Saturday 20 January 2018

Heated exchanges at inquest of farmer who drowned himself after taking daughter into sea

Clarissa McCarthy
Clarissa McCarthy
Rebecca Mc Carthy at the inquest into her daughter and husband
FAMILY TIMES: Rebecca McCarthy with daughter Clarissa, 3, and husband Martin, who later killed himself and the toddler.
Rebecca McCarthy carries a teddy bear at the funeral, where father and daughter were buried together
The McCarthy family farm in Ballydehob, Co Cork, now the subject of a legal dispute

A FARMER drowned himself after taking his three year old daughter into the sea shortly after leaving a note outlining his plans in the milking parlour of his west Cork farm.

A Cork coroner's inquest recorded verdicts of drowning for tragic father and daughter, Martin McCarthy (50) and Clarissa McCarthy (3), in west Cork last March.

Coroner Frank O'Connell heard that a major land and sea search was launched for the duo when a note addressed to Mr McCarthy's wife, Rebecca (26), was discovered in the milking parlour on March 5.

The note was in Mr McCarthy's hand-writing.

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

Rebecca, an American, travelled back to Ireland to attend the Bantry inquest from her new home in California.

She briefly fled the hearing when friends of Mr McCarthy objected to the coroner returning a verdict which implied the farmer may have restrained his little girl in the water.

They insisted that there was no post mortem evidence to support any suggestion that the child was restrained in the water.

There were heated verbal exchanges at the inquest with members of Rebecca's family warning: "he killed her" and "if he was 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 the coroner said he had to take the evidence into account.

"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 accelerated by severe cardiac disease.

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

Rebecca 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 duo and then tried so hard to save them.

Concern for the father and daughter mounted when Rebecca returned to their Audley Cove property outside Ballydehob in west Cork at 8pm on March 5 2013.

There was no sign of the father and daughter.

Mr McCarthy, who was never without his mobile phone, had left the handset in his jeep.

The Gardai and Irish Coastguard were alerted when friends of Mr McCarthy found a note in the milking parlour.

The note, which was not read out at the inquest, specifically outlined the farmer's intentions.

When discovered, the note deeply upset his friends, his sister, Hester, and his wife, Rebecca.

Clarissa was later found in shallow water by a beach which adjoins the family farm at 1.50am.

Mr McCarthy's body was found less than 200m away at 2.15am.

Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said there was no evidence of trauma in either case.

Mr McCarthy changed his will just over a week before his death.

He deliberately excluded his California-born wife, Rebecca (26), 24 years his junior, from inheriting major assets instead leaving them to family and friends.

Rebecca moved back to her native California last September after being left traumatised by the bitter row over her husbands will and the tragedy that wiped out her family.

Virtually no major assets were bequeathed by Mr McCarthy to his young wife.

Ms McCarthy has now launched a High Court action to restore her legal entitlement to her share of the family home and farm.

The legal action was signalled on July 2 last and strenuous efforts to reach a settlement over July and August failed.

Renewed attempts to negotiate a compromise settlement in October also failed.

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

There was a 24 year age gap between them.

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

Mr McCarthy doted on the child and referred to her as his “princess Rebecca 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

Online Editors

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