Thursday 14 November 2019

Catherine Murphy, TD and Kriegel family friend: 'We must remember Ana as the vibrant, loving child that she was'

Two teenage boys were sentenced to life and 15 years respectively last week for the brutal and inexplicable murder of Ana Kriegel. Then aged 13, the boys lured 14-year-old Ana to an abandoned house, where one sexually assaulted and murdered her and the other watched. Passing sentence following a harrowing trial, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said Ana's short life should not be defined by the crimes committed against her. In an interview with Maeve Sheehan, Catherine Murphy, a close friend of the Kriegel family and Social Democrats TD for Kildare, remembers Ana as she was, a strong, captivating child certain to leave her mark on the world had she been allowed to live her life

From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission
From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission

Catherine Murphy

'Very often when somebody adopts a child, their personalities might not be so closely matched with the parents. Ana and Geraldine and Patric were just so right for each other.

They got such fun and joy from each other. Geraldine said in their victim impact statement that Ana was the love of their lives and that's absolutely what she was. She completed them.

I remember when they adopted Ana. One of our friends was the 'privileged' one who was going to go collect them from the airport. We were all very excited for them because Ana was really going to change their lives. We used to socialise with Geraldine and Patric every week up to that point. But their whole social life changed once she arrived. Everything was focused around Ana, the going out stopped. They were very dedicated to her and so thrilled to get her.

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She was an energetic girl. We went on holidays with the family on a number of occasions. Ana was a really strong swimmer, very athletic. When she would dive underwater, you'd wonder if she was ever going to come back up.

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel

She loved dogs. She would constantly ask "what breed is this dog, what breed is that dog?" Even after she died, people would say they knew her because she'd stopped to ask them about their dogs.

Too often, people are concerned about being part of a crowd. Not Ana. Ana was an individual. She was a leader rather than a follower of fashion. She created her own identity and that identity was changing all the time.

You can see in the early photographs that she is blonde, and later she had gone 'Goth'. During the summer holidays, she was allowed to have that little bit of pink or purple in her hair.

She loved music and dancing.

From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission
From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission

Her dance class, Dance LA, staged a tribute show for Ana just last week. It was a really good show. But it was also, in many ways, a very sad show because you felt that she should have been on stage instead of having people pay tribute to her. I think people felt that on the night, although everyone was appreciative of the efforts the girls went to. The girls that Ana had so many happy times with are clearly grieving for her. This idea of her not having friends, in that context, is not entirely true.

Bullying is something we have all got to pay much greater attention to. When someone sees bullying happening, they stand away from the person being bullied. This further isolates the bullied person and it makes it more difficult for them to make friends.

Ana did really well in primary school, and she had great support. But she had serious difficulties when she went into first year in secondary school.

Ana had a tumour removed from behind her ear when she was about eight or nine and she was deaf in that ear but her hearing in the other ear was fine. In primary school, she got support at that time to make sure that her needs were met in terms of hearing in the classroom. She took that in her stride.

Ana with her mother
Ana with her mother

As a consequence, she liked to play her music loud at home. It was just as well their house was a detached house because there certainly could have been complaints with the neighbours otherwise.

Ana stood out, there is no doubt about it. She was taller than most of her contemporaries and she was strikingly attractive.

From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission
From beaming princess to shy teen - Ana's life in pictures. Photos published with family permission

You couldn't not notice her. And eventually that, and her own individuality, would have marked her out as being different from the crowd.

Sometimes being different from the crowd brings consequences and Ana suffered the most appalling consequences.

Ana Kriegel
Ana Kriegel

I will remember Ana as a smiling, happy girl who had been presented with a huge number of challenges in the last year of her life because of bullying.

Can a school do more to help in this situation? In a word, yes. Sometimes in very large schools, you question whether individuals get lost in that environment or if they are well-served by it.

I think there is a piece of work to be done with schools, social media platforms and with parents, around being kind to each other. How we build that culture of kindness is important.

Ana is a great loss, and not only to her family. She certainly would have made her mark on the world. She has younger siblings in Siberia who were looking forward to meeting their big sister but that will never happen now.

Ana's loss has impacted on the community. People have been incredibly supportive and have shown restraint during the trial.

But there is a deep sadness that manifests in people wanting to do something positive for Ana; to learn from her death in order to create a better environment; and, of course, to remember Ana as the vibrant, loving child that she was."

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