AT the funeral Mass for Martin and Clarissa McCarthy in the packed parish church in Schull, Fr Anthony O'Mahony told the congregation: "I suppose we never know what goes on inside the head of another person. If we did, maybe we could solve a lot of problems, maybe we could stop a lot of things from happening. Maybe we wouldn't be here today at Clarissa and Martin's funeral. Maybe."
When Martin McCarthy drove around the townlands of Schull and Ballydehob on his farming chores last Tuesday, plenty of people who met him thought he seemed grand. He was seen tending to his dairy farm in Foilnamuck, near Ballydehob. He spoke with some of his neighbours, who later told gardai that he seemed fine. One neighbour told a local newspaper that he seemed like "he hadn't a care in the world".
He was not entirely fine, though. His marriage to his young American wife, Rebecca (he was 50 and she is 25), was under strain according to reports, and sources said he feared being parted from their only child, Clarissa. But west Cork farmers are not known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
He came home that evening. He sat at the table with three-year-old daughter and ate the meal prepared by Rebecca, by all accounts an excellent cook and a keen baker. Rebecca said she had to go out for a while, leaving her husband to watch Clarissa. He didn't object and, according to sources, there was no row.
Rebecca was gone for no more than a couple of hours. In that short space of time, Martin took the almost unimaginable decision to kill himself and his only child, the little girl who sat opposite him over dinner, the bright and beautiful laughing child who we heard last week brought such joy to both her parents.
He took paper and a pen and wrote a note explaining the catastrophic and tragic course of action he had decided on to ensure he would not be parted from Clarissa. Reports said the letter was long and rambling, over several pages. Sources said its contents were brief enough to fill a single page, but Martin's handwriting was big and emphatic so that it filled a couple of pages, perhaps a sign of his emotional distress.
He left the note in the milking parlour in the yard. He took Clarissa and walked in darkness down his field to the shore of Audley Beach, the shingle shoreline that skirts his farm. It is believed he waded deep into the water carrying Clarissa in his arms.
Rebecca returned to an empty house at around 8pm. She searched, but to no avail. No one had seen him. Martin's sister, Hester, and her family helped look for him. Shortly before 11pm, one of his relatives discovered the note in the milking parlour. The references to Heaven were enough to leave his loved ones with a sense of rising horror.
By midnight, volunteers with Goleen's coastguard rescue assembled to join gardai from Bantry and emergency services in combing the craggy coastline. The volunteers were all men drawn from the same community as Martin and his daughter – farmers, builders, publicans, tradesmen – who were more used to going to the aid of stricken trawlers, sailors in distress or stranded tourists.
In a vigil of unimaginable pain, Rebecca watched from the low cliffs at the foot of her farm as the men fanned out across the beach, and not long afterwards saw her daughter's body carried from the water to the shore by Michael O'Regan, the Goleen man in charge of the coastguard volunteers. Martin's body was found an hour later, farther down the coast and farther out to sea.
Mr O'Regan later told the Southern Star that emergency workers tried for more than an hour to resuscitate the child on the beach. Martin and Clarissa were pronounced dead at 3am.
The pain caused by this tragedy was etched in every movement and expression of Rebecca at the funeral of her husband and daughter in Schull on Friday. Her face was white, her body slumped, her mother and her sister holding her steady. Despair and utter shock seemed to scream out from her demeanour. Yet in her grief she showed compassion for the husband who has deprived her of her only child, burying Clarissa and Martin in a single coffin, Clarissa cradled in her father's arms.
In his sermon, Fr O'Mahony told how Martin lived all his life in Foilnamuck and only left it to go to Mass, to go dancing, to work, to play cards. He went to America – once, with Rebecca. Farming, Clarissa and Rebecca were his life.
He grew up on the farm with Hester. When his now deceased parents retired, he took it over. His other interest was Fine Gael, and he used to canvass for the party at elections, first for the area's long-standing TD, PJ Sheehan, and after his retirement for his son, Dermot, who is now a councillor.
"He was a lifelong friend of mine. He took an active part in my political career and always canvassed at every election for me," said PJ Sheehan.
Martin was living alone at the family homestead, a bachelor farmer in his early 40s, when Rebecca crossed his path.
