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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 19, 1996
Date of arrest: February 10, 1997 (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1965
Victim profile: Kayleigh Ward (his nine-year-old neighbour)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Chester, Cheshire, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on December 5, 1997

John O'Shaughnessy (born 1965 in Chester, England) is a convicted British murderer. He raped and murdered his nine-year-old neighbour Kayleigh Ward on 19 December 1996, and dumped her body in the River Dee, where it was found 2 months later.

O'Shaugnessy was a resident at the Blacon hostel where Kayleigh and her mother and sister had been living since being evicted from their nearby council house for rent arrears two months earlier.

O'Shaugnessy admitted the rape and murder of Kayleigh Ward at Chester Crown Court on 5 December 1997. He told the jury that he had killed Kayleigh in a panic because he feared that she would tell the police that he had raped her.

O'Shaugnessy, 32 at the time, was sentenced to life imprisonment and the trial judge recommended that he should serve at least 30 years before being considered for parole. This recommendation is expected to keep O'Shaugnessey in prison until at least 2027 and the age of 62.


Child killer sentenced to 30 years

BBC News

Friday, December 5, 1997

A man from Chester has been jailed for life for the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl who disappeared from her home almost a year ago.

John O'Shaughnessy, 31, admitted raping Kayleigh Ward on the banks of the River Dee in Chester on December 19 before strangling her and throwing her body into the water at Mold Crown Court, North Wales, on Friday.

The court had heard how O'Shaughnessy befriended Kayleigh when he and her family were living in the same homeless hostel in Chester.

Sentencing O'Shaughnessy, Mr Justice Maurice Kay told him: "It is difficult to imagine anything more depraved, cruel and cowardly than that."

The court was told that when police asked him why he had killed Kayleigh after raping her, O'Shaughnessy replied: "Because she was bound to have told people what I had done. It was the easiest way out of it."

The judge said he would be recommending to the Home Secretary that O'Shaughnessy serve a minimum of 30 years.

Kayleigh was last seen alive when she left her home to buy some chips. It was nearly two months after her disappearance before her body was washed up at low tide on the banks of the River Dee.


Life for Kayleigh's 'depraved' killer

The Independent (London) - Dec 6, 1997

Nine-year-old Kayleigh Ward may have been streetwise. But her intuition could not save her from John O'Shaughnessy, who lured her to a river bank, then raped and murdered her, says Ian Burrell.

Kayleigh Ward had only popped out for a bag of chips. It was an errand for a woman who shared the hostel in Chester, Cheshire, where the nine- year-old had lived since her family had been evicted from their council house for rent arrears.

But it was on the way back from the chip shop last December that the child bumped into another resident of the hostel, John O'Shaughnessy. The chips were never delivered.

O'Shaughnessy, who today starts a life sentence for Kayleigh's murder, was described as a "drifter and shifter" who hung around the pubs. He had arrived at the hostel a month earlier with his pregnant girlfriend and her three children from a previous relationship.

When the 31-year-old suggested that Kayleigh took a walk with him by the river bank she went along. Her impoverished upbringing had forced her into a street life where she felt at home in the city centre, making friends with travellers and older children.

But Mold Crown Court was told during O'Shaughnessy's trial that at a remote spot by the River Dee, he fell upon the girl, barely four feet tall, and raped her. "I'll tell my mum, I'll tell my mum," she sobbed during the attack.

As she walked away in tears, O'Shaughnessy determined that she could not escape, and strangled her with his belt and her tights. He threw her body into the river. Then he took what John Rogers QC, for the prosecutor, described as "carefully calculated steps" to avoid detection. He told his girlfriend that his clothes had become muddy in a fight and returned his boots to the shop where he had bought them, saying they were marked.

When Kayleigh's mother became worried that her daughter had not returned home nearly a day later, O'Shaughnessy was one of the most zealous in the search party. He was interviewed several times by police and an attempted drug overdose fuelled suspicions.

But it was not until late February, two months after the murder, that he finally cracked. The body was found in the riverbed mud on 10 February and O'Shaughnessy made a midnight call to police to say: "I killed Kayleigh Ward."

Yesterday, Mr Justice Maurice Kay said O'Shaughnessy should serve a minimum of 30 years. "There is no crime more horrific than the murder of a child. What you did to Kayleigh Ward was unspeakable," he said. He called the killing "depraved, cruel and cowardly".

From the public gallery, Kayleigh's mother, Yvonne, screamed at O'Shaughnessy: "I hope you rot in hell." Outside the court she said: "Our lives will never be the same now that Kayleigh has gone forever, and with the knowledge of the terrible circumstances around her death."

Alex Carlile QC, for the defence, said that O'Shaughnessy had been "at risk" when very young but had been nothing more than "a drinker and a bit of a nuisance". He was the father of "several" children from other relationships and there was "never an inkling that he was a child-abuser" before Kayleigh was murdered.


Kayleigh Ward: her body was found dumped in the River Dee.



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