independent

Monday 21 April 2014

'He killed our daughter'

Heartbroken mum flees inquest in tears after clashing with friends and family of her late husband

Rebecca McCarthy (centre) with her mother and aunt at the inquest in Bantry, Co Cork

The heartbroken mother of a three-year-old girl who drowned alongside her father walked out of their inquest after heated exchanges over precisely how the child died.

Rebecca McCarthy (26) fought back tears after verbal clashes between her family and friends of her late husband, Martin McCarthy (50).

Mr McCarthy had left a note in the milking parlour of his west Cork farm, outlining his intention to take his own life on March 5, 2013 – but his friends rejected any suggestion that he ever planned to hurt his daughter Clarissa.

An inquest in Bantry recorded verdicts of drowning for the father and daughter, from Audley Cove near Ballydehob, West Cork.

Ms McCarthy, an American, had travelled back to Ireland to attend the Bantry inquest from her new home in California, accompanied by her mother and aunt. But she briefly fled the hearing when friends of Mr McCarthy loudly objected to the coroner returning a verdict which implied that the farmer had restrained his little girl in the water.

Brothers Alan and Daniel Hurley, neighbours and friends of Mr McCarthy, said there was no pathological evidence to support this.

There were heated exchanges, with members of Rebecca's family saying "He killed her" and "If he was still alive he would be charged with murder."

However, Mr McCarthy's friends insisted to the coroner that "he idolised that child" and "he would never harm an animal, let alone a person".

One friend suggested to the coroner that the father and daughter may have fallen off a ledge into the sea that night.

But Coroner Frank O'Connell said he had to take the evidence into account.

The inquest had heard that a major land and sea search was launched for the father and child when a note addressed to Mr McCarthy's wife was discovered in the milking parlour on March 5.

The note, which was not read out at the inquest, was in Mr McCarthy's handwriting.

Mr O'Connell, who read the note, said it was clear why serious concerns over the safety of the two were raised, as the farmer was "explicit" in the note about his intentions.

"You cannot ignore the note," he said. Mr O'Connell recorded a verdict of "drowning... death was self-caused" for Mr McCarthy. His death was also accelerated by severe cardiac disease.

In the case of Clarissa, he recorded a verdict of death "as a result of drowning, where the deceased, a three-year-old child, was taken into the water, where she became unconscious and drowned".

Ms McCarthy declined to comment to the media after the inquest.

Her solicitor, Martin Harvey, said the family wanted to thank all the members of the emergency services who mounted a desperate search for the father and girl and then tried so hard to save them.

"Rebecca wishes to ask members of the media to allow her to grieve her terrible loss. We would ask everyone to please respect her privacy," he said.

In her statement to gardai, Mrs McCarthy had told how she hugged her daughter's favourite rock by a beach adjoining the family farm from midnight as the Goleen Coastguard and Baltimore RNLI combed the sea for any trace of the father and daughter.

"I squeezed it (Clarissa's favourite rock)... and then I heard that they had found Clarissa," she said.

"I tried to run over (to the body) but they pulled me back. Then they put something over her little legs and they put her in the ambulance. I got in beside her," she added.

The little girl was pronounced dead by a GP before she was removed to hospital.

CRADLED

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said there was no evidence of trauma in either case. Alcohol was found in Mr McCarthy's system.

The couple first met when Rebecca was a 16-year-old student at Schull Community School a decade ago.

They married in 2006 when Rebecca was 19 and Clarissa was born in May 2009.

Mr McCarthy doted on the child and referred to her as his "princess".

Ms McCarthy insisted that her husband and daughter be buried together and members of both families walked into Schull Church side by side for the Requiem Mass last year in a gesture of solidarity.

Mr McCarthy was buried with Clarissa cradled in his arms in a single coffin.

Ralph Riegel

Irish Independent

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