Ana Kriégel murder: What it taught us about bullying, porn and boys

THE ANA KRIÉGEL MURDER TRIAL SHOWED HOW PERVASIVE AND ACCESSIBLE ONLINE BULLYING AND VIOLENT PORNOGRAPHY HAVE BECOME IN IRELAND. IN A MAJOR REPORT, JENNIFER O’CONNELL EXPLORES THESE GROWING DANGERS AND HOW TO COMBAT THEM

The trial for the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriégel came as a sudden, painful jolt out of our complacency. Sentencing two boys this week for her murder in an abandoned house in Lucan, on the western edge of Co Dublin, in May 2018, and one for her aggravated sexual assault, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said there was little legal precedent for determining sentencing in a case like this. There was even less to prepare us as a society for the spectre of children murdering and violently sexually assaulting other children.

Some facts, at least, have been established. We know how Ana Kriégel died at the hands of two 13-year-olds; we know it in a level of detail that will probably never be forgotten by anyone who read or heard the evidence. We have glimpsed, though will never fully grasp, her parents’ devastation and incomprehension at the loss of their “wild and wonderful, electric, so full of fun, madness and laughter” girl, their “ephemeral angel”. Forever, said her father, Patric, after the sentencing, “is not long enough”.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott said there was in the secure and caring family backgrounds or previous histories of Boy A and Boy B to suggest that they might commit their crimes

The question that may never be answered is why. What caused the child identified in court as Boy A – who liked drawing and model-making, and was described by his grandfather as a much-loved, loving and caring child – to savagely beat, sexually assault and murder, in the most terrifying and violent way imaginable, another child?

How did Boy B – a highly intelligent, articulate 13-year-old, with a liking for Ribena, Pokémon cards and the YouTuber PewDiePie – become someone capable of conspiring to lure another child to her death in a derelict house, witnessing the unspeakably brutal attack on her, and then lying to gardaí about it over and over?

This week Mr Justice Paul McDermott said there was nothing in any of the psychiatric reports that had been prepared for the court that would help to answer that question. There was nothing in their secure and caring family backgrounds or previous histories to suggest that they might commit these crimes.

Boy A had no evidence of a mental or developmental disorder. Nothing to suggest a pattern of high-risk behaviour. No evidence of antisocial behaviour. No difficulty with impulsivity. On the contrary, he had shown he could follow rules and laws. No history of anger-management issues or callous behaviour.

The judge noted that an assessment of Boy A’s “psychosexual development was compromised by his response style”. When asked about the sexual attack on Ana, which he still claims was consensual, he noted visual details but no verbal or emotional details, and no explanation of his motivation. “He couldn’t explain his behaviour.”

Although it was not mentioned in sentencing, perhaps the only thing that was out of the ordinary was the extent of his appetite for extreme and violent pornography.

Similarly, Boy B “did not and does not suffer from a mental disorder”. No memory deficit. No psychotic or depressive disorder. No panic-attack disorder, although he had suffered on two occasions in custody and during the trial. Both boys came from stable, loving, hard-working family environments. Both were cocooned by their families as they were sentenced on Tuesday.

Tough, frightening questions

Buried in that “why” are other tough, frightening questions for society. How can we keep our children safe in a world where so much of their lives is hidden behind the screen of the devices they carry around with them?

How does a child of 13 come to accumulate thousands of images of pornography on his devices without anyone noticing?

Is pornography now just another unavoidable hurdle to be navigated in adolescence?

And if so, what is the impact of exposure to explicit and sometimes violent images on a developing mind?

Is an interest in online gore an indication of something darker manifesting in a child’s psyche?

There are other questions left after Boy A and Boy B were sent back to Oberstown Children Detention Campus, in north Co Dublin, to wait out the remainder of their teens, and significant chunks of their 20s, in detention.

How do we protect our children from bullying, when it is often happening in the unfamiliar, disconnected online space that is the ever-evolving list of apps frequented by teenagers?

How do we teach them how to behave in this world?

How do we ensure they don’t become bullies – or worse – themselves?

Online lives

The evidence that emerged during the trial painted a deeply troubling picture of the private online lives of some Irish children.

At 14, Ana Kriégel was an innocent, kind-hearted, “full of fun” child, who was eager to expand her social circle. Her mother, Geraldine, said she “volunteered for everything”. She wasn’t academically inclined – her adoption from Russia meant she was late to acquire language skills, and she suffered from hearing and short-term memory problems – but she excelled in other areas, such as swimming and dancing. She loved make-up and movie nights with her mother.

