Wicked | 

'Cinderella' stepmum who beat stepdaughter, force-fed her salt and chilli powder moves back to home town

Kenneally tortured girl for 10 years while treating her biological children with kindness and affection

Bridget Kenneally who was jailed for two years for the physical and mental abuse of her step daughter Cora Desmond from age 6 to 16. Kenneally pleaded guilty to one count of assault. Seen here back at her home following her release from prison.

Patrick O'Connell

'CINDERELLA step-mum' Bridget Kenneally has returned to the town where she secretly subjected her stepdaughter Cora to 10 years of appalling cruelty and abuse.

The 52-year-old's reappearance in the seaside town of Youghal - after she was given early release from the Dochas women's prison - has been met with horror by her courageous victim.

Brave 22-year-old Cora told us: "I wish she had just stayed away. But it will be different for her here now because everyone knows what she did. Everyone sees her for exactly what she is."

Cora Desmond, victim of Bridget Kenneally. Bridget Kenneally was jailed for two years for the physical and mental abuse of her step daughter Cora Desmond from age 6 to 16. Kenneally pleaded guilty to one count of assault.

Kenneally was jailed for two years in November 2020 after Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how she had tortured Cora from the age of six onwards, while treating her biological children with kindness and affection.

Details of the physical and mental abuse, perpetrated by Kenneally on Cora, included incidents where she:

  • Beat the child with a poker leaving her with more than 50 bruises;
  • Force-fed the youngster food laced with spices and vinegar;
  • Gave her the nickname 'Cora Ella' - telling her she was 'just like Cinderella because she was the one that was not wanted or loved'.

Cora, the court heard, was five when her father, Cliff, started a relationship with Kenneally, who initially seemed nice.

Bridget Kenneally seen here back at her home following her release from prison.

Then, about six months into their 11-year relationship, Kenneally's horrific abuse of Cora began, with a few slaps and punches at first, before gradually getting worse.

Bridget Kenneally (49). Pic Cork Courts

"It became clear to me that I was nothing but a punching bag to Bridget," Cora told the court.

Cora continued that 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 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."

Cora also told the court how one of the recurring punishments Kenneally inflicted on her "was that she would force feed me excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar."

"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."

Despite Kenneally's secretive release from prison earlier this month, two full weeks ahead of her official release date, the Sunday World tracked her back to Youghal on Wednesday.

There, we confronted her and asked her if she would finally issue a 'genuine' apology to her stepdaughter. But a stony-faced Kenneally declined the opportunity to do so.

Instead she snapped back: "I'm not going to say anything to you. I've already spoken about this … I've said all I'm going to say."

The response didn't surprise Cora, who told us: "That's exactly the way she is. She was only meant to get out yesterday but she actually got out on the 3rd of this month.

"I got a call from the Prison Service to say she had put in a request for early release and she had gotten it because of something to do with over-crowding in the Dochas.

"The person who rang me said he didn't agree with it but someone else had made the decision and he was passing the information on to me. She was given three years with two suspended at the sentencing - which was very lenient to begin with.

"And then she got 25 per cent off that in remission and then another two weeks off in early release. It is ridiculous.

"The system is just so broken … it really is … in all aspects. She abused me for 11 years, it took four and a half years to get her dealt with in court, and she's back now in Youghal less than 18 months later. But that's the Irish justice system, unfortunately."

Cora told us that she had hoped that Kenneally would not come back to Youghal after her release and that she would never have to see her wicked step-mum again.

"I wish she hadn't come back here," she said.

"It was a relief when she was locked away because I could proudly walk around the streets knowing she wasn't here anymore.

"I didn't have to watch my back. I wasn't terrified of leaving the house alone.

"But then as the date of her release came closer, the anxiety started to creep back. And now I'm looking over my shoulder again.

"I don't think she would be stupid enough to do anything! It's just the fear, because obviously it is a small town, that it's only a matter of time before I'll bump into her."

"She had the choice when she was released from prison not to come back here. She could have gone to live anywhere.

"She could even have moved back but found a house outside of the town. But she didn't.

"Maybe she still doesn't accept she did anything wrong."

Cora said the only time Kenneally ever indicated an acceptance she had done wrong or that she was sorry was ahead of her sentencing.

"She did issue an apology that day in court through her solicitor," Cora said.

"The judge asked me if I accepted it and I said I didn't. I told him I believed the apology was being made for the court's benefit and to try and get a lighter sentence. She meant to do what she did to me.

"She knew what she was doing was wrong all along. She never tried to stop or control herself. So why would she mean the apology just because she was being called to account for it?

"I don't think I will ever forgive her. It would take a lot more than her just going away for a couple of months … and making an empty apology.

"For me to forgive her … it would take the world to end, I suppose, if anything."

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