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'Second mother' Sister of tragic model Alli McDonnell has written a song in her memory

The 37-year-old was one of the country's best-known models and appeared regularly on Irish TV in her role as an autism campaigner.

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Rebecca and Alli were very lose and Alli was often like a mother to her.

Rebecca and Alli were very lose and Alli was often like a mother to her.

Rebecca and Alli were very lose and Alli was often like a mother to her.

The sister of tragic Alli MacDonnell has written a song in memory of the model and singer whose death she ­reveals is "still a shock".

Alli's death by suicide in February 2019 sent shockwaves through the Irish social world.

The 37-year-old was one of the country's best-known models and appeared regularly on Irish TV in her role as an autism campaigner.

Just weeks after Alli's death, her ex-boyfriend, Voice of Ireland singer Andrew Mann (44), was found dead at home.

Now talented songwriter Rebecca Hewson, who uses the stage name Abecca, has penned a tune in memory of her big sister called You Said.

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Model Alli strikes a pose.

Model Alli strikes a pose.

Model Alli strikes a pose.

"She was about 17 when I was born so she was like a second mother to me," she told the Sunday World.

"Going to school or wherever I was going and I was struggling a bit she'd say 'don't let people get you down, keep your head high'.

"She said 'You have to be strong'.

"That's the message of the whole song, that you have to be strong, like a warrior. But then if she's saying it to me I'm asking 'what about you, why didn't you say it to yourself?'

"She was such a strong sister and such an amazing sister, then when that happened it just didn't make sense," said Abecca, who lives in Rathfarnham.

"I saw her the night before, like a couple of hours before it happened. So, I was very, very distraught, I was so confused. I just couldn't understand it. But I've learned that 'look there was nothing you could have done; you're beating yourself up so much'. You can't see it. That's the thing with suicide. A person could be smiling, people are so good at hiding things.

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Alli and singer Andrew Mann

Alli and singer Andrew Mann

Alli and singer Andrew Mann

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"There is no answer to what was in her mind, I don't actually know. You have to get someone to sit down with you and say, 'You know, there's anything you can tell me' and get them to say if they are having a bit of a breakdown, 'Actually I'm not feeling good, I'm feeling crap'."

Abecca also reveals how she introduced Alli to Andrew. "I was only 14 or 15 and doing a singing contest called Starsearch.

"We were in the dressing room and I was talking to Andrew and Alli walked in and I said 'this is my sister Alli, she's a model and she is a singer as well'," she said.

The couple had a young daughter who was just two when the tragic circumstances unfolded.

The little girl, who turned five in June, is now being raised by Alli and Abecca's big sister Emma and her family, and this week she had her first day at school.

"She loved it," said Abecca.

"Emma and Alli were very close," said Abecca. "Emma's house was always the main meeting place, especially on Saturdays. We always had Christmas dinner there, she was like the queen bee."

Abecca says Ali's daughter is a very happy child. "She knows she has two mommies. She calls Emma her mommy. We say, 'and who's your other mommy?' and she goes 'Alli, but she's in heaven, I'm going to see her one day'."

Their mother Imelda had eight children, with Alli and Abecca having different fathers. Alli had three other children, from different relationships.

Abecca and her family sought help with the suicide support charity Hugg. "I got involved in Hugg, it's very close to my heart," she said. "That's where my mother and sister went for support. It's not as suitable for everyone. I went a couple of times, but then I decided to go for therapy and it really helped them and me, they do an amazing job with the support they give."

Abecca says her stage name was christened by Alli's young daughter and she can be heard calling her on her new track Shikidi Bam Bam.

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Model Alli MacDonnell on a shoot.

Model Alli MacDonnell on a shoot.

Model Alli MacDonnell on a shoot.

Abecca's father is Romanian and she even entered Romania's Got Talent.

But her new uptempo song is sung in Spanish after she picked up the language having lived there for several years.

With a surname like Hewson she admits a lot of people ask if she's related to Bono, whose real name is Paul Hewson.

"I think his dad is my granddad's second or third cousin," she confesses. "We are distantly related. I hope he listens to my new track."

Abecca says her goal as an artist is to inspire people and help them get through tough times. Her new single can be found on YouTube and Spotify.

  • Anyone affected by this article can call the Samaritans on freephone 116123; Pieta House on freephone 1800247247 (or text HELP to 51444); or visit www.hugg.ie

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