Tuesday 12 December 2017

Life of tragic Rachel seen through her mother's eyes

We already knew of mother's love for daughter who was murdered by Joe O'Reilly, writes Anne Marie Scanlon

Anne Marie Scanlon

Remembering Rachel

Rose Callaly

Penguin, €14.99

'ON Monday, October 4, 2004 a nightmare began from which I have never really woken up..."

You would need to have a heart of stone not to feel a great deal of sympathy for Rose Callaly, who on that day discovered her daughter Rachel O'Reilly lying dead in a pool of blood on her bedroom floor. Rachel O'Reilly was 30 years old and the mother of two small children when she was killed and Rose, unsurprisingly, was devastated. "It was unbearable to know that someone had done something so unimaginably brutal to our precious child."

Rose's nightmare was only just beginning and although in deep shock at finding her daughter murdered, (she describes the scene as like an abattoir), she still felt that the apparent evidence of a burglary looked staged. Rachel's murder immediately became very well known in Ireland and the 2007 trial of Rachel's husband, Joe O'Reilly, was widely covered by the media.

Initially, Rose did not suspect her son-in-law and felt a great deal of sympathy for him. "I was devastated for him, this young man with two children little more than babies, having to face what would tear life as they knew it apart."

Joe had never been an ideal son-in-law. When Rose's husband, Jim, had triple by-pass heart surgery in 2002, Joe never visited him in hospital nor made any enquiries about his health. When Rachel and Joe moved into their new home in the Naul, where Rachel was subsequently murdered, Joe took himself and the children off to his mother's house and left Rachel to unpack by herself.

By the time Rose and Joe appeared on the Late Late Show almost three weeks after her daughter's murder, her suspicions about her son-in-law were growing. "I was still trying to come to terms with how I felt -- both being convinced that I had to trust my instincts and, on the other hand, hating myself for having such awful thoughts."

During their appearance on TV Joe said things which Rose knew to be untrue and she says, "He was performing ... he was enjoying it."

There can be no doubt in the reader's mind that Rose loved her daughter but that is where the difficulty with this book lies.

It is hard for the reader to form any sort of picture of what Rachel was actually like, as her mother (like all mothers) describes her as a person who was near perfect, which nobody is. Also, despite Rose and Rachel having a close relationship, Rachel was intensely private about her married life and Rose can only speculate on what her relationship with Joe was really like. This is an exercise in frustration for both writer and reader. Rose is also hampered by legalities and cannot, for example, refer to either the sex or name of Rachel's children.

The only thing that is really obvious from this book is that Rose Callaly loved her daughter and we knew that already.

Sunday Independent

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