The Central Criminal Court must have felt like an alien environment to the two boys who came before it for the first time back in April.
It also felt like unfamiliar territory to frequent visitors because of the efforts to effectively turn Court 9 in the Criminal Courts of Justice into a Children’s Court for the duration of what was initially set down as a six-week trial.
The judge and lawyers left their traditional black robes and wigs at home, the public gallery was closed and the dock was noticeably empty throughout as the boys were allowed to sit with their families in the back of the courtroom.
The first and only time the two boys sat in the dock was when the charges were first put to them.
Boy A sat on the inside beside his father, while his co-accused sat on the opposite side next to his mother, whose hand he held throughout.
Both were asked to stand for the arraignment process. With his hands crossed in front of his body, Boy A pleaded “not guilty” to the murder of Ana Kriegél at a derelict farmhouse in Lucan, Co Dublin on May 14th last year. He also denied a further charge of aggravated sexual assault.
Boy B pleaded “not guilty" to the same murder charge when it was put to him. He took his mother’s hand again when he resumed his seat.
One of the first issues Brendan Grehan SC addressed while opening the case on behalf of the prosecution was the pronunciation of Ana Kriegél’s surname.
He explained its origin by telling the jurors “her father is French”.
It was the first glimpse into Ana’s background.
The trial later heard she was born in Russia on February 18th 2004 and adopted by Geraldine and Patric Kriegél two and a half years later. She was just 14-years-old when she died.
It took longer than usual for Mr Grehan to outline the prosecution’s case against the two boys.
He began by describing the circumstances surrounding her discovery. After a three day search for the missing teenager, Gardaí found her body in a derelict farmhouse in Lucan – 3km from her home in Leixlip, Co Kildare.
She was naked apart from the socks on her feet and a ligature made from distinctive blue builder’s tape which was found wrapped around her neck.
She had obvious head injuries and the small downstairs room she was found in was covered in blood.
Her clothes were strewn around the room and the damage to certain items of her clothing suggested they were forcibly removed.
One of the Gardaí who found her said her “hair was matted across her face” and three of her fingers were inside the ligature. “They appeared to be pulling the ligature away from her,” he said.
A full murder investigation followed and ultimately led to the arrests of two boys, aged 13.
Ana was reported missing by her mother Geraldine at 9.00pm on May 14th last year. Mrs Kriegél was one of the first witnesses called by the prosecution.
She became upset as she recalled that day. She said she went upstairs to wake Ana up before she went to work.
She had a meeting in the city centre and wrote her daughter a note before she left to let her teachers know she had to leave school early that day to attend a counselling session. It was the last time she would see her daughter alive.
In September 2017, Mrs. Kriegél remembered taking a phone call from a resource teacher in Ana’s primary school.
She said she was “terrified” about Ana moving into secondary school. She said she had concerns that she might be made a mockery of and teased because of her vulnerability and inability to mix well with her peers.
Her mother described her as a “loner” who did not have many friends. She said she “craved friendship” but just didn't seem to make many friends in school. She was tall for her age.
Mrs Kriegél described her as a “typical Siberian” and her height became the source of some bullying both in school and online.
She was also teased about the fact she was adopted and began counselling in 2018.
Mrs Kriegél said she had two missed calls from her daughter on the afternoon of the day she went missing.
She said Ana tried to phone her at 4.02pm and again a minute later but she was unable to answer because she was in a meeting.
She said she tried to call her afterwards but it went to her voicemail. She said she became worried when she returned home to find out that Ana had gone out with Boy B after he called for her on what was a warm and sunny day in May.
"I was immediately concerned because nobody called for Ana. She had no friends,” she said.
After failing to get a hold of her on the phone, she said she went out looking for her but to no avail.
The prosecution claimed Ana was already dead at that stage.
Boy B’s home was the first port of call for Gardaí trying to track down Ana after she was reported missing.
Boy B’s father said he remembered his wife answering the door to them late at night but he did not know what it was about. He said his son looked “very surprised” and just stood behind his mother while she spoke to them.
Boy B made no mention of his friend Boy A at this stage. He did the following day, claiming Boy A wanted to meet her in a park near her home.
Both boys were taken to the park and asked to retrace their steps.
Their accounts differed and Gardaí became suspicious. Voluntary statements were then taken separately from the two friends.
“A made-up story”
Boy A had some noticeable injuries when Gardaí spoke to him after Ana went missing.
He told them he had been jumped in the park while on his way home after leaving Ana on the evening of May 14th 2018.
His friend gave evidence via video link to say he was limping and had blood on his t-shirt when he called for him that day. He said he looked “scared”.