As a prolific social-media user – she had accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Houseparty, an app that allows friends and friends of friends to communicate with each other via live video and texts – Ana was far from unusual for her age.

The platforms that allowed Ana so much fun and self-expression were also where she was bullied relentlessly by children of her own age, and by much older teenagers

But the platforms that allowed her so much fun and self-expression were also where she was bullied relentlessly by children of her own age, and by much older teenagers. She had her own YouTube channel, on which she posted live streams and videos of her dancing and her beauty routines. On it, her profile read: “I love to sing, dance, swim, family & friends. If your a hater then please leave my account. Stay strong.” It ended with a heart emoji.

Although the videos attracted some warm comments from her 100 subscribers and others, they also attracted jibes and threats. “Go die,” one viewer posted.

Her parents were careful and attentive in their efforts to monitor her online activities. After it was discovered that Ana had set up fake social-media accounts that she used to create abusive messages to herself, Geraldine Kriégel asked for all of her passwords and made sure to check the phone every night, a strategy frequently recommended by experts, and dutifully implemented by many parents.

But is it enough to keep them safe in an online space that’s evolving so fast even the most tech-aware parents struggle to keep up?

“In lots of cases the parents are aware in some sense of what their children are doing online but aren’t familiar with the content or workings of the actual app or game. So, for instance, a parent might allow their child to use Snapchat but have no idea what the kids are talking about when they talk about their ‘snap streak’, and aren’t aware of the specific risks or safeguards,” says Cliona Curley of CyberSafe Ireland.

The risk is that parents feel overwhelmed by the challenge of navigating this unfamiliar space, and end up backing away altogether. “I think perhaps sometimes people throw their hands up in the air, and feel that it’s too difficult a problem to manage,” says Ian Power, chief executive of Spunout.ie.

Ian Power

“I do think there’s a certain wilful ignorance on the part of some parents. They are happy to have the devices to distract children, and equally happy to complain about how much time children spend on the devices, but unsure or unwilling to have the tough conversations that need to be had.”

Broadly, parents should aim to help their children to move towards what Power calls “graduating independence over time. For early teens and preteens, there really should be no such thing as unregulated access to any sort of content.”

Online pornography

The details that emerged about the online life of one of boys convicted of the murder were infinitely more troubling. Boy A had 12,500 images on two devices that gardaí found in his bedroom, the “vast majority of which were of a pornographic nature”.

They weren’t admitted as evidence in court, because the judge felt their prejudicial value outweighed their probative value, but it would come out afterwards. One image portrayed a man in a balaclava looking at a seminaked woman; another featured a man choking a woman as a second man looked on.

The same boy had looked up “animal porn”, “horse porn”, “child porn”. There was also a search for “dead boy prank in abandoned haunted school”. The picture it painted of the private online life of a 13-year-old child was alarming.

Prof Mary Aiken. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Prof Mary Aiken. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“Profoundly disturbing details were reported during the trial; for example, the thousands of images of pornography found on the phone of one of the boys, some of which depicted extreme sexual violence,” says Dr Mary Aiken, a cyberpsychologist. “Exposure to sexually explicit content is associated with distorted attitudes to sex, early sexualisation and the perception of women as sex objects.”

Experts say an interest in pornography in itself is not necessarily an indication of an underlying problem. Children are naturally curious about sex, “so it is inevitable that many will view online pornography as a good option to learn about what it involves,” says Curley.

Realistically, there is “a fair chance that our children will access porn, either of their own volition, or accidentally”, she says.

In consent workshops for teenage boys hosted with Richie Sadlier by Elaine Byrnes, a doctoral researcher in psychology at NUI Galway, the issue of pornography is addressed without judgment. In every session somebody will say, ‘How else are we supposed to know how to do it, other than by looking at porn?’ says Byrnes.

A study commissioned by the British NSPCC and the Children’s Commissioner in 2016 found that 56 per cent of 11- to 16 year-old boys said they had viewed pornography online. Almost all – 94 per cent – of the children who had seen it had done so by the age of 14. The same study found that a much higher percentage of boys than girls had deliberately gone looking for it.

For Curley, “a hugely concerning finding from this report was that, of the boys aged 11 to 16 who had viewed online pornography, over half felt that it was realistic. It’s very worrying to think of what messaging kids are getting around consent, boundaries and expectations from online pornography.”

