23-year-old postal worker Brian Hennessy has been jailed for life for the murders of Sharon Whelan and her two young children in the early hours of last Christmas morning.

Sharon Whelan, her seven-year-old daughter Zara and two-year-old daughter Nadia were found dead in their burnt out home in Roscon in Co Kilkenny on Christmas morning.

Brian Hennessy of Windgap in Co Kilkenny had initially denied murder but this morning in front of the jury he pleaded guilty to the three counts.

Mr Justice Barry White imposed a life sentence on Hennessy for the murder of Sharon Whelan and two life sentences for the murders of Zara and Nadia.

The life sentences for the children are to run concurrently after he has served his sentence for their mother's death.

The Central Criminal Court was told Sharon Whelan lived with her two young children in an isolated farmhouse in Kilkenny.

Late on Christmas Eve, her father dropped in some presents for the children. They were all due to spend the next day at her parents' house.

However on 25 December 2008, the bodies of Sharon, Zara and Nadia were discovered after neighbours found the house engulfed by flames.

Post mortem examinations showed the two children died from the effects of smoke inhalation but Sharon Whelan had been strangled and had a number of other injuries.

Brian Hennessy, a local postal worker, was arrested after a DNA sample taken from him was found to match DNA on Sharon Whelan's body.

He initially denied killing Ms Whelan or her two children.

He claimed he went to her house in the early hours of Christmas morning, slept with her and then left.

The court heard Sharon Whelan had only a passing acquaintance with Hennessy and was not a friend of his.

In later interviews, Hennessy told gardaí he did not know why he had killed her.