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Brave abuse victim tells how friend’s death at husband’s hands inspired her to break free

“On the fourth day of the honeymoon, I woke up covered in bruises, but not on my face. Once I was dressed you wouldn’t have known I’d been battered a few hours beforehand’

Priscilla has detailed her ordeal in a book, Safe

From left to right Ainie Grainger Annemarie McLaughlin, Niamh McLaughlin, Deirdre McLaughlin, Priscilla Grainger and Ashling McLaughlin

The family of Siobhan McLaughlin, including from left, her sister Deirdre Jnr, parents Deirdre ond Owen and sisters Brigid, Anne Marie and Aisling protesting over sentence leniency.

Siobhan’s killer Brian Kearney© ?/?? ??G?/>?`

Priscilla Grainger

Priscilla's book, Safe

Lynne KelleherSunday World

Sitting at her kitchen table, domestic abuse campaigner Priscilla Grainger remembers crying as she digested a newspaper report detailing the killing of her childhood best friend, Siobhan McLaughlin, by her husband.

“I remember that night thinking: ‘If I don’t get out of this marriage I’m going to end up in a grave just like Siobhan’,” she says in her new book, Safe.

The mum-of-one was trapped in an abusive marriage when her friend was strangled to death with a vacuum cleaner cord by her husband, Brian Kearney, in her home in Goatstown in February 2006.

Priscilla Grainger

Growing up in Meath near the McLaughlin family, she had been very close to her “vibrant, funny” friend but they had lost contact when they married two controlling partners.

In her book, Safe, written by Shane Doran, Priscilla recalls meeting Siobhan in the early days of her own relationship in Dalkey with their partners. “The whole time she barely spoke two words and when we were going, she gave me a big hug and I could see tears in her eyes.”

By the time Siobhan McLaughlin was murdered, Priscilla, who now had a young daughter called Ainie, had endured numerous beatings which began just a few days into her honeymoon.

From left to right Ainie Grainger Annemarie McLaughlin, Niamh McLaughlin, Deirdre McLaughlin, Priscilla Grainger and Ashling McLaughlin

“On the fourth day of the honeymoon, I woke up covered in bruises, but not on my face. I was very hurt, physically and mentally, but once I was dressed you wouldn’t have known I’d been battered a few hours beforehand,” she says in Safe, which catalogues the years of abuse and her eventual escape.

This week, she says hearing of Siobhan’s death a few years into her own violent marriage was a huge jolt. “I had to make sure that I was going to survive even though Siobhan was gone.

“I learned a massive hard lesson from Siobhan’s murder. I wasn’t prepared to lose my life to domestic violence. I was a mammy. I was a daughter, and I wanted to ensure that I was there for my daughter.”

The family of Siobhan McLaughlin, including from left, her sister Deirdre Jnr, parents Deirdre ond Owen and sisters Brigid, Anne Marie and Aisling protesting over sentence leniency.

She believes now both Brian Kearney and her own husband were piggybacking on the success of their partners.

“Siobhan would have been a trophy wife. She was so good-looking, so independent. She was a very successful woman in business, I was too.

“Looking back, I do believe that these narcissistic men use women because they have no other way of becoming successful in their own lives, in their own name.”

She says domestic abuse can “happen to anyone”.

“People think it only happens in the council estates, it doesn’t.

“It happens in the upper classes, it happens to CEOs, it happens to Guards, it happens with both men and women.

“Siobhan’s murder gave me the strength to get out of my marriage. Yet it took me another five years to get away, another five years of hell.”

Siobhan’s killer Brian Kearney© ?/?? ??G?/>?`

In the powerful book, she details how she eventually escaped her marriage with the help of a private detective and a security firm. Her estranged husband eventually pleaded guilty in court to breaching a safety order and threatening to kill his wife.

In July 2016, Priscilla and her daughter Ainie launched Stop Domestic Violence in Ireland, a frontline support group that has helped hundreds of women and men to escape their abusers.

The mother and daughter use their experience and expertise in battling the system to help others take their first steps to freedom.

To date this year, their organisation has received around 2,500 calls for help from victims of domestic abuse.

Often she is dealing with cases where gardaí are failing to serve protection, safety, and barring orders on abusers expediently.

“We have had experiences where we’ve had to take many victims out of houses and put them into a hotel because the Guards haven’t served to summons on the abuser.

“We have one victim at the moment who got an order in the court four weeks ago but it was only served last week.”

She blames a lack of gardaí trained in domestic violence, along with their huge caseload in gangland crime.

In the past six months, she says she has taken around 20 women to a safe house, with their children in some cases.

When she hears of the possibility of wife killers like Brian Kearney and Joe O’Reilly getting out of prison, Priscilla fears they will re-offend.

“Siobhan’s family is serving a sentence for the rest of their days. If you commit murder, to me life should mean life. Siobhan has passed but will never be forgotten in my life. I go to her grave on her birthday. I say goodnight to her every night.”​

SAFE, the book, is available to buy at: https://www.safe-thebook.ie


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