Step mum who beat and force-fed daughter vinegar and chilli powder over 10 years jailed

A woman in the Republic of Ireland who beat her stepdaughter and force-fed her vinegar, mustard, salt and chilli powder has been jailed for just two years.

Bridget Kenneally, 49, taunted her stepdaughter, Cora Desmond, with the nickname Cora Ella as she treated her like a modern-day Cinderella.

Cora was subjected to 10-years of torment during which she was forced to lie about her injuries following daily punishments.

Kenneally pleaded guilty to one count of assault at Cork Circuit Criminal Court and was sentenced to two years behind bars.

In a powerful impact statement, Cora detailed her abuse at the hands of Kenneally, claiming it had begun when she was just 6, CorkBeo reports.



Cora Desmond
Cora Desmond was subjected to 10-years of torment
(Image: Daragh McSweeney Cork Courts Limited)

Cora told Judge Sean O’Donnabhain that when she was five her father, who had full custody of her, entered into a relationship with Ms Kenneally.

She said: “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.

“Her children could go hang out with friends of their choosing. My sister and myself were refused daily of the same freedom. Instead, we were confined to her residence to clean up after her and her children.

“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.”

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Cork Circuit Criminal Court
Kenneally was sentenced to just two years behind bars at Cork Circuit Criminal Court

Cora, now 21, described punishments including physical and mental torture, including being fed excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar.

She said: “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.

“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.

“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.”

Desmond said she now suffers from depression and is afraid to go anywhere on her own due to the “heinous crime of cruelty” her former stepmother inflicted upon her.

She said: “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.”

Throughout the ordeal, concerns were raised by amongst others, a principal of a national school she attended and on one occasion a GP found 50 bruises on her person.

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Kenneally was interviewed informally in 2016 and arrested in 2017 after a complaint had been made against her.

She made no admissions to Gardai but eventually entered a guilty plea in the case after Kenneally was told the trial would involve 14 witnesses.

Representing Kenneally, Barrister Patrick O’Riordan said his client had entered a guilty plea and had paid €5,000 (£4,480) in compensation.

He said his client had “a protracted psychiatric history” and wanted to apologise to the victim in the case.

The junior counsel told the court that Kenneally had six children in her care at the time of the offences and was experiencing difficulty coping.

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain asked Cora she felt the apology was genuine, and she said she didn’t believe that Kenneally was remorseful for her actions.

He then read through the psychologists’ reports and Judge O’Donnabhain said Kenneally seemed to blame everyone but herself for her actions.

Judge O’Donnabhain said: “This was a case of continued brutality. This was systemic abuse and cruelty. She Cora was deprived of a childhood because of the pain and misery she was subjected to.”

Following the sentencing, Cora urged other victims of child abuse to come forward, saying: “I thought I was wasting my time and she would get away with what she did to me but thankfully I got some sort of justice. It is something.

“I would say to people to speak up. Don’t be afraid to tell someone. Tell someone and get out of the situation sooner rather than later. I was six when it started and sixteen when it finished.”

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