Both of Cosgrave Park, Moyross believed that Mrs Butler and others known to her were responsible.
Hannon told gardaí, “We planned it all along. Suzanne and I We planned it after the funeral. I told her [Tracy]’You’re going down like my father.’ All I ever thought about was my father.” For her part, Reddan said to gardaí, “Deborah and I beat her together. I got the knife and stabbed her in the chest at least once.”
They were convicted after a lengthy trial in the Central Criminal Court when Hannon had been in custody since the year before, having been arrested shortly after the murder.
According to prison sources, Hannon’s time in prison was “full of problems and difficulties.”
The Irish Prisons Service (IPS) has tried to release her on at least six separate occasions but she has been unable to cope with life outside. Instead, she gets into trouble — particularly with alcohol — and violates the conditions that allowed her to be released.
“Lifers” are released on license but never officially end their sentence. They can be returned to prison at any time if they violate the terms of their release. They must abide by certain stipulations, including good behavior and non-observance by Gardaí.
In one instance, Hannon moved to Rochdale outside of Manchester in north west England in 2011 and had a baby boy in the UK.
Hannon was returned to Dóchas center from the UK in August 2012 after allegedly being involved in a mass brawl, prompting her return to Ireland and imprisonment.
The now 46-year-old has been allowed to move to the UK on more than one occasion as that is where most of her family lived. However, any hopes that a support system there or in Ireland could help her get back to work have all been dashed.
She has also been released to live in Dublin on various occasions. Back in 2002, Hannon was granted parole to pursue hairdressing training at Phibsboro, but had to be sent back to prison.
More recently, attempts at the Outlook Center in Dublin, run by Focus Ireland, have also failed. The facility accommodates nine women in single rooms and has been in operation since 2019.
Hannon was accommodated there, but had to be brought back to the Dóchas after a short time. It is understood there were problems with alcohol and she again breached the terms of her license.
“Addiction issues are the problem with Deborah Hannon,” a source said.
“There have been various attempts to fully release her, but she doesn’t seem to be able to stay on course.”
“When she is with us in Dóchas, she is a model prisoner. She is involved in ministries, including mental health services, and appears to want to transform her life. But as soon as she is temporarily released, it ends very badly.
“She just can’t seem to cope with life outside at all. What will become of her is difficult to predict. It is now institutionalized. She seems to prefer her life in Dóchas with its structure.
“Women tend to rehabilitate much better than men. But Deborah Hannon is the exception.
“It’s just a sad situation.”
This was announced by an IPS spokesman Sunday independent The Prison Service did not comment on individual prisoner cases.