Children seeking out porn out of curiosity or boredom may not be a cause for panic. But there is a growing consensus that overexposure to it, particularly violent pornography, can have serious long-term effects.

A child accessing the volume or type of pornography discovered on Boy A’s devices is not the norm, suggests Power. “We work with 16- to 25-year-olds, and what we hear from them is that they were very curious about porn, and that they would have accessed it much earlier than they really should.”

But that volume of material “would be unusual and would suggest problematic issues going on for that young person. We shouldn’t throw our hands up in the air and say every child is going to at some point see porn and there’s nothing we can do about it. I do think there is something we can do about it, even if that’s just applying context to it.”

Children who are exposed to pornography may become desensitised to abusive and unhealthy behaviour. We need to counter any poor or distorted messaging that they may get

Children who are exposed to pornography may “become desensitised to abusive and unhealthy behaviour. We need to counter any poor or distorted messaging that they may get, with proper sex education in school, and ongoing conversations with parents.

“We also need to restrict access as much as possible through technical safeguards, but most important are the discussions around boundaries, healthy relationships and consent,” says Curley.

A longitudinal study in the journal Aggressive Behaviour finds that frequent use of pornography is linked with sexual aggression, in the sense that those who reported sexually aggressive tendencies were also more likely to watch a lot of porn. “Porn use is associated with sexual aggression over time only when people report a predisposition to aggression. In isolation, porn use does not lead to sexual aggression,” Kate Dawson, a researcher at the school of psychology at NUI Galway, pointed out recently.

Curley cautions against a “rush to conclude direct causality between the presence of violent pornography on the devices of the offenders and the offences that they committed”.

But what is clear is that “many children are accessing pornography, and sometimes very extreme pornography, from an early age. These cases are posing enormous questions for us as a society.”

Child offenders

For evidence of the link between exposure to pornography and distorted attitudes to sex and violence, observers have not had to look far beyond the Central Criminal Court in recent months.

Mr Justice Michael White was not referring to Boy A and Boy B when he warned that he was concerned about the number of cases of young children committing serious offences, as a result of exposure to pornography on smartphones.

He made his comments while dealing with a case involving a boy who sexually exploited his two younger cousins. The boy’s lawyer told the Central Criminal Court that his client, now aged 17, had access to pornography from a very young age, and had told gardaí that he had become obsessed with sex. The court heard that he was 10, and his cousin nine, when he began to engage in nonpenetrative sexual contact with her, behaviour that continued for five years.

Just this week, the day before Boy A and Boy B were sentenced, Mr Justice White handed down another sentence to a child for an offence of unimaginable violence. The now 17-year-old was sentenced to 11 years after he pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Stephanie Ng when he was 15.

This case was particularly complex: the court heard that the boy had been suffering from serious mental illness, hallucinations and desires to kill or harm others in the months before the attack, in December 2017.

But it was also a feature of the evidence that the boy had been watching extreme pornography before the offence, and that he had been exposed to adult content since the age of 11 or 12. Although he said he had watched scenes featuring “force”, he hadn’t seen anything that he characterised as “violent – never blood or choking”.

In yet another case that came before Mr Justice White, in April, a teenager who raped and sexually abused his eight-year-old half-sister told gardaí he had been copying what he saw on a pornographic website.

Earlier this week, a report by Conor Gallagher in this newspaper noted that the Garda youth diversion programme dealt with 400 child sex offenders in 2017, up from 334 the previous year, including a 37 per cent increase in sexual-assault incidents. The number of child-pornography cases rose by 181 per cent – the vast majority featuring the sharing of explicit images between minors consensually, as a prank or a type of bullying.

When we hand our 11- or 12-year-olds a device offering unlimited access to all known information and all the darkest impulses of humanity, we are perhaps submitting them to the greatest social experiment on young people in history

Concerns about children accessing large volumes of extreme and violent pornography on their phones are not just another version of the moral panic over “video nasties” of the 1970s. When we hand our children at the age of 11 or 12 a device offering unlimited access to all of the information in the world and all of the darkest impulses of humanity, we are submitting them to what some argue is the single greatest social experiment on young people in history. And there is no way yet to know what the consequences will be.

The impact of children accessing extreme content online is “not just an individual harm: it’s harm to a family, it’s harm to a community, it’s a harm to society as a whole,” says the barrister Pauline Walley.

“We, as criminal-law practitioners, are seeing an increase in juvenile offenders coming before the courts on serious charges for child rape, threats to kill and assault, where this type of online exposure to extreme pornography, sexual violence and torture sites – typically through smartphone use – is often cited by the young offender as the catalyst or influencer for the offending behaviour.

