Go Fund Me page to exhume child's body reaches €42,000 target

Go Fund Me page to exhume child's body reaches €42,000 target

Olivia Kelleher

An American woman, whose Irish husband ended his and their three-year-old daughter's lives by walking in to the sea, says she is "overwhelmed" having reached a $50,000 (€42,000) fundraising target to have the remains of her child exhumed and transferred to the US for burial.

Rebecca Saunders tweeted: "We've done it - thank you" as her Go Fund Me page hit its target following a huge reaction to her appearance on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live programme.

The story of her plans to exhume the body of her daughter first broke in the Irish Examiner.

Ms Saunders, who lives in Houston in Texas, says eight years ago "in a fog of grief and shock" she permitted her child to be buried "with the father she loved, but who took her life from her".

Rebecca was just 26-years-old when her husband Martin (50) drowned their daughter Clarissa McCarthy at Audley Cove in West Cork on March 5th, 2013.

Three days later, father and daughter shared a single coffin at a requiem mass at St Mary's Church in Schull. They were laid to rest in an adjacent graveyard.

If you can take Clarissa to America I can take Clarissa to Heaven.

In a suicide note left for Rebecca, Mr McCarthy wrote that: "If you can take Clarissa to America I can take Clarissa to Heaven.”

He said Ms Saunders' family would be dead by the time she read the letter.

“You can now get on with the rest of your life as mine and Clarissa's is about to end. By the time you will get to read this letter I and Clarissa will be in Heaven. You did not realise how much I loved you. I could not see my daughter being raised up by a step-father,” he
wrote.

Ms Saunders set up the Go Fund Me page to pay for legal counsel in order to apply for the remains of her daughter to be exhumed. The money will also pay for the exhumation and transfer costs to the US if her application is successful.

All funds not used in the process to exhume Clarissa will equally be donated to Edel House in Cork which supports victims of domestic violence and Cork University Maternity Hospital Neonatal Unit.

Planning

Rebecca said when tragedy struck, she believed Martin had taken a snap decision. However, subsequent information indicated there was a degree of planning to his actions.

"I really can't say that I feel I will ever be able to forgive him. I feel like he used his daughter as a sword to stab me in the heart with. And I think that is very, very wrong.

"I think that the expectation that I had that I bury Clarissa so quickly was...it just wasn't fair. Clarissa and her father died on a Tuesday and they were buried on a Friday," Ms Saunders said.

"In that small space of time I had to decide what happened to this little girl who was my world.

"The first thought that struck me in the shock that I was in was that I didn't want her to be alone. At the time, I didn't know just how planned out Martin had gone.

"The totality of the steps he took to ensure that if it wasn't that day he had the steps in place to carry out his end game another day," she added.

Marriage troubles

Cracks in the relationship between Martin and Rebecca began to emerge six months after their marriage in the summer of 2006. The pair met when she was a teenager and studying in Ireland.

Rebecca said her husband got in to legal battles over land and became fixated on them.

She felt family life was non-existent as Martin was "obsessed" with his legal issues and his work as a farmer, adding she and Clarissa were "forgotten about".

The couple sought marriage counselling and made every effort to turn their relationship around, however, on the night of the tragedy, Rebecca had arranged to meet someone to talk about accessing legal aid to end her marriage.

Ms Saunders told Mr McCarthy she was going to dinner with a friend. The pair had discussed the disintegration of their relationship and she had brought up the subject of divorce.

Poignantly, Rebecca said some of her happiest times with Clarissa were on the beach where she drowned.

Tragic loss

Rebecca, who has since remarried and has two children, said she is trying to learn to live with the tragic loss of her firstborn, insisting she wants to live and not allow the tragedy to "consume her."

An inquest in to the deaths in 2014 heard from Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster who said both Mr McCarthy, who was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 204mgs per 100ml, and Clarissa had died from acute cardio respiratory failure due to drowning.

Dr Bolster found no evidence of physical restraint.

Coroner for West Cork, Frank O' Connell returned verdicts that both Mr McCarthy and Clarissa died from cardio-respiratory failure due to drowning and that in the case of Mr McCarthy it was self-inflicted, while in the case of Clarissa, she was taken into the water, became unconscious and drowned.

The inquest in Bantry, Co Cork heard a major land and sea search was launched for the two when a note addressed to Rebecca in Mr McCarthy's hand-writing was discovered in the milking parlour on March 5th.

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

Mr O’Connell said Mr McCarthy may have held his daughter underwater during the incident, which raised some objections from the people present.

It was also heard that Mr McCarthy had changed his will before his death and excluded his wife from inheriting major assets.

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