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Cora abuse shock: Birth-mum of real-life 'Cinderella' reveals how 'two-faced witch' was straight out of Disney’s darkest story

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Cora Desmond's birth mother (centre) Lisa Blanche and, inset right, Bridget Kenneally

Cora Desmond's birth mother (centre) Lisa Blanche and, inset right, Bridget Kenneally

Cora Desmond's birth mother (centre) Lisa Blanche and, inset right, Bridget Kenneally

The birth-mother of a real- life Cinderella who was tortured and abused by her wicked step-mother has blasted the vile abuser as a 'two-faced witch.'

Lisa Blanche told the Sunday World how daughter Cora's step-mum Bridget Kenneally was 'sweetness and light to my face.'

"She is a two-faced witch.

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Bridget Kenneally

Bridget Kenneally

Bridget Kenneally

"She was so kind and sweet to my face saying how the girls were so good and how she loved and adored them.

"But when she would get her hands on them behind closed doors she tortured Cora so much.

"She is the real evil step-mother … straight out of the darkest Disney story."

Earlier this week Kenneally was jailed for two years for assaulting Cora in 2009.

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard how the evil 49-year-old abuser, who worked as a carer, had been physically assaulting and mentally torturing Cora from the age of six until she turned 16 at their home in Youghal, Co. Cork.

Cora revealed how she was not only physically beaten with a poker, brush and hoover handle and other items by Kenneally but was also forced to eat food laced with salt, pepper, chilli powder, mustard and vinegar as punishment.

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Lisa Blanche will never forgive Kenneally for the abuse of Cora

Lisa Blanche will never forgive Kenneally for the abuse of Cora

Lisa Blanche will never forgive Kenneally for the abuse of Cora

"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," a heartbroken Cora told Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin.

Cora's nightmare only came to an end at the age of 16 when she revealed her torment to birth-mum, Lisa - who in turn alerted the gardaí and Cora's father, Clifford Desmond.

Approached by the Sunday World in Youghal this week, Mr Desmond said he had nothing to say to reporters.

Her birth-mum Lisa told the Sunday World that Cora and her older sister lived with Clifford and Kenneally from when Cora was the age of six onwards.

"When he (Clifford) entered the relationship with Bridget Kenneally I did have misgivings," said Lisa.

"She seemed too sweet to be wholesome - if that makes sense.

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Cora was abused from six up to the age of 16

Cora was abused from six up to the age of 16

Cora was abused from six up to the age of 16

"At the beginning I used to see Cora and her sister on a regular basis, but Ms Kenneally soon put a stop to that.

"Any time they were due to come up there would be an excuse offered. Then, one day when I was in work, I got a call to say Cora was after being hospitalised.

"And when I contacted them I was told by her that it was nothing to do with me.

"I found out later Cora had 54 bruises all over her body and swelling of the head.

"But that woman's story was that Cora was clumsy … that she hurt herself jumping between the trampoline and had an injury from Funderland weeks prior to that.

"She was very good at covering up things and Cora had no choice but to go along with that because she was brainwashed.

"It's very easy to get into a little child's head and put fear in them.

"I think I always knew deep down there was something not right with Bridget, but I could never pin it down and I could never prove it.

"And because the girls weren't coming to me I didn't have the opportunity to sit them down and talk through it with them.

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Lisa with daughter Cora

Lisa with daughter Cora

Lisa with daughter Cora

"But as the girls got older and we built our relationship back up again, that's when Cora confided in me and told me about the damage she was doing to her."

Recalling the moment Cora broke down and revealed the full horror of her existence at the hands of evil Kenneally, Lisa said her daughter was 16 years old when this occurred.

"Cora had come here for dinner one evening and we were sitting down together eating.

"And she just broke down and it came out.

"Within an hour of her leaving, I contacted Youghal Garda Station and luckily enough it was Sgt. Mark Ward that answered.

"I gave him the information that Cora had given me and there was an appointment made for the following evening with Cora and it went from there."

Cork Circuit Court heard how a week after Cora made the complaint on April 13, 2016, her father, Clifford, learned of the abuse when gardaí contacted him and asked him to make a statement as part of their investigation.

Within a week of learning of what had happened to his daughter, he separated from Kenneally.

"I didn't tell my dad - he heard it from the guards," Cora said this week.