When he asked him what happened, he told the jury he told him he was attacked by two people in their late teens in the park.
His parents said he looked “shook” when he arrived home with the same explanation for his injuries.
A park ranger said his hands were shaking and he looked like a “rabbit caught in headlights” when his father drove him back to the park to try and find his attackers.
Boy A gave Gardaí very detailed descriptions of his alleged assailants, whom he claimed to have fought off.
An EvoFit was developed at Garda HQ on the back of those descriptions.
The prosecution claimed this was a “made-up story” used to explain away the injuries he suffered during a struggle with Ana.
It took several hours for the now retired State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy to present her post-mortem report such was the extent of the injuries to the schoolgirl.
From her preliminary examination at the scene, she said she got the impression that Ana suffered severe injuries in an area close to the doorway before she was moved to an area of the room that was better lit.
A forensic scientist came to the same conclusion after a thorough examination of blood patterns found in the room.
Professor Cassidy said the evidence suggested she was dead for several hours if not longer.
She said there was evidence of a violent assault, severe external injuries to her head and neck and there was also evidence of a sexual assault.
She said Ana had what appeared to be defensive wounds and she concluded that she died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck.
Under cross-examination for Boy B’s defence barrister Damien Colgan SC, she was asked if somebody witnessing what he described as a “horrific attack” could be traumatised. She replied: “I’m sure anyone witnessing that could be traumatised”.
John Hoade, an expert in instrumental analysis with Forensic Science Ireland, proved to be one of the prosecution’s key witnesses in the case and made several visits to the witness box during the trial.
Following his examination of blood patterns at the scene, he concluded that Ana was struck several times as she lay in a corner of the room to the left of the doorway.
He said he believed her body was then moved to where it was eventually found near a window on the other side of the room.
He said Ana’s blood was found on a brick and a charred stick found in the room.
Her blood was also found on a pair of black boots worn by Boy A on the day she went missing. Closer analysis of blood spatter on the boots indicated to him that Boy A either assaulted Ana or was in close proximity of her when she was assaulted.
The boys were arrested on May 24th 2018 – a week after Ana’s body was found in the abandoned farmhouse.
Given their ages, their parents were given notice of the intention to bring them in for questioning.
A DNA sample was taken from Boy A before his first cautioned interview and so the questioning began.
He marked out a point on a map of the park near Ana’s home where he claimed he last saw her.
He said he wasn't aware of the abandoned house where she was found. He denied saying anything to upset her that day, only that he was not interested in her.
He was shown some CCTV footage during his second and third recorded interviews.
Gardaí had trawled through up to 700 hours of footage harvested from various points of interest to the investigation.
They suspected that a male dressed in dark clothing seen walking through the park at 5.05pm with a backpack and gloves on was him.
The prosecution referred to this backpack as his ‘murder kit’. He denied having a bag with him that day.
When he was told Ana’s blood was found on his boots, he asked: “are you joking me?” Gardaí assured him they were not.
“Are you actually being serious?” he asked. Again, he was assured they would not joke about such a thing. Boy A asked if it was OK to get some air at that point.
Gardaí put it to him that the CCTV footage showed he lied about the route he took that day.
He was again reminded of the blood found on his boots and asked if he had anything to say to establish the truth about what happened to Ana.
He said he did not. He denied being in the room with Ana on the day she was killed and insisted what he told Gardaí following her disappearance was the truth.
Gruesome torture methods
In his fifth interview, Boy A was told Gardaí had retrieved data from the Safari search engine on his phone. He claimed that wasn't possible because he didn't have Safari on his phone.
A printout taken from a download dated February 14th 2018 was then shown to him.
It included things like ’15 Most Gruesome Torture Methods in History’ and ‘Horror Movies that will Blow Everyone Away’.
When asked about those, he said he was looking for horror movies online.
Further examination of his phone revealed a purported search for ‘Abandoned Places in Lucan’. Again, he shook his head when asked if he had anything to say.
Towards the end of his sixth and final interview, his solicitor was handed a memo of a number of pages of a statement being taken from his friend at the same time.
The details were not revealed in court but the jury heard Boy A claimed Boy B was lying.
“An overwhelming forensic case”
At both the opening and closing stages of the trial, Mr Grehan described the prosecution’s case against Boy A as being an “overwhelming forensic” one.
The boys’ homes were searched while they were being interviewed and a number of items of significant interest were seized from Boy A’s home including a backpack found in his wardrobe.
Forensic scientist John Hoade was again called to the witness box to give evidence about his findings in relation to the seized items.
