Woman jailed for modern-day Cinderella abuse of stepchild over 11 years

ireland
Following the sentencing, victim Cora Desmond urged other victims of child abuse to come forward
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Olivia Kelleher

A woman who treated her stepchild like a modern day Cinderella even taunting her with the name "Cora Ella" whilst subjecting her to beatings with pokers and force-feeding her vinegar, mustard, salt and chilli powder has been jailed for two years.

Part time cleaner Bridget Kenneally (49) of 19, Duncoran, Youghal, Co Cork pleaded guilty to one count of assault of Cora Desmond at Kenny's Lane Youghal, Co Cork on a date between 1st October and 31st October 2009. She was sentenced on a background of abusing Ms Desmond for over 10 years.

Ms Desmond, now 21, gave a powerful victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing in Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

She detailed the abuse which occurred at the hands of Ms Kenneally from when she was 6 to the age of sixteen.

She told Judge Sean O'Donnabhain that when she was five her father, who had full custody of her, entered in to a relationship with Ms Kenneally.

Horrific abuse

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Initially Kenneally seemed "nice and caring" but this honeymoon period didn't last long.

"About six months in to the 11-year relationship the horrific abuse began with a few slaps and punches but then gradually got worse. Throughout the years it became clear to me that I was nothing but a punching bag to Bridget.

"Her children could go hang out with friends of their choosing. My sister and myself were refused daily of the same freedom. Instead, we were confined to her residence to clean up after her and her children.

"Bridget gave me the name Cora Ella and told me I was just like Cinderella because I was the one who was not wanted or loved. "

Double life

Ms Desmond said she lived a double life for years feeling trapped at home waiting for the next beating or punishment. In school, she said she was “happy, free and bubbly.” However, she eventually lost her confidence.

"For 11 years she told me no one would believe me if I spoke out regarding the vile, sadistic, physical and mental torture she subjected me to.

I was made to lie about my injuries and tell people I was just a clumsy child. One of the many lies I had to tell was how I broke my thumb. The real truth is she broke it. She twisted my hand so much that it actually snapped the bone.

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But that wasn't the worst of it. On one of the occasions I ended up in hospital I received a pretty bad beating to my head causing swelling to the right side of my head and face. She made me tell doctors that I hit my hit in Funderland which I attended two weeks prior."

The supermarket worker, who says she is extremely grateful to gardai for the sensitivity shown to her in the lead up to the case, said that her childhood involved mental and physical torture.

Daily punishments

"One of the recurring daily punishments -- she would feed me excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar. Since my departure from her care I have long-lasting  negative reactions to certain smells and tastes. It brings back memories and flashbacks of the torture she put me through.

"There were constant verbal threats that she would kill me if I ever told anyone of the abuse I endured."

There were constant verbal threats that she would kill me if I ever told anyone of the abuse I endured

Ms Desmond said that because of the "heinous crime of cruelty" inflicted on her she suffers from depression and is afraid to go anywhere on her own.

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"You (Bridget) robbed me of my carefree childhood that every child is entitled to. I now understand that none of it was my fault and I didn't deserve any of it though that is what she made me believe."

Beatings and 50 bruises

Meanwhile, Sgt Mark Ward said that during the abuse Cora Desmond was regularly beaten with pokers, sticks of the vacuum cleaner, belts and spatulas. Cora was hospitalised for a week in 2008 arising out of her injuries.

He said that Ms Kenneally called Cora a variation of Cinderella and treated her and her sister differently from her biological children.

Cora was afraid to reveal the abuse as Bridget Kenneally told her she would be split from her sibling. Concerns were raised over the years by amongst others a principal of a national school she attended. On one occasion a GP found 50 bruises on her person.

Ms Kenneally was interviewed informally in 2016 and was arrested in 2017 after a complaint had been made against her. She made no admissions to gardaí, but eventually entered a guilty plea in the case.

Guilty plea

Sgt Ward said that the guilty plea was of assistance to the court given that a trial would have involved 14 witnesses.

Barrister Patrick O'Riordan, who was representing Ms Kenneally, said that his client had entered a guilty plea and had paid €5,000 in compensation. He said she was a woman without previous convictions.

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The junior counsel told the court that Kenneally had six children in her care at the time of the offences and was experiencing difficulty coping.

He said his client had "a protracted pyschiatric history" and wanted to apologise to the victim in the case.

Apology

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain asked the victim if she felt the apology was genuine. She said she didn't believe that Kenneally was remorseful for her actions.

Having read the psychologists reports Judge O'Donnabhain said Kenneally seemed to blame everyone but herself for her actions.

Judge O'Donnabhain said having taken the entirety of the abuse in to consideration a custodial sentence was warranted.

"This was a case of continued brutality. This was systemic abuse and cruelty. She (Cora) was deprived of a childhood because of the pain and misery she was subjected to."

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Judge O'Donnabhain jailed Kenneally for two years saying that he was horrified by the tale of hospitalisation and force-feeding of the victim.

Following the sentencing Cora Desmond urged other victims of child abuse to come forward.

"I thought I was wasting my time and she would get away with what she done to me but thankfully I got some sort of justice. It is something. I would say to people to speak up. Don't be afraid to tell someone. Tell someone and get out of the situation sooner rather than later. I was six when it started and 16 when it finished.

"I was skinny and small and the easiest target. It is over. I am out of it and living my life."

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