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Family anger as inquest finds father brought his daughter (3) into the sea

THE mum of a little girl who drowned alongside her father in a Cork tragedy fled the coroner's court in tears yesterday.

Rebecca McCarthy (26) returned from her home in California for the inquest into how her husband Martin (50) and three-year-old daughter Clarissa died.

There were emotional scenes and heated exchanges at the coroner's court in Bantry yesterday after verbal clashes between Mrs McCarthy's family and friends of her late husband.

Mr McCarthy had left a note in the milking parlour of his west Cork farm outlining his intention to take his own life on March 5, 2013 , but his friends rejected any suggestion he ever planned to hurt his daughter.

Mrs McCarthy told the inquest how she had returned home after visiting friends on the evening of March 5 and found the house at Foilnamuck empty, with the dinner dishes on the table.

Search

Clarissa's shoes were on the floor in the house but her pink farm wellies were gone.

During a search of fields near the coastline later that night, one pink wellington was found near the shore.

An empty yoghurt carton was also discovered near rocks and a post-mortem examination confirmed that Clarissa had eaten yoghurt in the minutes before her death by drowning.

Mrs McCarthy said she became worried when she could not find any trace of the duo before she raised the alarm.

It was after this that a note was found by a neighbour in the milking parlour in Mr McCarthy's hand-writing.

Coroner Frank O'Connell said it was clear why serious concerns over the safety of the pair were raised as the farmer was "explicit" in the note about his intentions.

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

There were heated exchanges at the inquest with members of Rebecca's family saying that "he killed her" and "if he was still 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 added.

Mr O'Connell recorded a verdict of drowning. "Death was self-caused for Mr McCarthy," he said. His death was also accelerated by cardiac disease.

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

Hugged

After the inquest Mrs McCarthy's solicitor, Martin Harvey, said the family wanted to thank members of the emergency services who helped with the recovery, and he asked the media to respect her privacy.

In her statement to gardai, Mrs McCarthy said she hugged her daughter's favourite rock by a beach adjoining the family farm from midnight as the Goleen Coastguard and Baltimore RNLI combed the sea for any trace of the father and daughter.

Thick fog meant the Shannon and Waterford-based search helicopters could not attend the scene of the tragedy.

Clarissa was 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.

"I tried to run over (to the body) but they pulled me back," Mrs McCarthy said. "Then they put something over her little legs and they put her in the ambulance. I got in beside her."

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

But alcohol was found in Mr McCarthy's system.

It emerged last year that Mr McCarthy changed his will just over a week before his death to exclude his wife from inheriting major assets, instead leaving them to family and friends.

Rebecca insisted that her husband and daughter be buried together.

HNEWS@HERALD.IE


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