There are different accounts of how they met, including one romantic version told by PJ Sheehan: "Rebecca was on a hitchhiking tour in Ireland. Way back, I don't know what year, she walked from Schull to Ballydehob along the coast. She came across this farmstead and she went in. She saw that he was in the milking parlour, so she stopped in and said hello to him, and asked him the road to Ballydehob, I believe. It was love at first sight. It was a big change for a girl from the United States to settle down in this remote but tranquil area of west Cork."
Others tell it differently. As a 16-year-old high school student in Los Angeles, Rebecca Cejnar was fixated on Ireland and anxious to spend her transition year here.
Her parents knew Mark and Terri O'Mahony who live in Cappaglass, outside Ballydehob, through mutual acquaintances. The O'Mahonys agreed to take her for three months and enrolled her in the local community school in Schull for the time she was here. When she talked about doing her school project on farming, the O'Mahonys suggested she consult their near neighbour, Martin McCarthy. No one suspected that they would embark on a romantic liaison together – largely because of the age difference.
Their relationship did not become public knowledge until after Rebecca had returned to America at the end of her three-month trip. When she turned 18, she returned to west Cork and married Martin the following year at the age of 19. They were wed in Ballydehob and held a small reception in the West Lodge Hotel in Bantry.
They settled into the modest farmhouse in its stunningly scenic location with fields rolling down to the shingle beach.
Martin settled into farming. Dermot Sheehan, his friend and neighbour in Goleen, said he was an "extremely hard-working" member of the community. He added to his smallholding by leasing land in different locations and building up his herd. He kept dairy cattle and carried dry stock. He was "totally dedicated to his profession".
Martin was also involved in his community, dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas for the children in Ballydehob and playing cards occasionally, but not as involved as Rebecca.
The local Church of Ireland rector, Stephen McCann, recalled during a service last week how he met Rebecca through various cake-baking and community activities, including a talk on baking she gave to the local Mothers' Union. She was a Catholic who went to church each Sunday with Martin and Clarissa, but the two religious communities mixed freely.
She began making cakes to order and had begun working the odd day in Goleen post office, helping out the postmistress.
When Clarissa was born, she posted photos and images of her on photo websites to share with her family in America. There are videos of Clarissa sitting on her mother's shoulders with Martin beside her, a small, fine-boned man, beaming at the camera with smiling blue eyes.
"They both adored their daughter," said PJ Sheehan. "She was the apple of her daddy's eye. You can be certain he used to have her everywhere with him. When he was going around to view his outlying farms, she'd be in the Jeep with him. She was a daddy's girl."
In recent times, it was reported that the marriage ran into difficulties. It was widely reported last week that Martin was concerned he would lose contact with Clarissa, and that he feared she would be taken back to America by her mother. But Rebecca's father, Harry Cejnar, rubbished these reports and told a newspaper that Clarissa didn't even have a passport. And, according to one source, none had been applied for and Rebecca loved west Cork. While this suggests a man on the edge, it still doesn't explain the tragedy that unfolded.
An inquest will be held into the deaths of Martin and Clarissa. In doing so, it will examine what factors might have triggered the deeply disturbed state of mind that caused a father to extend his own suicidal urge to kill his only child.
Gardai are preparing a report for the coroner, and in time a statement will be taken from Rebecca. According to sources, he wasn't known to suffer from depression, he didn't seem tortured or consumed by anguish. The people he interacted with on a daily basis – his neighbours, his fellow farmers, the people in the local community – saw no signs that anything much was amiss. He was quiet and "understated" at the best of times. His only health complaint was a heart condition for which he had been treated late last year. There were reports last week that he had engineered a situation where he would be alone with his daughter, that the act of filicide was premeditated. According to sources, evidence has yet to emerge that this was the case.
Martin McCarthy's actions have left a sense of lingering anger at the devastation he has left behind and the destruction of a child's life. One person described him as "temperamental" and "unapproachable". And don't forget, he pointed out, if he had somehow survived, he would be facing trial for his daughter's murder.
The community at large has followed the lead shown by Rebecca. In a poignant postscript at Martin and Clarissa's funeral on Friday, Martin's brother-in-law Billy O'Brien asked nothing more than that Martin be remembered as a "kind and helpful neighbour" and Clarissa as a "bright and happy" child who brought joy to both her parents.