Thursday 21 November 2019

The harrowing ordeal for parents who adopted Ana Kriegel as a baby: 'Please keep her in your hearts somewhere'

Ana with her mother
Ana with her mother
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Holding hands tightly, Patric and Geraldine Kriegel exited the court complex for a final time, with Ms Kriegel giving a tiny, courageous smile.

They looked drained but, perhaps for the first time, showed signs of some small measure of peace.

There would be no questions, a garda had warned before the couple arrived to deliver their statement.

But what question could we have asked of this brave, heartbroken couple, knowing that their grief and suffering go far beyond words?

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In adopting Ana as a baby from Russia, they thought they were giving her the chance of a new life, a fresh start. They thought she was safe at last, in a quiet country village where, as Ms Kriegel said in her victim impact statement, the only sound in the morning was of doves cooing.

Ana's short life was a whirlwind of music and dancing, hopes and dreams, love and kindness.

"A lovely and loving child in a loving family," as Judge Paul McDermott said during sentencing.

Tragically, he noted that she had hoped for a wider circle of friends.

Patric and Geraldine Kriegel, parents of Ana. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Patric and Geraldine Kriegel, parents of Ana. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The family photos showed the myriad of happy occasions the Kriegels had shared - the numerous holidays, Ana's graduation from primary school and other moments which, though possibly smaller, are now no less cherished.

Ana's lovely face smiled through them all.

'Ana was robbed of the chance to complete her life or comprehend its ending'
'Ana was robbed of the chance to complete her life or comprehend its ending'

Now, here her parents stood, completely bereft, at the doors of the courthouse, knowing the horrors she had endured, with nobody to help her.

"Justice has been done for Ana," Mr Kriegel declared outside the court.

But we recognised that he was only speaking about justice within the strict confines of the law - since there could never be any real justice for what had happened to their family. There could be no end to their ordeal. No comfort or solace for their immeasurable loss. No closure.

The Kriegels' sentence is "life long" as the judge himself acknowledged.

Ana Kriegel’s body was found in Lucan, Co Dublin (Family Handout/RTE Prime Time)
Ana Kriegel’s body was found in Lucan, Co Dublin (Family Handout/RTE Prime Time)

At certain points during his sentence hearing, which stretched on for around an hour-and-a-half, Judge McDermott paused in his words.

It was clear that this had been a most difficult case over which to preside and that sentencing had involved no easy decisions.

Again, only five journalists were permitted in the courtroom, with everyone else watching on the big screen in the overflow room.

Brendan Grehan SC for the prosecution told the judge, as a formality, that there was another person in court. He was 14 and had discussed with his parents his wish to be present.

It was Ana's brother. The judge permitted him to stay.

Ana Kriegel was found after being reported missing (Family Handout/PA)
Ana Kriegel was found after being reported missing (Family Handout/PA)

And then he began.

The denial of Ana Kriegel's right to life was at the core of this process, he said.

"She should and will be remembered as a child, daughter, sister, friend."

He said Ana was a very healthy 14-year-old girl with her future before her and that her short life should not be defined by what had happened.

"It was greater than that," he said. "It was a life she was living with energy, fun, imagination, love, dancing and music.

"She was a lovely and loving child within a loving family," he said, noting that she had hoped for a wider circle of friends.

She had some difficulties along the way which she was facing, he added.

He spoke of how the joy and security of the Kriegel family had been shattered in the most cruel and painful circumstances.

Her mother had spoken of the deep love and wonderful joy Ana had brought to her, her father and her brother.

"I reread her evidence," said Judge McDermott, saying: "Nothing can be added to the plain, simple sad truth she told us.

"Ana's murder resulted in a sentence to them which is life long."

He spoke for some time about the two boys and there came the sound of subdued weeping in the background as he referred to Boy A's possible high risk for future violence.

As he spoke of a possible date in 2029 when Boy A's sentence could be reviewed, the judge suddenly stopped abruptly and drew his hand over his mouth, gazing down for a moment in silence.

We caught a glimpse of Boy B with his father's arm around his shoulders. He was in court to support his son, having not been present at the sentence hearing last week.

Boy A was seated in the row in front and was tightly gripping his mother's arm.

Afterwards, Geraldine Kriegel spoke of her thanks to all who had assisted them - the gardaí, liaison officer, legal team, judge and jury, neighbours, family and friends.

Then in gentle French tones, Patric Kriegel said: "Justice has been served for Ana.

"The judge has decided on the sentence and that duty relies on him alone.

"For our part we can only say that forever is not long enough.

"Please remember Ana and keep her in your hearts somewhere," he said.

Superintendent John Gordon said that gardaí suspected very early in the investigation that children may have killed Ana.

It became very clear in the very early stages of the investigation that they were looking at a case where children may have killed another child.

The arrest of two children was "unprecedented", he said, adding: "Please God may we never have another incident of this type in this jurisdiction or anywhere else for that matter."

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