“This is not some kind of abstract academic view. If a child is watching pornography at eight or nine years of age on his smartphone, it is obvious that this young man is going to have a very distorted view of sexuality, and what is acceptable with regard to sexual relations.”

Online gore: warning or cause?

Curiosity about online gore is not unheard of among teenagers, but, again, Boy A’s interest seems to have gone further than that of the average child. On his phone, gardaí found a screenshot of a list of YouTube videos, including “The 15 most gruesome torture methods in history” and “Horror films that will blow everything away”.

He had also searched for a viral short story called Jeff the Killer, about a teenager who is bullied and goes on to kill his family. It is part of the “creepypasta” genre – the name given to brief, user-generated horror or revenge fantasies stories.

Is an interest in online gore a warning sign for violent behaviour? Are impressionable minds capable of being desensitised to violence through exposure to it?

The creepypasta genre, which seems to have caught Boy A’s attention, has been the subject of much speculation in this regard in the United States. It emerged from the darker recesses of online adolescent culture to public consciousness in 2014, when two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls stabbed their friend 19 times “to honour Slender Man”, a creepypasta character.

Common sense would suggest that overexposure to games and video with excessive amounts of violence, sexual violence, misogyny and racism is not a good thing

Having calmly advised their friend to keep still to prevent blood loss, they proceeded to hike off into the woods to try and “find Slender Man”. In the aftermath of the stabbing – which the victim survived – a raft of headlines warned about the links between real-life violence and online gore.

In reality, many children watch things their parents would not approve of on occasion, and it’s rare for ordinary, healthy adolescents to be incited to violence merely by exposure to it online. But there are fears among some experts that it could prove a catalyst.

Multiple studies have been carried out on the link between exposure to violent content – in video games or online – and the results are “often conflicting, so it’s difficult to tell causation versus correlation”, says Power.

However, he adds, “common sense would suggest that overexposure to games and video with excessive amounts of violence, sexual violence, misogyny and racism is not a good thing, particularly when it’s left unmoderated by context that parents can provide”.

The truth is that we just don’t know precisely what the long-term repercussions of childhood exposure to online harm might be.

“What is that child going to grow up and be like? What are the mental-health issues going to be? What will the role of Tusla be? What is the likelihood the child will reoffend later in life? They’re all big societal questions and we need to shake ourselves out of our apathy,” says Walley.

And those repercussions are not just being felt in later life. They’re increasingly manifesting in childhood, and often very proximate to the toxic online exposure. “The increasing volume of serious criminal cases – rape, harassment and assault or attempted murder – in the Central Criminal Court involving child perpetrators speaks to that reality,” she says.

‘Bullying predicts criminality’

“Nobody calls for Ana.” There was a world of pain wrapped up in those three words, used by Geraldine Kriégel to explain why she was concerned when she got home from work on the afternoon of Ana’s disappearance, and discovered her daughter had left the house with the child the public would later come to know as Boy B.

The picture that emerged in the trial was of a girl who was victimised and isolated because she stood out. At 173cm, or 5ft 8in, Ana was tall and striking-looking. Despite this, Patric would later recall that “she felt invisible”. Ana’s resource teacher told Geraldine and Patric she was terrified for Ana starting secondary school.

The bullying, online and offline, started even before secondary school. During the summer at the end of sixth class, Ana was bullied online by children three years older, students in third year, who sent her sexually suggestive messages. After she started first year “she was endlessly bullied”, her mother would later say.

One of the most viscerally upsetting aspects of the evidence in the trial were the callous terms – “slutty” and “weirdo” – Boy B used to describe to Ana to gardaí: language that illustrated, in chilling terms, how he saw her as isolated and different, somehow less than other children.

Ana Kriégel. Photograph: RTÉ News
Ana Kriégel. Photograph: RTÉ News

Cyberbullying often “happens in chat groups on social media, and messaging apps such as Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp or Tiktok”, says Curley. “This usually involves either excluding a child, or using the chat group to target or make nasty comments about them. We would also see a lot of bullying happening through nasty comments on posts or YouTube videos; kids taking or sharing photos or videos without consent; or the use of anonymous feedback apps or sites.”

A Eurofound study on inequalities in the access of young people to information and support services, published in July, reported that Ireland, along with the UK and some eastern European countries, topped the European table for cyberbullying. In Ireland and the UK, young women were more likely to experience cyberbullying than young men.

