Woman who beat stepdaughter and compared her to Cinderella jailed

Judge doubts remorse of Bridget Kenneally, who spiked girl’s food with hot and bitter flavours

A woman has been jailed after admitting to beating her then six-year-old stepdaughter with a poker, forcing her to eat food spiked with hot and bitter flavours and taunting her that she was like Cinderella because nobody loved her.

Bridget Kenneally (49), of The Green, Duncoran, Youghal, Co Cork, was jailed for two years after pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Cora Desmond at Kenny's Lane, Youghal on a date between October 1st and October 31st, 2009.

Although Kenneally pleaded guilty to a single charge, the plea was accepted by the State on the basis the full facts could be given. Sgt Mark Ward said Kenneally had subjected Ms Desmond to 10 years of physical and mental abuse.

Ms Desmond, now aged 21, described the sustained abuse as "torture" and she outlined it in detail in her Victim Impact Statement. She said she was five when her father, Cliff started a relationship with Kenneally, who initially seemed nice.

“About six months into the 11-year relationship the horrific abuse began with a few slaps and punches but then gradually got worse. Throughout the years it became clear to me that I was nothing but a punching bag to Bridget,” she said.

Confined at home

Ms Desmond said she was treated differently to Kenneally's three children, who were given the freedom to hang out with their friends while she and her older sister, Chelsea were confined at home to clean up their mess.

“Bridget gave me the name Cora Ella and told me I was just like Cinderella because I was the one that was not wanted or loved and that I should be treated like her,” Ms Desmond said.

She said she was made to lie about injuries sustained in beatings to her friends and teachers. She said that on one occasion Kenneally broke her thumb and on another battered her with a poker, leaving her with 50 bruises.

“On one occasion, I ended up in hospital after receiving a pretty bad beating to my head, causing swelling to the right side of my head and face. She made me tell doctors that I hit my head when I attended Funderland two weeks earlier.”

Ms Desmond said Kenneally’s cruelty had a lasting effect on her as she now associates certain tastes and smells with a form of punishment inflicted on her - being forced to eat foods spiked with excessively hot and bitter flavours.

Flashbacks

“One of the recurring punishments was that she would force feed me excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar,” she said. “I have long lasting negative reactions to certain smells and tastes. It brings back memories and flashbacks of the torture she put me through.

“I now understand that none of this was my fault and I didn’t deserve any of it, even though that’s what she made me believe. Nobody should go through what I did...She controlled my past, I will not let her dictate my future.”

Patrick O’Riordan BL, for Keneally, said his client wished to apologise to Ms Desmond, who rejected the apology as she did not believe it was genuine.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin acknowledged that Kenneally’s guilty plea had spared Ms Desmond the trauma of a trial. He said a psychological report showed no evidence of remorse or insight into the impact her cruelty had on a young child. He said the report suggested she blamed everyone but herself for what she had done and he accepted Ms Desmond’s view that her apology was not genuine.

Taking all factors into account, including the fact that Kenneally had handed over €5,000 in compensation, the judge said he believed the appropriate sentence was three years but with a deduction of one year for her guilty plea.