Belfast Telegraph

Neighbours comfort family as tragic baby's dad is remanded

BY JOHN PORTER

The community has rallied around the heartbroken family of a three-month-old baby who died in tragic circumstances, friends have said.

Little Cárágh Walsh lost her fight for life on Friday after suffering severe head injuries in her home on the outskirts of west Belfast on Wednesday morning.

She was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children where doctors battled for almost three days to save the baby.

Before Cárágh passed away, her father Christopher O'Neill appeared in court charged with causing grievous bodily harm to his daughter.

Cárágh's 19-year-old mother, Tammie-Louise, and her family were said to be "devastated and overcome with emotion" by their loss.

Yesterday prayers were said for the Twinbrook infant and her family in St Luke's Church.

Friends and neighbours said the family were "heartbroken".

"It's so sad, but everyone has been with them helping them to cope," said one family friend.

"There is a great community support in Twinbrook and in tragedies such as this everyone really does come together."

Student Tammie-Louise and her partner Chris O'Neill, who was working toward becoming a football coach, are thought to have been together for just over a year.

They both worked for Poundland, and it's understood they moved into their Glasvey Park flat just days before their daughter's tragic death.

One neighbour of the couple said news of the death had cast a dark cloud over the close-knit community.

She said: "When I saw the ambulance man carry the little baby out of the flat my heart just broke. I just knew it was something bad.

"It's all anyone is talking about in the area. All we can do is offer our sympathies and prayers to the family."

Tammie-Louise's cousin, Courtney Elaine Flynn, led tributes on social networking site Facebook.

She posted a message about little Cárágh's passing along with a picture of the child.

"Our little princess, you are the brightest star in the sky," she said.

"Look over your mummy and daddy and the families to help us through this sad time."

Craigavon Magistrates Court heard that in police interviews, 23-year-old O'Neill claimed he had been looking after the child when she became "suddenly ill", and he took steps which he thought "perfectly reasonable in the circumstances".

He also admitted that he had "shaken the baby", the court was told. During his two days of interviews O'Neill was granted compassionate police bail and, along with his solicitor and police officers, was allowed to visit Cárágh's bedside while she was being cared for in hospital.

The police are considering the charges against O'Neill and are in discussion with the Public Prosecution Service on how to proceed.

O'Neill, who was unable to meet the stringent bail conditions imposed on him on Friday, was taken to Maghaberry Prison on Saturday. He is expected to re-apply for bail.

A post-mortem examination is due to take place on Cárágh in the coming days and the funeral is expected to take place at the end of the week.

BACKGROUND

Craigavon Magistrates' Court heard how when Cárágh was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital she was unconscious, had suffered a serious head injury and there was bleeding on her brain. After an examination, medical staff alerted the police to the girl's injuries because they were not satisfied with the explanation given for her condition.

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