United Kingdom

Mother whose husband drowned their daughter, 3, campaigns to have her body exhumed from joint grave

An American woman whose Irish husband drowned their three-year-old daughter and himself is campaigning to have her body exhumed after agreeing to bury them together in a 'fog of grief and shock'. 

Rebecca Saunders, then 26, was planning to divorce Martin McCarthy, 50, before he vanished with their little girl, Clarissa, in March 2013. 

Their bodies were later recovered from Audley Cove in West Cork, with McCarthy having led their daughter into the sea. 

Father and daughter were buried together three days later in a single coffin in Schull, which Rebecca now admits was an 'awful decision'.

Rebecca Saunders, then 26, was planning to divorce Martin McCarthy, 50, pictured together, before he vanished with their little girl, Clarissa, in March 2013

Rebecca told RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live programme she is campaigning to have her daughter's body exhumed after agreeing to bury her and her father together in a 'fog of grief and shock

Appearing on RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live programme on Monday, Rebecca also revealed the chilling contents of the note McCarthy left her before committing the horrific murder-suicide.

It read: 'If you can take Clarissa to America I can take Clarissa to heaven. 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 stepfather.'

Rebecca said she 'fell into shock' after reading the note, adding: 'It explained that because of my actions, because of wanting a divorce this was all due to my decision of my wanting to, as he saw it, take Clarissa away from him and dissolve the marriage.

Rebecca (pictured with Clarissa) also revealed the chilling contents of the note McCarthy left her before committing the horrific murder-suicide

'The note didn’t describe anything as far as you know Clarissa’s future or Clarissa’s wellbeing, it was just you have brought this on yourself because of the actions you’ve done, I’ve tried to do everything I could.

'His last line on that letter was that you will never forget this day and that has definitely been the case and once I read that note that’s when I fell into shock… I told the guards that the coast guard needed to be called out.'

Rebecca, who has since remarried and had two more children, said she deeply regrets allowing her daughter to be buried with her 'monster' father and wants her exhumed so that she can be laid to rest in Texas.

She told the programme: 'Ever since Clarissa’s casket was closed and she was lowered down into that grave, I just felt like I had made a very grievous mistake. And while I understand the reasons why I decided what I had decided eight years ago, certain circumstances were brought to light that made me realise just how involved Martin's plan was and I feel like burying them together was a huge mistake.

Rebecca, who has since remarried and had two more children, said she deeply regrets allowing her daughter (pictured together) to be buried with her 'monster' father and wants her exhumed so that she can be laid to rest in Texas

'I feel like I essentially abandoned her because I am not there any more and the grave and where she’s buried and how she’s buried and who she’s buried with, just gives me a great deal of stress that I would just sleep better, I would be able to function better if I was able to take her home with me.

'I know that, I know that exhuming her is not going to bring her back to me but it will be some small amount of closure. And I hate to use that word but that is what it will be when I can exhume Clarissa, when I can take her home with me. 

'There will be some small amount of closure that I no longer have to think that she’s in the arms of that monster.'

On her GoFundMe page, which has so far raised £29,580 of her £35,860 goal, she states she is 'resolute' in rectifying her 'awful mistake', despite the obvious hurdles she faces.

On her GoFundMe page, which has so far raised £29,580 of her £35,860 goal, Rebecca states she is 'resolute' in rectifying her 'awful mistake', despite the obvious hurdles she faces

It reads: 'Due to the length and breadth of exhuming Clarissa, we are uncertain of what costs may incur along this journey. If legal council has to be hired the process with be extremely time consuming and expensive.

'All funds not used in the process to exhume Clarissa will equally be donated to the following two worthy causes: Edel House that supports victims of domestic violence and Cork University Maternity Hospital Neonatal Unit.'  

Rebecca met McCarthy when she was a teenager studying in Ireland, and married in summer 2006.

During an interview with the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM earlier this year, the mother said she doesn't feel she'll ever be able to forgive him for his despicable actions.

'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,' she said.

During an interview with the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM earlier this year, Rebecca said she doesn't feel she'll ever be able to forgive McCarthy for his despicable actions

'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.'

Rebecca added: '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 later discovered McCarthy had approached a family court to ensure Clarissa wouldn't be allowed to leave the country if Rebecca went back to the US.

'He got a restriction put on her passport. If if I wanted to leave the country with Clarissa I couldn’t have done that,' she explained.

'The way his will is written it makes it very clear to me he had planned what he was going to do as a punishment to me. He at least spent a month planning it.

'He started changing his will early February. I do think it was just a matter of time. He was given an opportunity that night and took it.'

For confidential support, log on to samaritans.org or call the Samaritans on 116123.

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