Thursday 22 August 2019

Fiona Ness: 'How can a child kill another child, is that possible?'


In memory: Flowers laid in front of Glenwood House, Lucan, where Ana Kriegel died. Picture: Mark Condren
In memory: Flowers laid in front of Glenwood House, Lucan, where Ana Kriegel died. Picture: Mark Condren
Fiona Ness

Fiona Ness

Did Ana Kriegel like colouring, my daughters want to know. We are drawing signs for a 'bug hotel' and the kitchen is a riot of markers, crayons, pencils and coloured paper. It is peaceful at our table. We are satisfied in our work and as we work, we talk.

The oldest has picked her moment in this comfortable space to ask a question about something she wants to know. I like that she is not afraid. She asks about Santa and sex and swearing, about so many topics I could never broach with my own parents, aged 10 - or even now in my 40s.

"What happened to the girl people are saying has been murdered?" I am unprepared.

I say that she went into a park with two boys she knew and was later killed. The boys were put on trial for murder and have been found guilty. They will go to jail.

Her little sister is deep in the sparkle of a spider's web, but all ears. "What was the girl's name?" Her name was Ana Kriegel.

That doesn't sound like an Irish name, my daughter says, as if defining Ana as somehow 'other' can put a safe distance between themselves and what happened to her. Ana was born in Russia, I say. "Oh." They both have friends adopted from that country. Ana again feels uncomfortably close.

"Where did she live?" Ana lived in Dublin.

"What age was she?" Ana was 14 years old. They look up sharply. This girl, not so much older than they, who possibly liked colouring, dancing and pop music, just like them. Who was safe at home one day, until she wasn't.

"Why did the boys kill her?" We don't know, because this has never happened in Ireland and is likely to never happen again. This means they are safe. They are not certain they can believe me. "How can a child kill another child? Is that even possible?" They are not certain of anything anymore.

How Ana died is a question they won't let go. And here I do what the child psychologists do not advise: I lie. I say I do not know how she died because I chose not to read about it. That compassion, not curiosity, are what's needed now. The facts of Ana's death, once learned, cannot be unlearned. It is not helpful to know.

What is helpful to know is that they are safe. That their safety is their mum and dad's responsibility and they can trust us to do our job. Which is what Ana's parents would have told Ana, even if sometimes it can't be the truth.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss