It was on the day of Rockingham Castle’s Flashpoint Festival in 2017 that Amanda Bruce first realised that things weren’t quite right with her boyfriend Branden Kearney.
She’d been due to attend the festival with her family, paid for for as a treat by her mum, but as she got herself ready to go Kearney, 22, held a knife to his throat and told her if she went he’d kill himself.
Speaking to the Northants Telegraph following today’s (Friday, June 19) court case against Kearney, Amanda said: “That’s when I should have walked away.”
Today at Northampton Crown Court, Corby man Kearney was sentenced for intimidating a witness, possession of cocaine two counts of criminal damage and an brutal assault on Amanda.
It took her three years before she was able to free herself from Kearney’s manipulative clutches.
But not before he had inflicted a series of injuries, smashed up her house and reduced her to a shell of herself through thousands of abusive text messages that destroyed her self-esteem and left her suicidal.
The pair had met in a nightclub in Corby Old Village in 2017. Amanda, in her 30s, has been flattered because Kearney was in his early 20s. She was also vulnerable because she’d had to deal with her own version of the windrush scandal.
“He was charming and very, very clever,” she said.
”He told me he was 22 or 23 but really he was 19.”
As Kearney ramped up his manipulation, the pair split up on several occasions and he began coming to Amanda’s home, smashing windows and her belongings. He’d already been warned off by the authorities and, in summer 2019, was given a restraining order banning him from seeing her.
But he kept turning up at Amanda’s home, breaching the order three times, and told Amanda he’d report her to social services for allowing him into her home and her children would be taken off her.
The court heard how, on New Year’s Eve 2019, he visited her house with his mates and, when she returned from her night out, the pair went upstairs.
He stamped on her phone, punched her in the mouth and bit her ear. Her 15-year-old son was forced to try to pull him off her.
Amanda gave police a statement but withdrew it in January this year after being intimidated by Kearney.
Prosecuting barrister Chris Canning said that Amanda had only withdrawn her statement because Kearney had threatened her with involving social services.
The court was told that Kearney had a history of domestic violence against Amanda and was in breach of a suspended sentence for kicking a police officer.
“Everbody knows me for being strong but you never know what’s really going on, do you?” said Amanda after today’s case.
”People might say ‘why didn’t she just walk away’? But you want to believe them when they say they’ve changed.
”It’s really common for women to feel sorry for their abusers. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome.”
Kearney sent thousands of bullying and abusive texts, seen by the Northants Telegraph, to Amanda, threatening to harm her and her family.
After Kearney broke a restraining order banning him from contacting Amanda in 2019, he was jailed. But astonishingly, he wormed his way back into Amanda’s life.
“I thought he’d changed,” she said.
”He said he’d learned his lesson.”
But Amanda discovered money going missing for her home and people in Corby told her Kearney had been buying rounds in the pub.
She was also told he’d been seeing other women in the town and received messages from him saying he was going out send her videos of him sleeping with them.
“God knows how many other women he’s been doing this to,” said Amanda who has now completed the Freedom Programme designed for victims of domestic violence.
”I just want people to know what he’s like. He’s dangerous and a pathological liar.”
Kearney appeared at Northampton Crown Court today to be sentenced to the charges he admitted only on the day a trial had been due to take place.
Amanda insisted that she wanted to read her own victim impact statement in court so that the judge could see with his own eyes the huge effect that Kearney had had on her life.
She did so, bravely, from the witness box.
”I wanted to have my day in court,” she said.
“I have been incredibly nervous but I wanted people to hear this.
”Of course I’m still worried. Seventy per cent of women murdered by their partners are killed after they leave. But I feel I’ve got to speak out.”
In her moving victim impact statement, Amanda said: “Branden came across as police, charming, intelligent and charismatic.
”Shortly after we met, Branden started to show signs of abnormal behaviour such as acting possessive, not wanting me to use social media and then stopping me seeing my friends and family.
“Branden would threaten in detail on how and where he was planning on killing himself and because of this, on so many occasions, I would get back with him as I loved him and did not want to see him hurt himself.
”I pushed everyone I cared about away because I felt it was easier to meet Branden’s demands.
”I became very insecure and stopped going to work and continued not to see my friends in the hope Branden’s behaviour would change.”
Amanda told the court how Kearney had caused thousands of pounds of damage to her house.
She went on: “I felt suicidal toward the end of the relationship. I couldn’t eat, sleep and was constantly exhausted.
”I now know I was stuck in a vicious cycle of manipulation and mental torture. It didn’t matter what I did for Branden, he always made me feel like it wasn’t good enough.
”I finally came to the conclusion that I cannot help Branden anymore and it is not fair for me to put myself and my kids through this anymore.
“I now know this was never a loving relationship and all this has been coercive, controlling, domestic abuse.”
Amanda credits her best friend Lorraine Clyde with helping her escape from Kearney’s clutches.
“She’s been amazing,” she said.
”I don’t know what I’d have done without this woman. I was on the floor and she picked me up.
In mitigation, Kearney’s barrister Paul Webb said the defendant was sorry for his actions, but that he had been deeply affected by the death of his mother in a fire in a fire at Northampton Super Bowl when she was just 27.
The court was also told how Kearney had caught Covid-19 while in prison and had spent time in isolation so he could reflect on his behaviour.
Mr Webb added: “The relationship was mutually destructive. It began when he was 19 and he was flattered to be in a relationship with someone in their late 30s.
”He was ill-equipped to deal with it. His actions were frequently petulant.”
The court was told how Kearney’s behaviour had been affected by his class-A drug use.
The Northants Telegraph can also reveal that Kearney’s brother Dylan Forbes was imprisoned for sexual activity with a child.
After the case, Amanda said: “We all have bad things happen in our lives. We don’t all behave like that.”
Sentencing Kearney, Judge David Herbert QC said: “You’ve made her life a misery.
”These are serious and repeated offences.
”It was a nasty assault. In Miss Bruce’s words your temper went from nought to 100.”
With regard to Kearney intimidating Amanda, Judge Herbert said he had ‘done his level best’ to get Amanda to withdraw her statement.
“It wasn’t an empty threat. You knew about her involvement with social services and you knew she would have been vulnerable and she took it seriously,” he said.
Judge Herbert prohibited Kearney indefinitely from contacting Amanda, visiting her street or her children’s school or posting about her on social media.
The court heard how Kearney was also in breach of a suspended sentence imposed last year for assaulting a police officer.
He was sentenced to 20 months in jail for intimidating a witness and four months for the assault on Amanda to be served consecutively.
Two concurrent one-month sentences were imposed for the two criminal damage counts and one month for possession of cocaine.
He was also ordered to serve a consecutive five week sentence for breach of the suspended sentence.
The total sentence was two years, five weeks of which Kearney will serve half.
If you’re in a relationship that you think might be abusive, you can get support from Women’s Aid.
You can also find more information about local support services on Northants Police website.