"He was utterly in the dark about the whole situation - he was absolutely distraught and it still kills him to this day that he could have done something but he couldn't have known as it was so well hidden."

Describing her reaction to what Cora told her of the abuse, birth-mum Lisa said: "I actually felt physically sick.

"But I had to put on a brave face and keep myself together in front of the child.

"I said: 'Okay Cora, we'll deal with this and it's going to stop.' And thank God we did make it stop."

During this week's court proceedings, solicitor for Bridget Kenneally Patrick O'Riordan BL said his client wished to apologise to Cora, who rejected the apology as she did not believe it was genuine.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin would later concur with Cora's view, based on psychological reports, that the apology was not genuine.

"I feel so angry with her," Lisa told the Sunday World.

"I have anger in me now the likes of which I have never had in my whole life.

"I feel betrayed that this woman who was supposed to be looking after my daughter did this to her.

"She was always so nice to my face and for the sake of my daughters I put aside my own distrust.

"How manipulative she was!

"She was so kind and sweet to my face saying how the girls were so good and how she loved and adored them.

"But when she would get her hands on them behind closed doors she tortured Cora so much.

"And there was a lot in the case that wasn't mentioned because Cora put it to the back of her head because it was so traumatic.

"She was more than a two-faced witch - that's quite a kind word for what she was to be honest.

"I don't think there are enough words in the dictionary to describe that monster.

"Up until Bridget got her claws into my daughter, Cora had a happy-go-lucky little life.

"She was a normal six-year-old child who was happy and content.

"And then to see that change in her … in her body language … the hospital visits … it should have been spotted.

"She told people that Cora bruised easily and that she had some kind of blood condition.

"But every medical test was done on that child when she went into the Mercy hospital and there was no blood disorder. There was nothing wrong with Cora."

Lisa said she believes the HSE should now carry out a review of the manner in which Cora's care was monitored given that teachers in Gaeilscoil Chorain logged her injuries and had raised their concerns with Tusla, as did doctors at the hospital she attended

"As far as I can see the investigation went nowhere … Cora lived in fear of Bridget so she wasn't able to tell, but surely the injuries alone should have been enough to prompt an intervention.

"There was any number of missed opportunities to put a stop to this.

"When Cora went to hospital, social services were called in but they did nothing.

"The school-teachers and the principal had all reported concerns, but social services sat on their bums and did nothing."

Addressing Bridget Kenneally's sentence of two years in prison, Lisa said emphatically: "It's not enough. It's nothing.

"People get two years in prison for kicking a dog.

"What she did! She should get a year for every year she took from my child's life.

"People are saying it's over now for Cora and that she can put it behind her.

"To me, I know she is 21 now but she will always be my child, what happened to her will be in her head until she takes her last breath.

"Bridget Kenneally should have been made to pay properly for that," Lisa said.

  • Anyone affected by any of the issues raised in this piece can contact The Samaritans on 116 123, Childline on 1800 666 666 and Barnados on 1800 910 123.


VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

“Bridget gave me the name Cora-Ella and told me I was just like Cinderella because I was the one who was not wanted or loved.

“For 11 years she told me no one would believe me if I spoke out regarding the vile, sadistic, physical and mental torture she subjected me to,” Desmond said.

“I was made to lie about my injuries and tell people I was just a clumsy child. One of the many lies I had to tell was how I broke my thumb. The real truth is she broke it.

“She twisted my hand so much that it actually snapped the bone.”

Cora told the court that on one occasion, she was hospitalised after the right side of her head and face swelled following a beating.

She claimed Kenneally made her tell doctors that she hit her head in Funderland, which she had attended two weeks previously.

“[During] one of the recurring daily punishments, she would feed me excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar.

“Since my departure from her care, I have long-lasting negative reactions to certain smells and tastes. It brings back memories and flashbacks of the torture she put me through.

“There were constant verbal threats that she would kill me if I ever told anyone of the abuse I endured.”

Desmond said that because of the “heinous crime of cruelty” inflicted on her, she suffers from depression and is afraid to go anywhere on her own.

“You robbed me of my carefree childhood that every child is entitled to.

“I now understand that none of it was my fault and I didn’t deserve any of it though that is what she made me believe.”

Sunday World


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