'Cinderella' who was beaten with a fire poker by stepmother speaks out

‘Cinderella schoolgirl’ abused by her stepmother from the age of 6 who beat her with a poker, forced her to eat spices and made her do chores while her stepsisters played blasts her lack of remorse as she’s jailed for 2 years

  • Cora Desmond, 21, from Cork, suffered decade of abuse at hands of stepmother
  • Bridget Kenneally, 49, branded her ‘Cora-Ella’ in a reference to Cinderella story
  • Was beaten with a poker during Kenneally’s 11 year relationship with her father 
  • Abuse came to the end when she turned 16 and told mother what was happening

A ‘Cinderella schoolgirl’ who was beaten with a fire poker by her stepmother during a decade of abuse has revealed she spoke out to ‘help others.’

Cora Desmond, 21, from Cork, was six when she began to suffer abuse from part-time cleaner Bridget Kenneally, 49, who branded her ‘Cora-Ella’ in a cruel reference to the fairytale story and subjected her to years of horrific beatings and mental cruelty. 

Kenneally, who was in an 11-year relationship with Cora’s father before the abuse was revealed, was jailed for two years on Tuesday after a court heard about the abuse endured by Cora.

Speaking to The Sun, Cora said she hoped speaking out would ‘help others’, revealing: ‘I will never forgive her for what she did but I got some justice and she is locked up. Now I can get on with my life.’

Cora Desmond, 21, from Cork, endured a decade of abuse at the hands of her stepmother Briget Kenneally, 49, who branded her ‘Cora-ella’ in a cruel reference to the fairytale story 

Cora’s father separated from her mother when she was three before entering into a relationship with Kenneally when she was six. 

Kenneally had three children of her own when Cora and her sister moved in, and initially seeming caring and kind. 

Yet six months into the relationship in 2005, the physical beatings and mental abuse began.

Kenneally told Cora she was unloved and unwanted, forcing the youngster to clean the house without any access to friends or playtime.

Meanwhile she allowed her other children to play outside with their friends. 

Cora was singled out for beatings with a fire poker, vacuum cleaner pole, belts and spatulas. 

Kenneally even forced Cora to eat a cocktail of hot spices and condiments, with the youngster being ‘punished’ with ‘excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar.’

She was hospitalised for a week after receiving a head injury from her stepmother in 2008, and suffered a broken thumb when Kenneally squeezed her hand too tightly.  

Kenneally beat Cora with a firepoker and forced her step-daughter to eat a cocktail of hot spices and condiments, with the youngster being ‘punished’ with ‘excessive amounts of salt, pepper, mustard, chilli powder and vinegar’

On one occasion, she was found to have 50 bruises across her body by a GP.  

Meanwhile Kenneally threatened to kill her and said nobody would believe her if she were to reveal the abuse to anyone. 

Cora was forced to lie about how she acquired the injuries, leading people to believe she was clumsy. 

The abuse finally came to an end when Cora turned 16 and she ‘broke down’ to her mother, who didn’t know anything about what had happened.    

Her mother immediately rang the garda station and made an appointment to bring her daughter to see some officers to report the abuse.

Cora said she would ‘never forgive’ Kenneally for what she did, but now hopes to move forward with her life 

A timeline of Kenneally’s abuse 

2002 – Cora’s parents separate 

2005 – Keneally gets into a relationship with Cora’s father and the abuse begins

2008 – Cora is hospitalised after receiving a head injury from her stepmother

2008-2016- Abuse is ongoing, with Cora being forcefed spices and beaten with household items including a fire poker 

2016 – Cora ‘broke down’ to her mother, who phoned gardi. Her father broke off the relationship

2016 – Kenneally was interviewed informally

2017 – Kenneally was arrested 

October 2020 – Keneally was jailed for two years 

Meanwhile her father broke off his relationship with Kenneally upon hearing the abuse, having been unaware the abuse was happening. 

Cora said her father was ‘distraught’ when he discovered what had been happening and had been ‘totally in the dark’ about the abuse. 

She said she was believed by gardi, who could look back and see records from doctors documenting injuries over years. 

Kenneally was interviewed informally in 2016 and was arrested in 2017 after a complaint was made against her. She made no admissions.  

Describing the mental and physical torture she endured at Kenneally’s hands  in court, Cora 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.’    

Kenneally, from Duncoran Youghal, was given a two-year jail sentence in the Cork Circuit Criminal Court by Judge Sean O’Donnabhain on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Cora at Kenny’s Lane, Youghal in October 2009.

She was allowed to go forward on that single charge on condition the full facts were revealed to the court during sentencing.

Meanwhile Cora said she hopes that by telling her story she can help others affected by abuse.

She said: ‘I know there are people out there going through awful things probably even worse than what I endured.

‘But if I can help one person by speaking out, then it is something.’ 

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