he was going to go "have it out with them." Cleary also claimed that Bridget would ride up to the house at midnight on a big gray horse, bound with fairy ropes, which had to be cut before she could return as a mortal. Simpson told Cleary he had no revolver. Later, he saw Cleary heading for Kylegranaugh Hill, carrying a big knife.
That night, Johanna Burke returned to the Cleary house to find Bridget sitting by the fire talking to Boland, Cleary and Patrick Burke, Johanna's brother. Cleary flung his wife to the ground and forced her to eat bread and jam and drink tea—fairies do not have to eat mortal food— and threatened her with more punishment if she did not. He again demanded to know her true identity, and she insisted she was Bridget, not a witch changeling.
Cleary's rage increased. He tore off her clothes and grabbed a hot brand from the fire and held it up to her mouth. He refused to let anyone out of the house until he got his wife back. Then he threw lamp oil over Bridget and set her afire. Later Burke described what happened:
She lay writhing and burning in the hearth, and the house was full of smoke and smell . . . she turned to me and screamed out, "Oh Han, Han." . . . When I came down Bridget was still lying on the hearth, smoldering and dead. Her legs were blackened and contracted with the fire. . . . Michale [sic] Cleary screamed out, "She is burning now, but God knows I did not mean to do it. I may thank Jack Dunne for all of it."
Cleary and Patrick Burke put Bridget's remains in a sack and buried them in a shallow grave about a quarter of a mile away. The remains, with the legs, abdomen, part of the back and the left hand nearly burned away, were found on March 22. Witnesses came forward. Cleary, Bo-land, the Kennedy boys and aunt, Ahearne and Dunne were charged with willful murder. In the investigation, two more men were charged: William Kennedy, another cousin, and Dennis Ganey, an herb doctor. The trial lasted two weeks.
A jury found all defendants guilty of manslaughter, a lesser charge, and the judge sentenced all to jail. Cleary received the harshest sentence: 20 years of hard labor. Even as he was sentenced, he still believed the fairies had stolen his wife and left a changeling witch in her place.
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