Addiction and violence recurring themes in Amy McCarthy’s tragic demise

The man convicted of murdering the mother of his child ‘lost control and exploded’ over fears she had cheated on him. Liam Heylin followed the case.

Addiction was to be found throughout the tragic story of a 22-year-old Cork woman who died at the hands of her boyfriend in a squat no more than 100m from some of the busiest nightspots in Cork city.

Adam O’Keeffe was beaten by his father as a child and began drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis at the age of 10. By 16, he was using amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. He was also living on the streets.

Amy McCarthy was living at home in Greenmount and she developed an addiction to tablets and alcohol. 

Approximately three years before her death she met Adam and it was suggested that they became addicted to each other and could be seen walking around the streets after each other like puppies.

While Amy lived at home, she would go into town every morning and wait outside St Vincent’s hostel for Adam. They would spend the day together around Cork City. Cork Penny Dinners was one of the places they visited. The squat at 36 Sheares Street was not far from there.

When Adam was in prison for nine months, Amy visited him regularly. But she also attended a treatment programme for her drinking and a mother and baby programme to help her with bringing up their baby, also Adam, who was 16 months old when Amy was killed.

She had been doing very well on both programmes but returned to drinking when Adam got out of prison the month before he murdered her.

If addiction was a recurring theme in their story, so too was violence. Adam was exposed to violence as a child. He was beaten by his father from the age of eight. From the age of 12, he began to fight back during the beatings.

Even before he inflicted multiple blunt force traumas to Amy’s head and caught her by the neck after she had consumed at least two naggins of vodka on that awful Saturday night, Adam was showing signs of violence. 

It was witnessed by shocked passers-by on MacCurtain St that Saturday afternoon and captured on CCTV. He caught Amy by the throat in a doorway. He head-butted his friend, Dean Nugent, a frail, young homeless man, into the face.

Maura Cahill from Kerry was on a weekend visit to friends in Cork and she was shocked to encounter this violence near St Patrick’s Bridge.

“The next thing he lunged at her and caught her by the throat,” said Ms Cahill.

 “He had his head on top of her head. This was on the footpath. She asked him to get out of her face.”

Ms Cahill said Amy grabbed the bridge and said “I feel like doing it”. 

Adam said: “Go ahead and fucking do it.”

He was, she said, “in a rage like a caged animal. He seemed to be out of control.”

 But a few hours later in the afternoon Garda Keith Cahill saw the couple sitting outside a café on Bachelor’s Quay, Cork, before 6pm.

“There was no agro, everything seemed to be OK,” said Garda Cahill.

They chatted about going to the cinema. Adam suggested a new Fast & Furious film but he said Amy wanted to go to a chick flick and they couldn’t agree. Another thing he couldn’t do was to stop asking her if she had cheated on him when he was in prison. He kept this going on and off all day.

“I fucked up over something I couldn’t drop,” he said later.

Even after writing “Adam loves Amy forever and Amy loves Adam forever” on Saturday evening on a gate near Bachelors Quay, he kept challenging her about cheating on him.

That night in the squat Amy said that, yes, she had cheated — even though friends don’t believe that she did. Adam exploded.

He later admitted causing all the injuries found on her but could not remember inflicting any of the injuries apart from shoving her once.

Adam O’Keeffe: Claimed he could not remember inflicting any of the injuries on Amy.
Adam O’Keeffe: Claimed he could not remember inflicting any of the injuries on Amy.
“She never deserved me hitting her,” he said. 

“I would never say she was asking for it. She was a small girl. I should have been protecting her… The last thing I remember is her admitting she cheated… It shouldn’t have happened.” 

“Did you kill Amy?” the accused was asked in the Bridewell Garda Station. 

“Yeah,” he replied. 

“I did not mean for it to happen… It is the biggest regret I have. I am sorry to her family. She is the love of my life, my soulmate, the mother of my small fella. If I could change places with her I would. I really did not mean for any of this to happen” 

Another man using the squat, Michael McInerney, called in to the squat to pick up a sleeping bag at around 1am on the Sunday and said he saw Adam and Amy sleeping side by side with Amy snoring. Defence senior counsel Brendan Grehan said that tragically, a medical intervention at that stage could have saved Amy’s life.

Instead, Adam woke up on the Sunday morning in the squat with Amy dead beside him. He gave her mouth-to-mouth and CPR but she was cold, blue, and stiff. He squeezed her and thought he heard breaths.

He denied it for a while and lied about what happened. Eventually, he admitted killing her.

“I put my hands up,” he said. 

“I did something for this to happen. I was capable of doing it. No one else. I knew she was cheating. I exploded. I do believe I did something. I put her where she is today.”

 “You are responsible for killing Amy,” a garda interviewer said. 

He replied: “I did not mean it. She is the love of my life, the mother of my child. I cannot believe it.” 

Asked about his first account of being on another floor of the squat and coming down on Sunday morning to find Amy dead, he accepted this account was not true.

“I did not want them [gardaí] to think I done it. For me, I did not want to think I done it,” he said.

He apologised to Amy’s family several times during interviews and, in his own words called the attack “vicious, disgraceful, scummy, and outrageous”. 

As for their relationship, he said: “We loved each other, we were all over the place too.”

At one stage during the hours of garda interviews he said he should have gone to the “chick flick” that night as Amy had wanted.

This might have been one of the ‘what if’ thoughts that returned to him as he sat stooped over, staring at the floor through the eight days of the murder trial.


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