First time I saw my wee sister was at her funeral after river tragedy
A woman who was separated from her sister as a baby has finally been united with her – but in the most tragic of circumstances.
Alexandra O'Brien and her sister Marcella were split up as babies but had recently found each other and planned to meet up.
Now that dream will never come true after the body of Alexandra was pulled from the River Foyle last week.
Marcella (23), who did not want to reveal her surname, was adopted when she was very young and grew up in Belfast.
The sisters established contact with each other within the last two years and had planned their first meeting.
Marcella told the Belfast Telegraph that Alexandra's death had made her more determined than ever to forge a relationship with other members of her natural family before it is too late.
After Alexandra (21) took her own life, heartbroken Marcella rushed to Londonderry in a desperate bid to be with the sister she never met.
She left a farewell letter for Alexandra near the spot where her sister died in the knowledge it would never be read by her.
"Our family was split up when we were very young and I grew up with no contact with Alyx, but I spent my life for as long as I can remember trying to locate them," Marcella told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Finally, two years ago, I did find Alyx and we started exchanging letters, calls and photos, and we even talked about meeting up.
"We had so much in common, we look alike and we have the same nature.
"We thought we had plenty of time, we thought we had our whole lives ahead of us, but we were wrong and the first time I saw Alyx was before her funeral, so it was the last."
Alexandra's body was recovered from the River Foyle by volunteers from Foyle Search and Rescue last Thursday. They are still searching for Kieran McKeon (18), a friend who had travelled from Dublin with her.
The news of her sister's death led Marcella to the city where Alexandra spent her final hours.
Marcella continued: "When I heard about Alyx, I was so devastated and I sat up the whole night and wrote one last letter to her.
"I left Belfast and headed to Derry because I just needed so much to walk where my sister walked and stand where she stood.
"It was the only way left to me that I could feel close to her."
Marcella also went to the PSNI in Derry to speak to the investigating officer.
"That man will never know how much he has helped me, and I will never forget him for his kindness," she said.
"I sobbed my heart out to him and on my knees I begged him to pass my letter to Alyx's family, but he did so much more than that. He spoke to them and they said it was OK for me to come to Alyx's funeral, which was far more than I had dared hope for.
"In the half-hour I was with that policeman, he did more for me than social services did in years, he had real compassion and a heart and opened the door for me to finally see my sister, even if it was in awful circumstance.
"I went to Dublin and saw for myself how fantastic a family Alyx had and how much they loved and cared for her. I am so grateful to them for allowing me to have a proper goodbye with my wee sister."