Sunday 17 November 2019

Ex-partner tells her tale of torture at hands of killer

DO OR DIE: Rita Harling's book chronicles how she managed to escape the clutches of Brian Kenny. Photo: Tony Gavin
DO OR DIE: Rita Harling's book chronicles how she managed to escape the clutches of Brian Kenny. Photo: Tony Gavin


The horror began with a chance encounter at a bus stop. Rita Harling had just finished work and was waiting for a bus when a van pulled up and she was asked if she wanted a lift.

The driver was Brian Kenny. He charmed Rita as he brought her home that hot summer's day. Within weeks they were seriously involved and moved in together in a run down and relatively isolated cottage at Kilshane Cross, north of Finglas, Co Dublin. They were happy.

But within a few short months, the little cottage became a prison for Rita and her daughter Robyn from a previous relationship.

Unknown to her, Kenny was a ruthless drug-dealing gangster. He was vicious and he was violent and even when she became pregnant with his son Conor she was subjected to horrific attacks from her increasingly unstable and psychotic partner who was becoming an ever more important figure in the Dublin criminal underworld and a gun for hire.

At one stage during a particularly violent attack a metal broom handle was broken on her back.

Rita has told her story in Do or Die. How I Escaped Life With a Murderer which chronicles how she managed to escape the clutches of Kenny.

Within months of escaping his sadistic and violent control, Kenny committed murder.

He was eventually tried and convicted along with Thomas Hinchon, of St Ronan's Close, Clondalkin, of murdering 25-year-old Dubliner Jonathan O'Reilly, from St Mark's Gardens, Clondalkin, on April 17, 2004.

Mr O'Reilly was shot outside Cloverhill Prison as he sat in a BMW car. A motorcycle drew up beside the car and a number of shots were fired through the windows and struck Mr O'Reilly, mortally wounding him.

Both Kenny and Hinchon were given mandatory life sentences.

Rita is glad to get her story out in the open even though she admitted that her own family and friends were shocked when they read her book. "I am sure his family are in shock as well. There are probably a few stories in the book that they were not aware of -- the violence against me by Brian," she says.

She adds that the book has received a positive response from people in Finglas.

"People have been stopping me in the streets and telling me their stories about friends who are in similar situations in terms of a violent partner. It is widespread. It touched a nerve with people.

"I have also been approached by some people who are in gay relationships where violence is a factor, which also surprised me in a way, though perhaps it shouldn't have," she told the Sunday Independent.

"I think some people were surprised by the horrific nature of my story, the brutality of it, but it's led some people to seek help with their own abusive relationships.

"I am now writing another book which will be fiction. It's a kind of gritty, real-life novel set in a college and based around the lives of students. There is violence involved and drugs. Sadly that is something I have been through. I understand that dark side of life," she said.

She says writing the book has been therapeutic. "It was hard as well and made me face up to things. I was reliving what had happened to me and that was tough."

She said her 21-year-old daughter Robyn had read the book and has been very supportive.

"She had seen me live through it, how I had to keep changing jobs and always worried and always hiding. That was four or five years of my life that was actually ruined and I had to take my life back."

Rita's son Conor is now 13 but was just three years old when she managed to flee from Kenny.

"People may wonder how I survived it really but you have to when you have children. It makes you stronger. I am not afraid of much anymore."

She has a new relationship with man called Tony who she has known for 20 years.

"I am very happy at the moment. I live a quiet life and I am writing which can be a lonely job. I find the painting very calming. My life has moved on."

Sunday Independent

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