Inquest hears of Cork suicide and drowning of daughter

Thursday 20 February 2014 23.41
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Rebecca McCarthy (R) gave evidence at the inquest of her late husband Michael and daughter Clarissa
Rebecca McCarthy (R) gave evidence at the inquest of her late husband Michael and daughter Clarissa
The two bodies were recovered from the sea at Ballydehob
The two bodies were recovered from the sea at Ballydehob

An inquest has taken place into the deaths of a father and daughter near their farm in west Cork last March.

The bodies of 50-year-old Martin McCarthy and his three-year-old daughter Clarissa were recovered from the sea after a search near their home at Audley Cove outside Ballydehob.

The alarm had been raised hours earlier by Rebecca McCarthy when she returned to the family home to find her husband and daughter missing.

Coroner Frank O'Connell said he believed that Mr McCarthy decided to end his life by drowning and took his daughter with him.

He said the evidence of the note left by Mr McCarthy supported his view.

The coroner found that Mr McCarthy died of cardio respiratory failure due to drowning and said the death was "self-caused".

He also found that Clarissa died as a result of acute cardio respiratory failure after she was taken into the water, became unconscious and drowned.

Mrs McCarthy, who travelled from California, and members of her family attended the inquest.

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

Clarissa's shoes were on the floor, she said, but her wellington boots were missing. She said she became worried and raised the alarm.

She said a note found by a neighbour in the milking parlour upset her very much but friends told her not to worry, it was only a note.

She recalled squeezing a rock Clarissa was fond of as she watched the coast guards search Audley Cove.

When they discovered her daughter's body, she recalled wanting to run to her but being held back.

She remembered being asked by the doctor, who pronounced her daughter dead, what had happened and she told him her father did it.

Garda Batt Duggan told the court he immediately feared for the lives of Mr McCarthy and his daughter when he read the note.

He said Mr McCarthy's sister Hester told him she was worried for her niece's life.

Michael O'Regan of Goleen coast guard unit told of how they found Clarissa's body - "a little child's body floating on the waves".

A short time later, her father's body was located along the shoreline.

He recalled saying a decade of the rosary over the body.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the court that Mr McCarthy was fully clothed when she examined him and wearing a baby sling.

He had alcohol in his system and bruising on his body consistent with being in the water.

Both had died of drowning, his accelerated by coronary artery disease.

Friends of Mr McCarthy reacted angrily when the coroner said it was his view that Mr McCarthy had entered the water with his arms wrapped around his daughter.

They said he was a gentle man who would never hurt her.

While the coroner said it would never be known what exactly happened that night, he would have to take into account the note.

He returned verdicts of death by drowning, but in the case of Mr McCarthy said it was self caused.

Afterwards, Mrs McCarthy's solicitor Martin Harvey thanked all those who had helped her that night, and since and asked for privacy.

Mr McCarthy's brother-in-law, Billy O'Brien, told the court that they wanted to be left in peace and to rebuild their lives.

It will be a long and hard road, he added.