Friday 14 December 2018

What it feels like to... have a daughter killed by her partner

In October 2007, 27-year-old Amanda (Mandy) Jenkins was murdered by her boyfriend, Stephen Carney. A decade on, her mother Anne Jenkins is still living with the pain of losing her only child

'Always together': Anne Jenkins had a very close relationship with daughter Amanda
'Always together': Anne Jenkins had a very close relationship with daughter Amanda

If God had taken Mandy after some kind of sickness or even an accident crossing the road, then I might have been able to deal with it differently. But for someone else to play God and take your child from you, that has to be the hardest thing.

Mandy got into a relationship with Stephen Carney in 2003. She'd met him through his brother who she used to pal around with and, at the time, he was just out of prison. But Mandy was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about that. She always saw the good in people.

After a few months, I could see a change in his attitude. He was possessive, always phoning her wanting to know "where are you?", "who are you with?". Then he hit Mandy, which was the last straw for me, but Mandy took him back.

I have a lot of 'ifs' that play on my mind - if I'd done this or if I'd said that or even if I'd taught her a bit of self defence. But you're supposed to be able to trust your child's partner with your daughter's life. He's not supposed to be the one that takes it. I worried that if I tried to keep her away from him then I'd just push her towards him.

He was very controlling. After a while, Mandy had no contact with her friends, even her relationship with her best friend had drifted. The only person he couldn't keep away was me.

I remember Mandy asking me to come up to the apartment because she said "Stephen thinks you're not talking to him". I said, "Well, I'm not really, but I'll come up for a few minutes". When I left, Mandy was walking me to the gate but before we even got there, he was texting her, saying, "Where are you?". I told her "Turn that phone off, sure you're only after leaving the apartment, this is ridiculous".

Behind bars: Stephen Carney who murdered Amanda
Behind bars: Stephen Carney who murdered Amanda

He was very manipulative and very clever never to be abusive to her in front of me. Even when he'd sometimes try and cut her down, I'd jump in and say, "Stephen, don't talk to my daughter like that. Have respect". He couldn't get rid of me and I could stand up to him. I often feel if only I'd been there that night…

I'd been with Mandy all day on the Wednesday and Thursday that week and rang her at about 8.10pm that evening when she was just getting in from work. All that week, she'd been saying, "Mam, I'm getting away from him, I'm getting away from him". We chatted for a while on the phone, then I said, "Love you, bye, bye" and that was it.

Early on the Saturday morning I got a phone call from Stephen saying that Mandy was sick and in bed. I rang her phone but it was switched off, then I rang again later on and it was still switched off, so I rang him back again. I said, "Mandy's phone is still off" and he said, "Yeah, she's still asleep". He said, "Don't be worrying, I'll look after her" and I said, "You make sure you do". I called again on the Sunday morning and the phone was still off so I thought I'd leave it until lunch and try again.

Then I heard on the radio that a 27-year-old girl had been found strangled in James's Street and I just knew. The police came to my door soon afterwards to confirm it. Stephen had handed himself in. CCTV footage showed he'd come home around half an hour after I'd talked to Mandy on the phone and he'd killed her on the Friday night. The whole weekend he'd been out on the rip and left her there on the bedroom floor.

When we got Mandy's body back, we weren't allowed to touch her. Because he'd left her there for 36 hours, if we'd touched her, her skin would have come away. I looked in the coffin and I could see the fear and panic in her face. It doesn't get easier. This is just something I have to live with. I try to think of happy memories to try and cheer myself up, but it's always what happened that night that creeps in.

Mandy and I were always together - people would have said we were more like sisters than mother and daughter. When she was little, she was very into Irish dancing and variety shows.

Then when she got older, it was always the two of us going out or having friends round for dinner. I laughed to myself as I did a wash the other day because Mandy never used to like me putting a wash on - there was always some drama over the whites! It was just a little thing but I looked at her photo and smiled.

I hate this time of year because this was always our time going shopping and buying presents. She loved Christmas, loved getting the decorations up… but I haven't put decorations up since. Mandy loved kids and talked about having kids and making me a granny. She would have given up her Saturday night to babysit for anyone. That future was taken from her.

The garda liaison officer has said to me that if I ever want to go and ask Stephen why or any questions about what happened, then they could help with that. But I wouldn't be up to it. I couldn't look him in the face and I don't believe he would tell the truth anyway. I've had a lot of counselling, but I still carry a lot of anger towards him. I'll never forgive him. He's tried twice to go for parole and that's a hard thing to have hanging over me. I feel that if he was to get out, he would still pose danger to another woman. After all, he was supposed to have been 'rehabilitated' after the last time he was locked up and look what happened. There's no excuse for what he did. All he had to do was walk away.

If I could hope for anyone to take something away from what happened to Mandy, it's to walk away. Get out of the relationship. Once you see the paranoia and possessiveness, get out. They don't have to hit you or lay a hand on you. Mandy was on the verge of walking away, but she didn't get that chance.

Women's Aid's 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women runs until December 10. See WomensAid.ie/16days.

In conversation with Chrissie Russell

Irish Independent

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