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Image / Culture

‘Separated from from her murderer’: A mother’s extraordinary fight to bring her tragic toddler home


By Amanda Cassidy
16th Jun 2022
‘Separated from from her murderer’: A mother’s extraordinary fight to bring her tragic toddler home

“Today, after over 9 years of wishing I could reverse a horrible decision, Clarissa was exhumed and separated from her murderer.”

The words of Rebecca Saunders as she released a beautiful picture of the Schull graveyard at sunrise. The same graveyard her 3-year-old daughter has been buried in for the past nine years.

Clarissa was drowned by her father (50)  who then killed himself at Audley Cove near their West Cork home. In shock at the time burial arrangements were made, her mother Rebecca Saunders agreed to bury them together.

Horrible

But that’s something she has regretted ever since, describing it as “a horrible decision”.  She has now battled for almost a decade to exhume the body of her child. This week, that decision was finally granted.

In the early hours of the morning, the coffin containing the bodies was removed from the grave. Little Clarissa will now be cremated and her remains taken back to the US where Ms Saunders now lives.

In an emotional post online, the mother expressed her thanks to all those who were involved in the process. “Today, after over 9 years of wishing I could reverse a horrible decision,” she wrote, “Clarissa was exhumed and separated from her murder. More details are to come. I cannot express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me in this journey. I could not have done it without you. Thank you.”

The reaction to her news, hundreds got in touch with Ms Saunders. “In all this sadness I hope it brings you comfort Rebecca and hope like the warmth of the rising/setting sun in that photo, that your heart will rise & set, but in a warmer place when your beloved Clarissa is resting peacefully close to you,” wrote one follower called Ellen.

“You never stopped fighting to bring her home to you, you are amazing. Sending you and your family so much love” wrote another.

It was journalist Liz Dunphy with the Irish Examiner that first reported on the story, describing it as “an extraordinary campaign” by the little girl’s mother.

In an in-depth and poignant feature last year, Dunphy interviewed Ms Saunders who admitted that “Pretty much since the coffin closed, I regretted allowing Clarissa to be buried with Martin. And I would be very, very thankful if I could undo that. It’s very, very hard to think that my little girl is in his arms forever.”

Happily, this week she managed to succeed in her mission to bring her little girl home. We hope this brings some peace to her and her family.