Sunday 19 August 2018

Young teenagers could hold secret to who murdered Ana at derelict farm

Anastasia 'Ana' Kreigel Photo: Austin Crowe
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The derelict site where 14-year-old Anastasia Kriegel was violently murdered was once a working farm. There are remnants of two large barns with rounded roofs. Three crumbling stone buildings with no doors or windows face onto the dusty yard and a more recently built block shed.

The site is on the Clonee Road in Lucan, west Dublin, and sprays of cow parsley dot the hedges. Beside it is a field with an old gate over which horses hang their heads to be stroked by people passing by. Often, those passing by are strolling toward the 200 acres of woodland and meadow at St Catherine's Park which is less than a kilometre away.

Yards away from the site, across the road and up a bit, is a new housing estate of smart homes with generous driveways and gardens to the back.

Siobhan Orsi, who lives here with her husband and children, said she often ambles down to the gateway with her children to pet the horses. "This place is so peaceful," said a shocked Mrs Orsi. "I often think of the troubles going on elsewhere. It is always so calm here. This place would lift your spirits."

Now a pall hangs over the community. Last Thursday at 1pm, gardai discovered the body of Anastasia Kriegel - known as Ana - at the derelict site, naked and badly beaten. She had been reported missing three days earlier by her desperately worried parents who told gardai that it was totally out of character for her not to contact them.

Read More: Boy (13) tells gardai of Ana's last hours

This weekend, Garda cars line the roadside and the site has been cordoned off as forensic investigators comb it for any remaining clues that will help solve the brutal murder of a striking child who loved dancing and swimming.

Ana was tall and beautiful. She was one of two children of Geraldine and Patric Kriegel, who adopted her from Russia when she was aged two. She was in first year at Confey College in Leixlip, and her summer holidays stretched out before her.

Catherine Murphy, the Social Democrat TD who is a close friend of the Kriegels and has known Ana "since she was a tot", described her as a lively girl with a tight-knit group of friends who loved dogs. "She'd have you pestered about what type of dog was this or that," she said.

She was in a dance troupe, Dance LA, which described her as a "talented young student who was with us for many years. Her passing is as tragic as it is shocking".

Last Monday evening, Ana left her home in Leixlip to join friends in St Catherine's Park at about 5pm. Before she left, she reportedly promised her father that she wouldn't be long, she would be home soon.

Ms Murphy told the media last week that her parents became worried very quickly when she did not return.

"They didn't waste any time when she didn't turn up at home. Not communicating with her family was out of character entirely," she said. "They went to the guards at half past eight. This was just not like her."

Gardai began searching for Ana immediately. Her family - intensely private people - issued an appeal. Images of Ana in the black top she was wearing when she disappeared were circulated on social media by a network of friends and local people.

Her disappearance was so out of character that gardai feared the worst. Civil Defence and water units were involved in the search of the Liffey and the Royal Canal. When Ana's body was discovered on Thursday afternoon in a targeted search, gardai launched their investigation.

An unusual feature of this inquiry is that the people whom detectives most want to speak to are teenagers. According to sources, a huge amount of information has been forthcoming to gardai.

Within 24 hours of Ana's body being found, gardai had traced two young teenage boys who were with her in St Catherine's Park.

One of them, a 13-year-old, is believed to have given an account to gardai that he walked with Ana from the park to the derelict farm, according to sources. He said he last saw her there. But when he went to leave, he was jumped on by two men and assaulted. Sources said he suffered injuries including a cut lip as a result of the attack. Gardai are now investigating the boy's account and attempting to trace the men, sources added.

But what happened to Ana? Gardai believe that she was murdered by someone she knew.

Last Friday, in bright sunshine and under skies filled with birdsong, forensic investigators removed bits of masonry and sticks spattered with blood from the derelict site, possible weapons that were used to kill her.

The state pathologist, Marie Cassidy, conducted a preliminary post-mortem which established that Ana died of blunt force trauma. Detectives will be going through Ana's mobile phone and social media accounts for further clues.

On Friday morning, people added to the floral tributes to Ana at the entrance to the derelict site, as gardai looked on. A father accompanied his daughter, who laid a small posy there, his face ashen with shock. His daughter was at the same school as Ana. He shook his head in stunned disbelief.

The brutality of the crime has "devastated" people in the community, but that is nothing to the pain endured by Ana's family.

Superintendent John Gordon, who is heading the investigation, told reporters that her parents were utterly distressed.

Catherine Murphy became emotional herself when she spoke of what they must be going through in an interview on RTE. "You'd be shocked if this was any child. I suppose when you know the family it's just a little bit different," she said.

"Look, you just want to be with the family. You can do nothing in these situations. We all felt helpless. What could you possibly do? You can do nothing but be there for your friends. I would most definitely echo the appeal of helping the guards with any information you may have."

Gardai want to hear from anyone who was on the Clonee Road or in St Catherine's Park from 5pm on Monday.

Sunday Independent

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