My murderer father locked me in a room for days and burned my mother

My murderer father locked me in a room for days and burned my mother

My murderer father locked me in a room for days and burned my mother

My murderer father locked me in a room for days and burned my mother

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RUSHING OUT THE DOOR, MOTHER OF FOUR Dolores McCrea kissed her eldest daughter Sharon on the cheek and told her she loved her before heading to the pub to play darts.

Sharon Walsh, now 36, would never see her mother again after her violent and abusive father Gary McCrea murdered his estranged wife and incinerated her body.

It was a heinous crime that shook the small rural town of Ballybulgan in County Donegal, Ireland.

The heartbreaking storey is now at the centre of a new Channel 5 documentary, Murder My Sweetheart: Dolores McCrea’s Murder.

Sharon reveals exclusively to The Sun that the horrific murder left her with the responsibility of raising her three younger sisters – and that the impact on her family has been devastating.

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“There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t thought about Mum and what happened to her,” she says.

“I haven’t had a mother since I was 18, and the four of us have missed out on so much because she isn’t in our lives.”

McCrea was sentenced to life in prison for Dolores’ murder in 2005, and Sharon, who now refers to him by his full name, claims he terrorised the entire family during her childhood.

“I have no feelings for Gary McCrea,” she says.

“He was my biological father, but he was never a father to me.” When he was able to take their mother away from them, I don’t think he ever truly cared about his four daughters. I despise him for robbing us of our mother.”

House full of secrets

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Dolores met mechanic McCrea at a dance in 1984 and fell in love with him right away.

They had Sharon, Laura, Tanya, and Leona and married in 1989, but things were far from idyllic.

McCrea treated Dolores and her daughters like “slaves,” forcing the mother to cover bruises with make-up.

Sharon describes her childhood as follows: “We were terrified of putting one foot wrong because the penalties were severe.

“He’d hit, slap, and beat us, the worst of which was being beaten with a leather belt hung on a nail at the side of the mantelpiece.

“If we had done something wrong, the belt would come down.

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“It was a house brimming with secrets… We all kept ours.

“As a punishment, I once spent five days in a bare room.” I was given a potty and forced to use it in the room, where I also ate my meals.”

Sharon claims that the house was run like a military base, with her mother terrified of anything out of place.

“Gary McCrea was very controlling,” she says, “and everything had to be done to his standards.”

“We were always watching the time when he got home from work, making sure dinner was ready, the table was set, the house was properly cleaned, and his clothes were washed and laid out on his bed for him.”

“We were his servants, and we did everything for him.”

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“They were our happiest times.”

Sickening beating

Dolores tried to conceal the abuse from her daughters, but as Sharon grew older, she saw the true horrors.

“He was always verbally abusive, and when I was young, I saw bruises on her face and arms, but it was never discussed,” she says.

 

“But when I was in my teens, I saw him beat her a couple of times, and when I was 14, he gave her an awful beating outside the house after a night out, hitting and kicking her before locking her out.”

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“I took her in and begged her to call the Garda (police) or go down to Granny and Grandad’s to tell someone, but she couldn’t.”

Dolores left McCrea and took their four daughters a year before her disappearance, but he continued to harass her.

Sharon describes the day they left as follows: “He stormed up to me, pointing his finger at me and telling me he hoped I rot in hell… Since that day, I’ve never addressed him as father or father. He is not deserving of that title.

“We thought we were on our way to a peaceful new life, but that was far from the case.

“He would call her every day, yelling abuse and accusing her of sleeping with this person and that person… he was obsessive.”

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Missing without a trace

Dolores left Sharon babysitting her sisters – then 14, six, and four – on the evening of January 20, 2004, and went to meet her darts team, stopping at McCrea’s on the way.

Dolores was in the market for a new car, and he agreed to buy her old red 1997 Peugeot 306.

Sharon called and texted but received no response the next morning when she hadn’t returned home.

“I knew there was something seriously wrong because she’d never gone away and never returned,” Sharon says.

“I rang my aunt and we went out looking for her, and all day that feeling got worse and worse.”

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Sharon went to McCrea’s house and found her mum’s car. McCrea said Dolores had been there the night before but left in a different car, “implying she’d left with another man”.

He later confirmed to police she’d arrived between 7:30pm and 8pm to collect 1,000 euro from him, but left the car there.

Grisly discovery

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Dolores’ disappearance shocked the community, who couldn’t believe the adoring mother would just up and leave her children.

The former family home, where McCrea was still living, quickly became the focal point of the investigation, with a massive missing persons search.

Brendan McMonagle, a police officer, was investigating the smouldering remains of a fire in the chassis of an old mobile home when he discovered a piece of bone.

Indoors, police also discovered a videotape of a TV documentary telling the storey of a group of people who murdered a man named Simon Carter before burning his body.

Because of the badly charred remains, the case quickly escalated into a full-fledged murder investigation.

Delores was later identified by a ring discovered in the ash and dental records, and McCrea was seen on CCTV purchasing two five gallon drums of diesel.

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“I just fell to pieces as soon as the Garda told me they’d discovered a fire at the back of the house because I knew what he’d done,” Sharon says.

“I burst into tears even before they told me they had discovered bones. ‘I knew he was going to do it, I knew he’d kill her,’ I said.”

Sinister threats

McCrea, who was 39 at the time, was later charged with murder, and it was suspected that Dolores was strangled to death.

McCrea had told people, including his own daughters, that if Dolores ever left him, he would kill her.

“He told me he’d kill her and maybe get eight years and move on with his life,” Sharon says.

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“I knew he was violent and capable of anything, but I never thought he’d actually do it.”

“I always hoped and prayed she didn’t suffer and that he hadn’t put her in the fire alive,” Sharon adds.

“When [they said] she may have been strangled first, there was a certain amount of relief hearing that. It made sense… it was always mum’s throat he went for when they were fighting.”

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