He said he found Ana’s blood on the outside and inside of the bag. A bloodied mask shown to the jurors contained traces of both Boy A and Ana’s DNA.
Her blood was also found on some gloves and knee pads.
Mr Hoade’s colleague at Forensic Science Ireland Dr Charlotte Murphy said his DNA was also found on Ana’s neck.
Another forensic scientist called Marce Lee-Gorman told the jurors his DNA was found on a semen stain on Ana’s ripped top.
Her examination of Ana’s top and bra led her to believe that force was required to cause damage to both items.
“Lies, lies, lies”
The prosecution’s case against Boy B was somewhat different.
There was no forensic evidence linking him to Ana or the crime scene. A roll of blue Tescon insulation tape was seized during a search of his home following his arrest.
It was the same brand of tape found wrapped around Ana’s neck and Mr Grehan said it was the prosecution’s case that he helped Ana’s killer by providing him with the tape.
Boy B admitted giving the tape to Boy A sometime beforehand but he said he thought he was going to use it to make a grip for one of his toys.
In any event, the prosecution’s case relied largely on what came out of his own mouth, especially during the eight Garda interviews conducted by detectives Damien Gannon and Donal Daly.
In his first interview under caution, Boy A gave his interrogators what proved to be the first of many versions of what he claimed to have happened on the day Ana went missing.
He was shown maps and photos and was told there was CCTV from the park, although he was not shown any footage during this interview in what was undoubtedly one of the many calculated moves of his highly experienced interviewers who aimed to derive as much information and detail as possible from the young suspect.
He claimed he reluctantly agreed to call for Ana at the request of Boy A who cited “relationship issues” as the reason he wanted to see her.
He claimed he walked her to the park where they met his friend and he said he gave them space to talk in private before he left them to it.
He told them he stopped off for a drink of water at the ranger’s hut on his way home.
As he was leaving, he said he saw Ana leaving the park. He told detectives he said “hi” to her but she did not say anything. He said she looked sad.
He spoke about Ana in his second interview, describing her as “developed” and “more mature” than other girls.
He described her as a “weirdo” and “slutty”. Again, he denied being in the abandoned house where she was found and stuck to his initial version of events.
Various CCTV clips were shown to him in his third interview. One of the clips revealed he couldn't possibly have met Boy A where he claimed he did. The timings just didn't add up. “That’s weird,” he said. “I don’t know why he's down there but we met here”.
Boy B admitted lying to Gardaí in his next interview and retold the story of what he claimed “actually happened”.
He accepted he did not meet Boy A where he claimed he did and said it was down by a BMX track.
He also told the detectives that he left Boy A and Ana “a bit further” up on the roadway than he claimed to have in his previous interview.
He also began to row back on what he said about seeing Ana leaving the park, instead telling them that he saw someone “who looked like Ana”.
Again, he denied being in the house. When he was shown photos from the crime scene including his friend’s blood-stained boots, he said: “No, no. He wouldn’t do that”.
Later he said: “If those are his boots, that means either he did it or was a standby. I don't want to believe it was him”. His response to being shown a photo of the bloodied brick found in the room was “I suppose that’s the murder weapon”.
Towards the end of this interview, he repeatedly denied being in the house.
His story changed again in the final interview before he was released following his first arrest.
After admitting going into a field leading up to the abandoned house, he asked his mother to leave the interview room.
Given his age, he was told she had to stay. He then told Gardaí how he walked up to the house with Boy A and Ana but left after they went inside.
He told them he heard a scream as he walked away. He described it as a “strong scream” that got muffled at the end like somebody had covered her mouth.
He said he ran away and just kept thinking that Boy A would be able to protect her because he was “big, strong and tall”.
His story changed again when he later admitted going into the house.
While inside, he claimed he saw Boy A flip Ana onto the ground while choking her.
He said he left at this point. Then he said he did not and claimed he saw his friend undressing her.
In this final version, he told them Boy A was on top of her and choking her.
Boy B was released without charge following his first five interviews but a decision was made to re-arrest him a few weeks later after new material came to light.
One of the first things he told Gardaí in his sixth interview was about a satanic club mentioned in a copybook of his seized by Gardaí.
He said it was just for fun and was not supposed to be serious.
The copybook was produced to the jurors during the trial. It contained a satanic pledge with a list of names below it including his and Boy A’s. It also had a list of rules:
- Only pledge hosts can give pledges
- Don't talk about it
- Act normal like nothing happened
- No talking about Jesus or God – only Satan
When Boy B was asked about a mask found in Boy A’s house, he said he knew about it. He said he’d worn it before and described it as a “zombie mask”.