“Is it a cultural thing? Is it an extension of the slagging culture that doesn’t translate well in tone when it’s through text or online? Is it our role modelling?” asks Power.

There’s a sense of invincibility when you’re online, and that’s problematic. It’s easy to dehumanise people who are not there in front of you

We don’t know. We do know, however, that the disinhibiting effect of being online exacerbates the temptation to bully. “There’s a sense of invincibility, and that’s problematic. It’s easy to dehumanise people who are not there in front of you,” he says. There is also a perception that there are no consequences to what you say online.

Unsurprisingly, there is a high degree of overlap between online and offline bullying. “Over 70 per cent of children who are involved in online bullying also do traditional bullying,” says Prof Mona O’Moore, founder of the Anti-Bullying Centre, at Dublin City University.

One of the problems for parents and educators is that our definition of bullying in all its forms is too narrow. “The problem we have is that we’re so intent on applying definition of bullying as something that is ‘intentional, wilful and repeated’ that unless those three criteria are met, children are often turned away” when they make an initial complaint, says O’Moore. “When children are turned away they tend not to report any further.”

Similarly, “if a child is not reprimanded after a single incident, they will go on and say, ‘Okay, I can do that again.’”

What if you are concerned that your child may be at risk – not of being a victim but of becoming a bully themselves? And how can you tell? “No parent should think their child is an angel. Children today are up against huge challenges and greater stress than ever, and it’s up to parents and educationalists to have a greater understanding of all of that than before,” says O’Moore.

For a long time it was thought that bullies typically came from troubled backgrounds or had experienced violence themselves. But in recent years a more nuanced picture has emerged of a different kind of bully: one with good social skills, who does well at school and may be charismatic and well liked by teachers and pupils.

We need to be able to pick out the children who have the propensity to bully and take them aside, and give them the necessary therapeutic intervention to get them back on track

“In contrast to the popular stereotype and research tradition of the ‘oafish’ bully lacking in social skills and understanding, the bully may be a cold, manipulative expert in social situations, organising gangs and using subtle, indirect methods,” concluded a study on social cognition and bullying published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology in 1999.

Sometimes the issue is not parents who don’t care enough but parents who place expectations that are too high. Bullies “can feel envious of children who are more successful, or who are perceived as better looking. At the core of a child who bullies is a child who is not happy.”

There is a societal need for intervention in childhood bullying, she says. A landmark study by the Finnish psychiatrist Andre Sourander, published in 2007, found that nearly one in four violent crimes was perpetrated by a bully or bully-victim.

A child predisposed to bullying can be taught empathy. “It’s getting children to put themselves into the shoes of others. It’s almost to get children to stop and think, How would I like to be at the receiving end of that?” says O’Moore.

She suggests that we need a “screening tool, whereby you could pick out the children who have the propensity to bully and take them aside, and give them the necessary therapeutic intervention to get them back on track. You’d be preventing years of problems down the road.”

Next steps

Although it might seem that the issue of online harm has emerged from nowhere, engulfing us without warning, experts have been sounding alarm bells about many aspects of its for several years. “In late 2013 an independent Internet Content Governance Advisory Group was established to report on a range of issues related to online content,” says Dr Aiken, who was part of the group convened after explicit images featuring a teenage couple involved in a sex act at the Eminem concert at Slane Castle went viral on social-media platforms.

In that case both the boy and the girl were identifiable, but only the 17-year-old girl was subject to widespread abuse and, according to media reports, ended up in distress and hospitalised. It prompted what was perhaps our first national conversation about online harm.

The group reported in July 2014. “Our report clearly stated that ‘negative content, including much that is user-generated and shared online, comprises a vast array of material that includes adult pornography and other content that may be upsetting, offensive or harmful for young people’. And yet, five years later, no progress has been made” on implementing its recommendations.

It is society’s responsibility to educate children holistically. It needs to be a collaboration between formal educators, us as parents, and wider society to normalise conversations around sex and sexuality

Other countries have been looking at ways to stop children accessing porn. The UK had been due to bring in a “porn block” this year, as part of its Digital Economy Act of 2017. It dictated that all websites consisting of more than one-third pornography – video, images, text or audio – must introduce controls to stop children accessing this adult content, through age verification by SMS, credit-card data, passport information, driving-licence details or, more problematically, face scanning.

The measure was abandoned last month, however, and the British government has said it will focus on bringing in an internet regulator.

