A FATHER drowned his three-year-old daughter before killing himself in an apparent-murder suicide as his marriage broke down, detectives believe.
The remains of farmer Martin McCarthy, 50, and little Clarissa were discovered on the coastline close to their west Cork home in the early hours of the morning.
The tragedy has devastated her American-born mother Rebecca and numbed the tight-knit community around the picturesque village of Ballydehob.
Clarissa was described as a "happy, bubbly child" who locals said was adored by her mother and father.
Councillor Dermot Sheehan, a friend of Mr McCarthy and one of the volunteers who helped search for the pair, said people across the area are in shock.
"Everybody is numbed with shock and are trying to come to terms with the events of yesterday evening," he said.
"Martin would be very well-known in the community. He was a very hard-working farmer and was very well-known in farming circles throughout west Cork.
"His wife Rebecca has worked part-time on and off in the village locally in the post-office.
"They were a typical loving unit, Martin was a hard, dedicated working family man and Rebecca a lovely wife."
The horror unfolded at around midnight when 26-year-old Mrs McCarthy returned to the family's rural farmhouse in Foilnamuck, Ballydehob, and discovered her husband and their only child were missing.
It is understood a note had been left at the property which sparked a massive search around the farm and nearby coastline.
Clarissa's body was discovered along the shoreline at the isolated Audley Cove shortly before 2am as her mother was on the scene. Her father's remains were found in shallow water nearby about 40 minutes.
The remains of her husband and daughter were removed to University Hospital Cork, where assistant state pathologist Margaret Bolster has begun post-mortem examinations to determine the exact cause of deaths.
A senior garda said the murder-suicide is being treated as a domestic tragedy.
"They were going to separate and he did not want to give up the child," he said. "There was no background before this, it's a personal tragedy."
Mr McCarthy, a dairy and dry stock farmer who also leased land from other landowners in the area, was a political activist with Fine Gael.
He had canvassed for Cllr Sheehan in the last local elections and his father PJ for 30 years before that.
Each year he played Santa Claus at Ballydehob's annual Christmas party and regularly played cards in the village.
It is believed Mrs McCarthy had moved to Ireland several years ago, where the couple met and wed.
Trained counsellors are on stand-by in the area to support gardai working on the case while Cllr Sheehan paid tribute to all involved in the search operation.
"I can't praise them enough for their professionalism," added Cllr Sheehan, a volunteer with the Irish Coast Guard.
"It wasn't an easy situation because the people were personally known to quite a number of them.
"All I can do is extend mine and everyone's deepest sympathies to the imminent family, Rebecca and Martin's sister, and extended family and friends."