Sunday 18 March 2018

Mother of drowned Clarissa cries out in agony as her little girl and husband are buried in a single coffin

Rebecca McCarthy, clutching her daughter’s favourite toy, walks behind the coffin.
Rebecca McCarthy, clutching her daughter’s favourite toy, walks behind the coffin.
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A LITTLE girl drowned by her father, who then killed himself, was buried cradled in his arms.

Martin (50) and Clarissa (3) McCarthy shared a single coffin at the requiem Mass for the tragic father and daughter in west Cork.

They were buried as Clarissa's mother, Rebecca McCarthy (26), sobbed uncontrollably while clutching her daughter's favourite soft toy.

Martin McCarthy drowned the little girl at Audley Cove, not far from his farmhouse at Filemuck, outside Ballydehob, last Tuesday night. He then drowned himself.

The two bodies were found within 90 minutes of each other after gardai had been alerted following the discovery of a lengthy note left by Mr McCarthy.

A tight-knit west Cork community ground to a standstill yesterday in muted grief for the two devastated families.

The mourners were led by Clarissa's heartbroken mother – who had to be supported by her mother, Linda Jean Bailey, and aunt – as she followed the single coffin up the aisle of St Mary's Church in Schull.

Mrs Bailey kept her arm around her daughter throughout the entire ceremony.


Wearing a long black coat, Rebecca read out Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my Shepherd', at the opening of the Mass, breaking down after she had finished the reading.

Twice during the ceremony, Rebecca emitted terrible cries of grief and pain.

Members of the McCarthy family, led by Martin's sister, Hester O'Brien, escorted Rebecca, her mother and sister into the church in a show of unity between the two devastated families. Hester later carried her brother's framed photo out of the church.

The coffin arrived at the church in a hearse flanked by framed photographs of Mr McCarthy, a farmer, and the little girl he called his "princess".

Two mourners carried the framed photos of the father and daughter to the altar. Other mourners carried flowers and Clarissa's collection of soft toys.

The coffin was covered in floral wreaths and cuddly toys, including a stuffed white sheep – indicative of Clarissa's love of her father's farm and nature.

Rebecca sobbed throughout the Mass and had to be comforted by her mother who embraced her daughter to ease her distress.

In one heart-rending scene, Rebecca walked over to the single coffin, rubbed her hand along its entire length and gave a brief bow in front of the two framed photos and cuddly toys, before starting to cry again.

Mr McCarthy's brother-in-law, Billy O'Brien, told the congregation that Martin was absolutely devoted to his little girl.

"Having gathered here at this very sad time, no words or thoughts can begin to (help us) comprehend the tragedy we have experienced the last few days," he said.

"On behalf of Hester and the whole (McCarthy) family, we want to thank the people that helped us in so many ways.

"Even though this is such a sad occasion, can I ask you to remember Martin as a kind, compassionate and helpful neighbour. Remember Clarissa as a bright, happy child who brought so much joy and happiness to her parents."

Fr Alan O'Mahony, who celebrated the Mass, said no one could understand or explain the tragic events.

"If we knew what was going on in the minds of people, we would not be here today," he said. "Martin lived all his life in Filemuck and I suppose he only ever really left it to come to Mass, go dancing, play cards and to go to work – and to America once.

"He was farming all his life, it was a big part of his life apart from Clarissa and Rebecca. Clarissa spent all of her short life at Filemuck and in her three-and-a-half years on this earth brought great joy, great happiness not just to Martin and Rebecca's life but the lives of all the people who met her."

The offertory gifts yesterday included family photos, a cuddly toy, a china angel and a statue of a farmer with a dog.

One floral wreath, from Schull Parent and Toddler Group, read: "To Clarissa – you brightened up our lives. We will miss you." Another pink and white wreath was in the shape of a giant teddy bear.

A wreath from Rebecca simply said: "You are in my heart, always. Mommy/Rebecca."

Over 500 mourners attended the requiem Mass, which was followed by burial in the adjacent Schull graveyard.

After the Mass, the coffin was carried shoulder high from the church by Mr McCarthy's relatives and neighbours and along Schull's main street to the nearby graveyard.

Father and daughter were buried in the McCarthy family plot, alongside Mr McCarthy's parents. His mother Elizabeth died just three months before Clarissa was born.

Irish Independent

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