The notion of age verification in any form is controversial, and not all experts believe it’s the way forward.

Implementing a porn block would be difficult to police, and might simply “give parents a false sense of security that their children are protected. There are ways around all of these things when they’re applied in such a blanket and wholesale manner,” says Power.

Blaming pornography or online gore is easy because it “gives us something we can fix”, Byrnes says. One of the reasons children are accessing porn is because sex education is falling short. There is “a lack of a comprehensive, fact-based, objective education. It is society’s responsibility to educate them holistically. It needs to be a collaboration between formal educators, us as parents, wider society to normalise conversations around sex and sexuality.”

Tackling online harm

Whatever the technological challenges of implementing a porn block, “we’ve got to start on the basis that this is the principle that we’re seeking to adopt, and let’s consider all the technological pros and cons associated with that,” says Walley. “If you’re talking about balancing rights,” the right of adults to access porn without having to give their names “must be way down the list”.

Dr Aiken was involved in drafting a Children’s Digital Protection Bill in 2018 aiming to “regulate and issue ‘takedown’ notices to websites that promote a range of harms to minors, including self-starvation, self-harm and suicide sites.”

It will be part of a series of Bills she will help to draft tackling online harms, and will include legislation to address pornography and gambling sites accessible by minors.

Other urgent steps experts have been advocating include the appointment of an online regulator, and a quick takedown procedure for illegal or nonconsensual content – including so-called revenge porn – both of which were recommended by the Law Reform Commission in 2016, in its report on harmful communications and digital safety.

“People shouldn’t have to go to the courts to take unlawful material down that shouldn’t be up there in the first place. If media organs such as The Irish Times or RTÉ cannot publish this material, why should a global media disseminator such as an [internet service provider] be permitted to publish globally without remedy or sanction while reaping millions in profits?” asks Walley.

We need to ensure that online platforms are safer by design, and that when things do go wrong there is a clear path towards resolution

In the three years since the Law Reform Commission’s publication, “only a couple of minor LRC recommendations have been implemented. All of the key recommendations, such as the establishment of an online regulator and a fast takedown regime, are still on hold. The governmental inertia on this issue is simply unacceptable,” says Walley.

This isn’t, she says, about shutting down free speech, “but unfortunately, that is the standard mantra from [internet service providers] and their associates whenever an online regulator is mooted.”

The bottom line is that technology “plays a huge part in young people’s lives and it isn’t going away”, says Curley. “We need to invest in educating our children to ensure that they grow up with the life skills that they need to use technology in a smart and safe way. We need national leadership on this, and robust legislative, technical and educational measures that reflect the world that our children are growing up in today. We also need to ensure that online platforms are safer by design, and that when things do go wrong, there is a clear path towards resolution.”

Hope

As society comes to terms with the sentencing of the two youngest convicted murderers in the history of the State, Power cautions against extrapolating too much from this one rare and extremely upsetting case. “We are prompted to talk about all of this by a very particularly heinous crime. In the main, young people are doing well, developing in healthy ways, and flourishing.”

Is what we are witnessing, in our courtrooms and classrooms, online and offline, an emerging crisis in masculinity? Ivana Bacik, the Labour Senator and Reid professor of criminal law at Trinity College Dublin, doesn’t think so. “I don’t feed into the narrative that masculinity is in crisis. Irish society has become much more diverse and much more tolerant. There’s a better awareness of harassment issues. There’s much more awareness of LGBT and transgender issues. The sports-jock culture is not as prevalent as it was in the past.”

The “counternarrative” to the concerns about young men is that women are becoming more assertive.

Byrnes believes we need better and earlier conversations about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman, and comprehensive sex education. “It needs to be a collaboration between formal educators, parents and wider society to normalise conversations around sex and sexuality.”

Geraldine and Patric Kriégel arrive at the sentencing hearing. Photograph: Collins Courts

For the Kriégel family, of course, all their hopes and dreams for Ana were extinguished on May 14th, 2018.

“Our lives are destroyed by what happened to Ana,” her mother said in her victim-impact statement of October 29th, which took nine minutes to deliver and encapsulated a lifetime of grief. It brought a much-loved girl, whose identity had become subsumed by the shocking and disturbing evidence of the crimes committed against her, vividly back to life.

One detail was particularly poignant. Every night, she said, Ana “came to kiss us, and she said, always in French: Bonne nuit, dors bien, fais de beaux reves, je t’aime – Good night, sleep tight, have beautiful dreams, I love you.”