Media coverage, murder of prostitute

Sex workers murdered or unlawfully killed in Ireland

A list of sex workers murdered or unlawfully killed in Ireland in the last 40 years. Included are all cases found following a search of newspaper archives and other sources where the victim was engaged in sex work at the time of his/her death or the killing related directly to the victim's status as a current or former sex worker. Also included are some cases where the victim was alleged to be a sex worker, but this may not be the case.

Teresa Maguire, a former prostitute, was killed in the grounds of a Dublin hospital in April 1979. Christopher O’Brien admitted killing her and was charged and later convicted of manslaughter. This killing is the event that spurred prostitute Dolores Lynch into going public as a prostitutes’ rights activist. The case was not widely reported, but it was said that Teresa had refused sex with her attacker and was found dead with an iron bar stuck up her rectum and out her back and the sentence handed down to Christopher O’Brien was two years.

Ann Scanlon, 31, reported to be a prostitute and a mother of five from Cork. On 28 February 1982 Ann was working on Cork Quays. She was last seen alive there at about 9pm after a man left her back. On 12 March, Michael Higgingston admitted the killing to his mother, and then took Gardai to her body in Blarney, Cork. She had been strangled. Michael Higgingston pleaded not guilty to murder but was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1982.

Dolores Lynch, 34, a former prostitute, and Ireland’s first prostitute activist, died following a fire at her home in Dublin on 16 January 1983. Her mother and aunt also died in the fire. The fire was deliberately set by John Cullen, a pimp she had given evidence against previously. John Cullen was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 1983. Full story.

Irene Clifford, 37, was bludgeoned to death in Belfast on 7 June 1991. Her body was so badly mutilated that police initially thought she was a man. It was established that she had been working as an outdoor sex worker in the Adelaide Street area of Belfast on the night she was killed. In March 1992 James Gerard O'Malley was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. More info on the case is available at NI Courts website.

Belinda Pereira, aged 26, from London, was found on 29 December 1996, having been bludgeoned to death with a blunt instrument, in the flat where she was working in Mellors Court, Liffey Street, Dublin. She was an indoor sex worker working via advertising in the In Dublin magazine. She had only travelled to Dublin on Christmas Eve and was due to leave on New Year's Day. Murder unsolved.

Sinéad Kelly, aged 21, from Santry, Dublin was stabbed to death on 21 June 1998 as she worked on the banks of the Grand Canal near Baggot Street, Dublin. She was reported to be a drug-using outdoor sex worker. Murder unsolved.

Layla Brennan, aged 24, from Clondalkin, Dublin, reported to be a drug addict and outdoor sex worker, was strangled and then dumped in the Wicklow mountains on or around 2 March 1999. Philip Colgan was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in October 2000. (Layla's family have since questioned whether she was a sex worker, or whether that was a false assumption made, because she was a drug addict and picked up on the street by Colgan who asserted she was a sex worker.)

Qu Mei Na "Tina", aged 22, from China, was uncovered in the boot of a car at a garage on the Antrim Road, Belfast, in June 2004. Chang Hai Zhang was convicted of her false imprisonment and murder in May 2007 and given a life sentence. Another man, Pan Yang, was convicted as an accomplice. Tina was widely reported in the media to be a sex worker, and possibly a victim of sex trafficking and a Chinese organised crime gang. However whether she was a sex worker is questionable, as it seems that Chang Hai Zhang's account may be the only information to say she was. More info on the case is available at NI Courts website.

Lynette McKeown, aged 19, from Tallaght, Dublin, reported to be a drug user and outdoor sex worker. Her naked body was found in a field in Co Kildare in August 2004. Due to decomposition cause of death could not be determined.

Marie Greene, aged 37, from Athlone, Co. Westmeath, reported to be a sex worker. Her body was found in February 2011. Jimmy Devaney was charged with her murder. In July 2015 Devaney was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. In November 2015 he was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Last updated 17 December 2016