Paul Williams: 'Question lingers why two boys from loving families turned into sick killers'
Ana Kriegel's death will be seared into collective memory of the nation
The sentencing of child killers Boy A and Boy B to life and 15 years respectively marks a new depressing precedent in Irish social and criminal justice history. They are the youngest defendants ever to be tried and convicted of murder in this State.
The inexplicable murder and violent sexual assault of an innocent, vulnerable child by two apparently normal, well-reared and socially adjusted 13-year-old boys is profoundly disturbing.
The murder of Ana Kriegel has become Ireland's equivalent of an infamous case 26 years ago in England when two 10-year-old boys, in an apparent random act of pure evil, abducted, tortured and then murdered a two-year-old called James Bulger.
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Like the Bulger case, Ana Kriegel's murder has been elevated to the top of the unofficial hierarchy of shocking, grievous crimes that will leave a lasting impression on our collective memory.
Ireland, like any other modern society, has produced its fair share of monstrous individuals who perpetrated particularly grotesque and depraved murders that stood out from the rest.
But even the most shocking crimes committed by adults are overshadowed in the pecking order of depravity when two children target and murder another child.
The murder of Ana by a 13-year-old boy with "peculiar interests" that included an unhealthy predilection for the most extreme forms of pornography is the stuff of nightmares for every parent.
Boy A was aided and abetted by Boy B, who lured the vulnerable child to her place of death, a disused farmhouse, on the pretence that Boy A wanted to talk with her.
The boys are from stable family backgrounds, and displayed no warning signs of the psychological dysfunction that lay within them.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott, who presided over the trial and sentencing, illustrated the difficulties he faced as the final arbiter of the boys' fate when he said there were few precedents to which he could refer.
It was very clear that the learned judge spent a considerable length of time ruminating on what he would do with the boys on one hand, while keeping sight of the heinous nature of their crime and the fact that an innocent child had lost her life in the most horrendous of circumstances.
Nothing in the large files of reports and assessments compiled by professionals found any evidence that either of the boys suffered from any kind of mental or developmental disorders.
Nor was there anything in their backgrounds, the judge conceded, to explain how two children could perpetrate such a sickening crime: the boys come from secure backgrounds and were loved and nurtured by law-abiding, conscientious parents.
It is impossible to imagine the sheer horror Ana must have experienced when she was suddenly set upon by Boy A as he jumped from the shadows of the darkened old house dressed in a terrifying zombie mask.
The evidence showed that the terrified child had literally fought for her life, leaving Boy A bloodied, bruised and limping - which he later tried to explain away by claiming that he had been mugged by two older boys while walking through the park.
In a civilised society, it is the men and women in the police who are charged with cleaning up the mess when humanity malfunctions horribly - and in this highly disturbing case gardaí conducted a textbook investigation.
From the first hours after Ana was first reported missing to gardaí by her parents, the various professional groups within the organisation did their jobs to perfection.
It was the professional instincts of gardaí that first spotted suspicious, momentary eye contact between Boys A and B before Ana's body was found.
The officers decided to separately take official statements from the boys and the inconsistencies began to mount up.
Once Ana's body had been located and the decision was taken to arrest them, gardaí based in Lucan station, under the command of Detective Inspector Mark O'Neill, knew they were facing into the most challenging enquiry imaginable.
The investigation was meticulously organised with the primary concern being that of ensuring that everything that happened was within the precepts of the Children Act 2001.
Gardaí used rental cars instead of squad cars when they went to search the homes of the two boys, so as not to attract unwanted attention.
And when the boys were charged gardaí sent discreet patrols to watch over their families in case an angry, misguided citizen decided to take the law into their own hands and exact revenge.
At the Garda stations in Finglas and Clondalkin where the boys were initially questioned, the stations were closed to other prisoners and special overnight sleeping arrangements were made so that the suspects and their parents were not required to sleep in a cell during the period of detention.
Throughout the process the detectives interviewing the boys rigorously stuck to the rules so that they could not be later accused in court of pressurising the children.
But the big unanswered question is why? Why did two ordinary kids turn into such sick killers?
Gardaí recovered over 12,000 images of extreme pornographic material from two phones owned by Boy A. Searches on the phone included "animal porn, child porn, horse porn and dark web".
They also found an online questionnaire the killer filled out which demonstrated his own disturbing self-image: "I am… strange; I think… differently; I feel… not much."
Superintendent John Gordon, who had overall responsibility for the case, yesterday raised an issue that everyone should consider very carefully.
He said that the case "raises many questions for many people about the care of young people in our society today and we would like to bear in mind at this time that the role of protection of our young people is not just a matter for An Garda Síochána but is for each and every one of us".