May 2018 seemed like a particularly bad time to be female in Ireland. As the country prepared to vote to abolish the constitutional ban on abortion at the end of the month, two young women and a teenager girl were killed in separate incidents.
On May 1st the body of 30-year-old Natalia Karaczyn was found on the outskirts of Sligo Town, two days after she went missing. A man is currently awaiting trial charged with her murder. Two weeks later 24-year-old student Jastine Valdez was abducted and murdered in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. Her killer Mark Hennessy was shot dead by gardaí the next day.
Between those two incidents the body of 14-year-old Ana Kriégel was found in an abandoned farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin.
Of those incidents, there is little doubt Ana’s murder has had the biggest impact on the nation. While the senseless murder of Jastine Valdez shocked the country, like most similar crimes, it quickly fell out of the headlines. Natalia Karaczyn’s death barely featured in the headlines at all.
Since Ana’s murder and particularly since the sentencing of her killers – two teenage boys known as Boy A and Boy B – the case has rarely been out of the public consciousness.
In many ways her death shouldn't shock us as it did. Since 1996, more than 225 women and 16 children have been murdered in the State. The murder of women at the hands of men vastly outpaces gangland murders, a fact pointed out recently by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Nevertheless, Ana's murder stood out for several reasons, not least of which was that she was 14 years old. And she wasn't murdered by an abusive partner but by two boys barely out of primary school.
Her killers employed a level of brutality many people would believe children to be incapable of. Ana, described by her mother as a sometimes lonely girl who was bullied terribly, was lured to an abandoned farmhouse by Boy B on the pretence of meeting Boy A, whom she had a crush on.
Once she arrived, Boy A donned a home-made mask and proceeded to violently sexually assault the girl and beat her to death.
The subsequent trial was characterised by a series of awful firsts. The boys were the youngest people to go on trial for murder in Ireland and would become the youngest ever convicted of that crime.
They have also been given the longest sentences ever handed down to children under the age of 16. Our legal system never envisaged that young children could commit such a crime. This was evident in the confusion surrounding available sentencing options for the boys.
There was legal argument over whether the boys could be given a life sentence and if some of their terms could be suspended. After much consideration by Mr Justice Paul McDermott, Boy A was jailed for life with a review period after 12 years while Boy B was jailed for 15 years with a review after eight. For many, even those sentences were not long enough.
Following sentencing there was much analysisof what motivated Boy A and Boy B to murder Ana, a girl they barely knew. Some pointed to bullying and social media. Others suggested misogyny alone was to blame.
Much of the focus fell on pornography and how easily it is accessed by today’s youth. The court heard Boy A had a vast amount of pornographic material on his phone, including images of violent and coercive sex.
Demands for regulation followed, and politicians undertook to examine the issue. Following the verdict, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said officials would examine a proposed UK system mandating age verification for internet users seeking to view pornography online. These proposals have since been shelved in the UK due to legal obstacles.
As well as outrage and fear, the case has also led to an outpouring of compassion for Ana's parents Geraldine and Patric Kriégel and the rest of her family.
In October a celebrity fund-raiser took place in Ana's memory to raise money for the Russian Irish Adoption Group and their new network "ANA" – Ana's Network for Adolescents. In June her parents unveiled a "friendship bench" and plaque dedicated to Ana at the Leixlip Manor Hotel, where she and her family used to come for lunch.
Much of Geraldine and Patric Kriégel's grief was played out in the public eye as they attended court every day of the six-week trial. Any hope that they could now continue to grieve in private was dashed last month with the news that Boy B is planning to appeal his conviction.If there was going to be an appeal, it was always going to come from Boy B. Unlike Boy A, he has never admitted guilt. He maintains his position that he did not know what his co-accused planned when he brought Ana to the abandoned house.
His grounds of appeal are not yet known but it is likely lawyers will focus on his Garda interviews. These eight interviews generated much of the evidence used against Boy B, and during the trial his barrister complained that he was not given enough breaks during questioning.
His defence may also argue the court was wrong to exclude psychological evidence that claimed Boy B was someone who was easily manipulated and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Regardless of his arguments, it is likely the Kriégels’ ordeal is far from over. It may take up to a year for Boy B’s appeal to be heard.