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Clarissa to be exhumed and taken to US for burial

March 28th, 2022 1:50 PM

Clarissa: her mother says she is happy with the decision to have her exhumed.

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BY OLIVIA KELLEHER

AN American woman whose West Cork husband ended his and their three-year-old daughter’s life by walking into the sea has spoken of her relief at being granted permission to exhume the remains of her child for burial in her native country. 

Rebecca Saunders said after nine years trying to bring Clarissa home, it was ‘a really long time coming.’

In April of last year Ms Saunders met a $50,000 fundraising target to have the remains of Clarissa exhumed and transferred to the US for burial. 

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

Rebecca was 26-years-old when her husband Martin (50) drowned their daughter Clarissa at Audley Cove 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.

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

He told her that her family would be dead by the time she read the letter. 

 Ms Saunders said that when tragedy struck she believed that her husband had taken a snap decision. However, she said subsequent information indicated that 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.

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

Poignantly, she says that some of her happiest times with Clarissa were on the beach where she drowned, at Audley Cove.

Ms Saunders, who has remarried and has two children, says that she is trying to learn to live with the tragic loss of her first-born. She wants to live and not allow the tragedy to ‘consume her.’

All funds not used in the process to exhume Clarissa and cover transfer costs to the US will equally be donated to Edel House in Cork which supports victims of domestic violence and CUMH Neonatal Unit.

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