Woman was victim of abuse since childhood

Facts that in the words of the prosecution counsel, Mr Marcus Daly, seemed "stranger than fiction" were laid out before the jury…

Facts that in the words of the prosecution counsel, Mr Marcus Daly, seemed "stranger than fiction" were laid out before the jury during the two-week trial.

Abused as a child by a female member of the staff at the Mount Carmel Orphanage in Moate, Co Westmeath, Kathleen Bell went to the supposedly safe haven of a Dublin foster home at weekends, where she and her sister, Mary, were subjected to more abuse by the son-in-law of their foster parents.

Bell eventually told the nuns in charge of the orphanage of the abuse and action was immediate. But the damage was done.

Dr Brian McCaffrey, a clinical director of psychiatry at the Eastern Health Board, said that when he interviewed her three times for psychiatric assessment this year, he found she was "an eight-year-old girl in a big woman's body".


At the age of 16 Bell became pregnant by a youth in Ballina sloe, Co Galway, where her friend and foster-mother, Lilly Broderick, lived. But when she gave birth to her baby, she unwittingly signed adoption papers and the baby was taken from her. After the adoption, she very quickly became pregnant through another relationship, this time with her future husband, Philip Bell, with whom she had seven children.

The jury heard that Philip Bell beat her and when she could not cope with a series of pregnancies, he "brought the priest in" when he discovered she was using the pill.

Alcohol and tranquilliser dependency followed, as did two nervous breakdowns.

Eventually, Philip Bell left her and returned to his homeplace near Derry, gaining custody of the children and getting an annulment.

Bell moved from one abusive relationship to another, this time with her sister's husband, Patrick Sammon, who was separated from his wife.

By this time she had begun her habit of attacking her own body with a blade, as a means of ridding herself of the internal turmoil she was suffering over past abuse.

In her "pathological relationship" with Sammon, he sat and watched her as she did this, once handing her a razor blade to encourage her. Supt Anthony Finnerty, told the jury she was in hospital 51 times between the beginning of her relationship with Sammon and the night she killed him.

Mr Alex MacClean, a social worker with the Western Health Board, described her as "a typical child of an institutional background" and said she, her sister and Patrick Sammon were "extremely damaged individuals".

On the night she stabbed him, Sammon taunted Bell, calling her and her sister names and saying he didn't "give a fuck" about Mary's death. When she lost control and stabbed him, Bell rang for an ambulance and then sat drinking a can of beer when gardai first arrived at her house.