He initially denied seeing the mask on the day in question but later claimed Boy A was wearing it while he was attacking Ana.
He also told Gardaí that Boy A told him a month beforehand that he wanted to kill her but said he thought he was joking and didn't take him seriously.
This was crucial to the case because the prosecution claimed he called for her that day knowing what was to happen to her.
When asked why he didn’t try and help her or why he didn't call for help after he left the house or why he didn't tell the truth when Gardaí started asking questions after she was reported missing, he simply said he was “scared” and just tried to pretend nothing happened.
Gardaí accused him of luring Ana to her death and leading them on a “merry-dance”.
He denied that was the case. He said he was ashamed for running away and accepted he should have helped her but he repeatedly denied knowing what was in store for her when he knocked on her door that day.
A number of child witnesses gave evidence via video link during the trial and their identities were also protected by law because of their ages.
One boy claimed Boy B confided in him about what happened to Ana.
This conversation was alleged to have taken place sometime between his first arrest in May 2018 and his re-arrest in July 2018.
From another room in the courthouse, the boy looked down the lens of the camera beaming his image into Court 9 and told the jury Boy B told him that he witnessed Boy A and Ana getting into a small “scrap” that got more violent and involved her trying to fight back.
Under cross-examination, he recalled another conversation with Boy B, during which he claimed he told him that he believed Boy A was “building a case against him”.
In his closing speech to the jurors some six weeks after he first addressed them, Mr Grehan summed up his case against the boys and reminded them to look at their cases separately.
In relation to Boy A, he said there was “simply no innocent explanation” to explain away what he described as “the overwhelming forensic case” against him.
He accepted there was no forensic evidence attached to the case against Boy B but he said it was clear he assisted Ana’s killer by bringing her to the location where she was killed.
He went on to claim he was present when she was attacked and helped in covering up what happened with his lies. He said the suggestion that he assisted in the matter without any knowledge of what was to happen was “simply not credible”.
In his final address to the jury, Boy A’s barrister Patrick Gageby SC said the question of age was important as well as his client’s background in that he comes from a “hard-working and decent” family.
He said this was highly relevant and he asked the jurors to be careful of speculating or of drawing any unfair references relating to young people.
In relation to the male DNA found on Ana and her top, he asked if this could have been the result of a “consensual intimacy”.
He said it was hard to identify any motive to kill her. Mr Gageby also echoed the repeated warning of the trial judge Mr Justice Paul McDermott that anything Boy B said about his client could not be used as evidence against him.
On behalf of Boy B, Mr Colgan addressed the lies his client told to Gardaí and reminded the jury that lies by themselves don't equate to guilt. He wondered if he didn't tell the truth because his mother was present or was it shame, he asked.
He also suggested it could have been a result of trauma after what he claimed to have witnessed and reminded the jurors of what Professor Cassidy said in relation to trauma.
He also said they couldn't prove that he conspired with Boy A. “He was set up his co-accused. That’s exactly what happened,” he said.
After listening to a summary of the evidence and getting a detailed rundown of the applicable legal principles from the judge, the eight men and four women began their deliberations at 12.35pm on Wednesday, June 12th.
The judge’s warning to leave any sympathy or empathy they may have at the jury room door still ringing in their ears.
Guilty, guilty, guilty
Quite early in their deliberations, the jurors requested DVDs of Boy B’s interviews with Gardaí suggesting they had already made their minds up in relation to his co-accused.
Just after lunchtime on June 18th, word filtered through the towering CCJ building that a verdict was imminent.
Geraldine and Patric Kriegél held hands as the jurors returned to their seats having spent almost fourteen and a half hours considering the evidence.
Mrs Kriegél kept her eyes shut tight as the jury foreperson was asked to deliver the verdicts.
She opened them again after it was confirmed that the boys had been convicted of murdering her daughter. Boy A was also found guilty of aggravated sexual assault.
There were emotional scenes in the back of the courtroom after the boys learned their fate.
Boy A sat between his parents at the very back. They held hands tightly as he rested his head on his mother’s shoulder.
She wiped away tears. Boy B’s father bowed his head and stormed out of court, banging the door on his way out. He returned moments later.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott adjourned their sentence hearing until July 15th.
The mandatory life sentence for murder doesn’t arise because of their ages.
The maximum penalty is still available in cases involving minors but the judge does have some discretion when it comes to sentencing so various reports were ordered ahead of next month’s sentence hearing.
Mr Justice McDermott thanked the jurors for their careful consideration and excused them from jury service for the rest of their lives.
He also paid his condolences to the Kriegél family, who embraced each other before filing out of the courtroom.
Reporting by Frank Greaney