'I don’t understand how I’m alive. I could have died'
A terrifying ordeal for a disabled woman who was kidnapped, stabbed and thrown off a Sydney bridge has ended with significant prison terms for her tormentors.
But Kayla Kendrigan says she still wakes up in the middle of the night crying - and fears the incident will stick with her for the rest of her life.
Brooke Levina Jane Brown, 20, and Matthew James Leuthwaite, 23, were on Thursday sentenced for their role in the "gratuitous cruelty" inflicted on Ms Kendrigan.
Brown, Leuthwaite and two teenagers, who can't be named for legal reasons, kidnapped Ms Kendrigan in September 2018.
The group wanted revenge because they believed she had badmouthed them on social media
She was tied to a chair, hit with a bat and had her eyebrows shaved off after the group forced her into a car and took her to a western Sydney house.
Leuthwaite cut off Ms Kendrigan's ponytail while Brown stabbed her in the leg.
She also had a sock soaked in cleaning fluid shoved in her mouth and a cigarette stubbed out on her hand.
Leuthwaite was sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison, while Brown will serve at least four years behind bars.
"Gratuitous cruelty was involved in this offence," Judge Mark Buscombe told the Penrith District Court.
"The victim was subjected to considerable humiliation. Her hair was cut, her eyebrows shaved and a cigarette extinguished on her skin. She was a vulnerable victim who suffered from a disability."
Ms Kendrigan's phone was stolen after she desperately tried to call her father for help.
She was later bundled back into the car and driven to Windsor Bridge, where she was thrown into the Hawkesbury River.
"That action involved the grave risk of death to the victim," Judge Buscombe said. "Threats to her life were made if she went to police."
The then-19-year-old survived the fall, clinging to a pylon in the water before regaining the strength to dog paddle to shore.
Speaking to A Current Affair after the sentencing, Ms Kendrigan said she still had nightmares about the incident but was trying to move on with her life and find a job.
"I don't understand how I'm alive," she said.
"I could have died that night. I feel the impact of them throwing me off the bridge. I have times where I just wake up and have tears running down my eyes and I'm sweating, I'm crying. I had one last night. It's still happening. I think it's stuck with me for the rest of my life."
Ms Kendrigan questioned the length of the sentences.
"Why would you give someone that tried killing me a very, very short sentence?" she said, adding she hoped they "never do anything like that to anyone again" when they are released.
"I can be happy but inside I'm still hurting. (I'm) focused on finding a job and moving on with my life, hoping to forget everything that has happened to me. Hope the nightmares go, hope my future is just (a) happy ending."
Leuthwaite filmed parts of the kidnapping and abuse and later boastfully sent them to a friend, the court was told.
He also tried to sell Ms Kendrigan's phone at a brothel.
"He said he'd been on a four-day bender using ice and hadn't slept in four days," Judge Buscombe said.
Brown and Leuthwaite have a young child together but were separated at the time of the kidnapping.
Ms Kendrigan and members of her family were present for the sentencing.
Leuthwaite and Brown had earlier pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the kidnapping and robbery.
"The crime was a most serious one," the judge said. "It was unprovoked, involved long detention and gratuitous cruelty to a young woman with a significant physical disability."