A concert to remember

George Murphy and the Irish folk band The Black Donnellys performs a rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah swissinfo.ch

Nearly two years ago, just three days into a trip to Ireland, 17-year-old Manuela Riedo's life was snuffed out by a career criminal, out on bail for a previous assault.

This content was published on July 26, 2009 - 18:16

On Saturday evening, several hundred people turned up at a pub in Basel to support a foundation created in the Swiss teenager's name in a way that the Irish do best: they threw a party.

The crime's salacious circumstances continue to make headlines across Ireland. The man who raped and murdered Riedo is serving three life sentences for her killing and the sexual assault of a French woman.

"It brings you to the point where you want to do something," said Dublin-born businessman Brendan McGuinness, the owner of McGuinness's Irish Pub. "I live in Switzerland. The child was murdered in Ireland, which should never have happened, and as a human being, you have to care."

Seven musical acts flew in from Ireland for the event, performing free of charge. All of the proceedings would be turned over to the foundation, McGuinness said. He is planning a larger concert in Dublin for November.

McGuinness, who moved to Switzerland three years ago, reached out to Manuela's parents, Hans-Peter and Arlette Riedo, while following the case.

"From the first day I met them I saw what beautiful people they are and it was very easy for me to imagine why this struck me so personally," he told swissinfo.ch. "When you see the parents, their child had to be like them. So it was very easy to get emotionally involved."

Manuela's parents had travelled to Ireland for the trial of Gerald Berry, a man with a long history of criminal behaviour and described even by his own attorney as an "extremely incompetent individual".

Hans-Peter and Arlette helped launch the Manuela Riedo Foundation in April to educate teenagers about the dangers of rape and sexual assault, and to provide support for victims. They say they will never forgive Berry.

Bittersweet moment

At the top of a wooden staircase overlooking the small pub stage, Hans-Peter, a cement truck driver, stands stoically. Arlette is beside him and they look on as the evening begins to warm up.

"I'm going to ask you something that might not have been done in an Irish pub before," Francie Conway, a singer from Dublin, tells the audience. "Can we please just have a minute's silence please? And I want you to please remember this beautiful young girl, the reason we're here tonight."

Silence punctures the hustle and bustle, broken for a moment only by the shuffling of barstools on the century-old floorboards, imported from the original Guinness factory in Dublin. Some people in the audience are wiping their eyes.

In an evening that bridged moments ranging from poignancy to Irish nationalism and everything in between, the performers and the audience say they have felt a connection to Manuela and her family.

"It just really touched me so I just had an idea for a song and I thought it would be a nice gesture," said 17-year-old Niamh Kilcawley, one of the performers.

Lasting impact

She says that the nature of Manuela's death has caused her to think twice about where and when she ventures alone. "I think that hopefully the foundation will keep on raising the awareness so that girls my age can just be careful."

"This has touched a lot of people in Ireland," said singer Mickey Harte. "I also have a daughter of the same age. When I was asked to do it and I was able to clear the date, I didn't think twice about it."

"As an Irish nation, I suppose we're very embarrassed about it. We're very ashamed that this could happen in Ireland to somebody like Manuela."

Marianne Hitz, a Swiss expatriate, says she came for the music and to show her support: "My partner is an Irishman and listens to Irish radio."

"Again, because of the links to Ireland we have, we knew about what happened in Galway," she said. "I don't have children myself. I think it's very difficult to understand how they feel. I can empathise. It must be very tragic to lose your only child. It's devastating."

For Manuela's parents, life remains a daily struggle for peace in the absence of their only child.

"She was the best daughter anybody could wish for. We were lucky to have had 17 beautiful years with her and we look back at those times," Hans-Peter told swissinfo.ch. "The future unfortunately looks different."

He says each day brings different feelings. "Sometimes it goes well and other days it's best to say nothing and let it pass. But the positive days are coming back. We're working with all our strength."

Justin Häne in Basel, swissinfo.ch

Manuela Riedo

Manuela Riedo was born on November 5, 1989.

Her family describe her as having been a peacemaker with "a 1,000 watt smile".

She was the only child of Hans-Peter and Arlette Riedo.

Manuela went missing in the western Irish city of Galway on October 8, 2009.

Her body was found the next day.

She had travelled with a group of 43 Swiss students for a two-week English course.

She had planned to attend an English course in San Diego before enrolling in a hotel management school in Switzerland.

In March 2009, 29-year-old Gerald Barry, a career criminal, was handed a mandatory life sentence for her killing.

He also received two five-year sentences for stealing her camera and mobile phone.

In July, Berry received another two life sentences for the rape of a 21-year-old French student.

"This is one of the worst tragedies that has happened in Galway. It will take us some time, if ever, to get over this," said Ciarán McLoughlin, who headed the inquest into Riedo's murder.

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