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'She should still be alive' - Mum of young drowned woman pulled from river


Gardai are investigating

Gardai are investigating

Gardai are investigating

THE mother of a young woman whose body was recovered from a Cork river alongside that of a homeless man warned her beloved daughter should still be alive.

Gardai stressed that they are not treating as suspicious the deaths of the duo, named locally as Michelle O'Riordan (27) and Patrick 'Pad' O'Driscoll (53), whose bodies were recovered from the River Lee at Customs House Quay just metres apart on Sunday night.

Both had been users of Cork Simon and Cork Penny Dinners services in the city.

The pair were not romantically involved.

Gardai stressed that the matter it being treated as "a tragic incident" and it remains unclear whether the pair may have accidentally fallen into the river in the dark as they wandered along the quays.

It is suspected thee river was at high tide when they entered the water.

Michelle's mother, Rita, said they are "heartbroken and devastated" by the tragedy.

Rita also warned that more now needs to be done to help the vulnerable in Irish society.

The deaths bring to four the number of homeless and vulnerable people who have died in Cork in the past fortnight - and follows the death of homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, who was found dead in a Dublin doorway just metres from Leinster House.

"I just cannot understand it - she should still be alive. This should not have happened," she said.

Rita said her daughter had battled valiantly to turn her life around and her family were hopeful over recent months that she could successfully do so.

Michelle, who has a four year old child, had begun a new relationship and was trying to address issues in her life.

"She was a wonderful girl who always thought about others," she said.

"Michelle had a kind heart and deserved an awful lot better than life gave her."

"Our hearts are broken by this. It is an absolute nightmare and we cannot believe she is gone. This will be a black Christmas for us all."

Rita said the tragedy was exacerbated for the family by the fact Michelle loved Christmas Day as it fell two days after her birthday.

Michelle would have been 28 on December 23.

Her family had been very worried about her after repeated attempts to get in contact since December 5 failed.

Gardai issued a public appeal for information about her whereabouts last Friday night and on Sunday morning came across CCTV security camera footage which indicated Michelle had walked down Customs House Quay on December 5.

She is believed to have been in the company of Mr O'Driscoll.

He was a native of Skibbereen but had been living rough in Cork city for almost 20 years.

Mr O'Driscoll suffered from a serious alcohol problem.

While the pair knew each other, they were not close friends and were not romantically involved.

Gardai alerted Naval Service divers and the Mallow Rescue Team on Sunday morning and a search began of the upper quays area.

Both bodies were located and recovered at 8pm on Sunday night thanks to side-scan sonar.

The bodies were taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH) morgue where formal identification was carried out before post mortem examinations were conducted.

Both are believed to have drowned.

Toxicology tests were also ordered to determine if either had been drinking before the tragedy.

Cork Penny Dinners officials admitted they were "deeply shocked" by the death of Michelle O'Riordan who was a frequent user of their service.

"Our hearts go out to her poor family," one volunteer said.

Cork Simon said they have been rocked by a number of tragic deaths over recent months.

The charity warned Cork has witnessed an alarming increase in homelessness over recent months with a 62pc hike in people sleeping rough since last January.

That is in contrast to an 8pc hike in the numbers sleeping rough throughout the previous 12 months.

Cork Simon’s director, Dermot Kavanagh, said the charity is now under enormous pressure to cope with surging demand for their services.

“Despite being able to add extra beds in housing and in our emergency shelter, the number of people sleeping rough in Cork in 2013 increased by 8pc but even more alarming is the staggering 62pc increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Cork so far this year between January and October,” he said.

Throughout 2013, 174 people had slept rough for at least one night in Cork, a hike of 8pc on 2012 figures.

Of those 174 people, there was a worrying surge in the numbers in the 18-26 year age bracket which was up by 42pc.

Mr Kavanagh said that charities have been warning for years that something had to be done to tackle the worrying increase in homelessness.

“The increased pressure on all of Cork Simon’s services and the more recent alarming rise in the number of people sleeping rough in Cork demonstrate the need once again for immediate action on housing to tackle homelessness,” he said.