WWhen I filed a copy of Ana Kriégel's murder trial, I felt a strange feeling that I had never had in the hundreds of other criminal cases I had covered. It was guilt. There is no other word for that. Each article was perceived as an intrusion into Ana's private life and her parents' unimaginable grief.
I had the same feeling every time I saw the picture of the 14-year-old girl in the newspapers, whether it was the one who smiled in science class or the one who was parading in a fashion show to raise money for a charity.
I consider myself a tough guy, reporting on the facts as they discover them and who are very moved. But this time, I could not help but think that none of us should have been in this courtroom, sitting a few feet away from the mother and father of the house. Ana as they listened to witnesses describe, with excruciating details, what had probably happened in the final terror of their daughter. moments filled in the hands of two 13 year old boys. I could not help thinking that I should not watch video. One of the murderers of Ana describes her as a "crazy" dressed in "slutty clothes".
I had prepared an answer for anyone questioning me on morality to report the lawsuit in so many details. The press has a constitutional right, and a moral duty, to report what is going on in the courts, I would answer for my great horse. And that counted double when it was in such an extreme case. The society needs to know why two seemingly normal boys would attract an affable daughter from her family so that she could be beaten to death in an abandoned farmhouse.
The case ended last Tuesday, 18 months after Ana's body was found by the guard in the house. The teenager known as Boy A, who beat her to death and violently sexually assaulted her, was sentenced to life imprisonment, a sentence that will be reviewed in 12 years. Boy B, who drew Ana to the scene, was sentenced to 15 years in prison with a criticism after eight years.
That night, I sat in the corner of a pub, a pint untouched in front of me. The last article had been filed and my news desk had finally stopped ringing me. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I finally had the chance to think and I thought that my justification for covering the trial sounded very hollow now. Because, despite a massive police investigation, an eight-week trial, a pile of psychological reports about boys and abundant media coverage, we still did not know why two boys decided to commit murder and why they chose Ana.
It was a brutal case, which sometimes seemed to traumatize the whole country. Murders like this are happening, but not in Ireland and certainly not in a quiet suburb on the border between Dublin and Kildare, a place where, as Geraldine said, Ana's mother, " the only morning sounds are the turtledoves that coo. "
The trial and subsequent assessments of Boys A and B highlighted several issues that may explain Ana's murder, some more plausible than others.
Did the intimidation lead to Ana's death? We know that she was brutally victimized, especially online. Other children sent her messages and abusive comments as part of the YouTube videos that Anna liked to have him say "to go to die". But there is little evidence that the boys intimidated Ana or even had much interaction with her. Of course, they may see how other children treat her and think her vulnerability makes her the ideal victim.
What about the content consumed by boys? Both liked violent video games, but most teenagers too. Boy A also loved the horror movies, but nothing indicates that they were a motivator.
It may be less easy to rule out Boy A's pornography, including material describing violence against women. Gardaí has found thousands of images on his various devices, as well as Internet searches for "child pornography" and "horse pornography." But psychological assessments revealed that he had a normal view of sexual matters, a fact hard to believe given the nature of the attack. Ana was naked when she was found, her torn clothes scattered in the room.
In the absence of external factors, it is tempting to characterize one or both boys as budding psychopaths, devoid of empathy and pre-programmed to commit horrendous crimes. But again, reports indicate that neither one nor the other has shown signs of personality disorders or traits indicative of psychopathy. Similarly, there was no evidence of mental illness in both adolescents.
The analysis and the reflections have started and will probably continue. There is nothing new here. As the author notes Blake Morrison in And what would happen if, his meditation on the reasons for the murder of James Bulger in 1993 by two 10-year-old boys: "They lay blame on different targets – single mothers, absent fathers, schools, the church, the pill, the sixties, but most seem to agree that kids are spoiled these days. "
Maybe our quest for the reason behind Ana's murder is selfish. It's a vain effort to convince us that we can fix something specific in society so that it does not happen again. But maybe terrible things like this happen sometimes. Perhaps we could better evaluate society not by the crime itself but by our reaction.
In this, I find a hope. Ireland embraced the Kriégel family and was inspired by the memory of Ana, an adopted Russian girl who often felt foreign in her heart.
Gardaí conducted a flawless investigation and the rights of the two boys, the youngest in Irish history convicted of murder, were jealously guarded by investigators, lawyers and judges. (Unlike the murderers of James Bulger, neither was publicly identified after the trial judge ruled that it would be detrimental to their rehabilitation.)
This may be the only lesson here that we can remain compassionate and hopeful about such evil deeds, even when we can not begin to understand them.
• Conor Gallagher is the correspondent of the judicial police Irish Times