Saturday 24 August 2019

'This is me' - how the Kriegels drew strength from Ana

  

Patrick and Geraldine Kriegel, parents of Ana, at court. Photo: Collins Courts
Patrick and Geraldine Kriegel, parents of Ana, at court. Photo: Collins Courts
Eimear Cotter

Eimear Cotter

Ana Kriegel was "endlessly bullied", her mother Geraldine said. She was bullied about her height and about being adopted.

They were "awful, insulting things".

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'When the sharpest words wanna cut me down."

Boy B had a negative view of Ana. She was "outcasted" because she was "weird", he told Garda interviewers. Asked what he thought of her, Boy B said he "thought of her as a weirdo. Someone I shouldn't be around". In the months before her death, Ana had received some nasty comments online, her mother said, including one which told her to "go die".

There had also been problems the summer before secondary school, and Ana had received "awful, explicit messages" on her phone. Her father Patric said Ana told him she felt invisible.

"I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out."

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel

Ana was "beautiful, caring, kind, strong-willed, crazy, sometimes cheeky but always a loving princess", the celebrant at her funeral service told mourners. If we have learned anything in the last eight weeks, it's this - Ana was unapologetically herself. Ana was the light of her parents' lives. She was a gift they received when she was just two-and-a-half years old when they adopted her from Russia. Ana loved dancing, and spent hours in the family's front room "listening to music, dancing, practising her moves and singing".

"She was a happy child," her father said, adding that she was unique and "full of fun".

Ana had been excited about starting secondary school, but that soon changed and she got "stressed" which was not like her at all. Her parents recognised Ana was struggling to fit in, and as her emotional problems grew her parents organised for her to see a counsellor.

Her mother also monitored her social media activity, and checked her phone and iPad every night. However, Ana could not hate anyone even though some of the people concerned were bullying her.

"I am brave, I am bruised."

At the heart of every murder trial is a death. Someone has died in either violent or tragic circumstances. One can only imagine the pain which Patric and Geraldine Kriegel have endured. The details of Ana's death in former State Pathologist Marie Cassidy's evidence were hard to hear, not just for the Kriegels but for everyone. In his closing speech, prosecutor Brendan Grehan wondered if Ana's parents got any comfort from the fact their daughter "fought for her life".

"I am who I am meant to be. This is me."

The day before Ana disappeared, Geraldine had planned to help her to study. "No, mam, you must be exhausted. We can do it later," Ana told her. Ana sat on the sofa, watching 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' and eating popcorn. Later, there was a small family gathering. Pizzas were ordered and Ana went to buy a spice bag. The next morning, Geraldine woke Ana and kissed her goodbye, a routine Ana insisted upon.

The lyrics dotted throughout this piece are from 'This is Me' from 'The Greatest Showman', which was performed at Ana's funeral service.

This has been a particularly difficult murder trial for all involved - two teenagers on trial for another teen's murder. All of them mere children. Three families ruined. Patric and Geraldine were in court for every minute of the trial. Stoic and mostly silent, one wonders how they coped. Outside court, after the verdict, the couple spoke briefly. "Ana was our strength," Patric said.

"Ana was a dream come true for us and she always will be. She will stay in our hearts, forever loved and forever cherished," his wife Geraldine said.

The second part of 'This is Me' contains the lines: "I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me."

Ana wasn't scared to be who she was. If this trial teaches us anything, it's that we should be kind to each other.

Irish Independent

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