Santina Cawley (2) sustained devastating injuries, murder trial hears

ireland
Santina Cawley (2) Sustained Devastating Injuries, Murder Trial Hears Santina Cawley (2) Sustained Devastating Injuries, Murder Trial Hears
Karen Harrington, of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork city, has gone on trial in charged with the murder of toddler Santina Cawley (above) in July 2019.
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Olivia Kelleher

The trial of a woman charged with the murder of a two-year-old girl in an apartment in Cork nearly three years ago has heard that the toddler had “devastating injuries” with “scarcely a part of her body not sustaining some form of trauma".

Karen Harrington, of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork city, has gone on trial in charged with the murder of toddler Santina Cawley in July 2019.

Ms Harrington (37) was in a relationship with the father of the deceased, Michael Cawley, at the time of the alleged offence.

The first day of the trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork heard an outline of the evidence from the prosecution.

The jurors were told that Santina sustained polytrauma and blunt force trauma, with extensive bruising to the head, thorax, abdomen and limbs, an injury to her spine and nose and bruising on her mouth. She also incurred a fracture of the ribs, a fracture to the skull and a brain injury.

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Ms Harrington has pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder of the young child on July 5th, 2019 at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road on the southside of Cork city. She was residing in the apartment at the time of the alleged offence.

Prosecuting Counsel Sean Gillane, SC, gave an outline of the State’s case to the jury of seven men and five women this afternoon.

He said that Dylan Olney, who was living in an apartment next to where Santina was found in a critical condition, would give evidence that at about 4am on July 5th, 2019 he heard the sound of screaming and banging originating from the apartment of Ms Harrington.

“Not only did he hear the child crying he could hear the accused shouting directly at the child, mocking, taunting and terrorising the child.”

Mr Gillane said that the parents of the deceased Michael Cawley and Bridget O’Donoghue had separated at the time of the alleged offence and that Santina was living with her father in Grattan Street in Cork.

The jury heard that Santina and her father were “regular visitors” to Ms Harrington at her address at the time in Elderwood Park in Cork.

Mr Gillane told the court that Santina and her father spent the afternoon of July 4th, 2019 shopping in Cork city centre. Mr Cawley had also dropped the defendant in to the city, and she was doing her own shopping around town.

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Karen Harrington made an arrangement to meet a friend at Elderwood Drive in the same apartment complex where she lived. At 8pm on July 4th, 2019 Karen and her friend Martina Higgins went to the Atlantic Pond area of Cork where they drank alcohol and chatted.

At 10pm, Michael Cawley went to the Atlantic Pond with Santina in the car. More alcohol was purchased and the adults and Santina went back to the Elderwood Complex to Miss Higgins apartment. Miss Higgins partner Eric Okunala was also present.

The State will claim that as the evening progressed some sort of argument or disagreement broke out. It is alleged that Mr Cawley wanted a cousin of his to come stay in Ms Higgins’ apartment and that there was some disagreement about same.

Mr Gillane said that the evidence will be that Michael Cawley and Karen Harrington had a “heated exchange” and that Miss Harrington left the gathering at 1.25am on July 5th, 2019.

Evidence from neighbours

Mr Gillane said that a number of neighbours are due to give evidence in which they will claim to have heard shouting and noise.

Mr Cawley stayed at the apartment of Ms Higgins and her partner Eric Okuanala. Santina also remained. Mr Gillane said that at 3am Mr Okuanala became “exasperated” and wanted the night to end. He called a halt to proceedings and words were exchanged.

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Mr Gilliane said it is the case of the State that Michael brought his daughter Santina back to 26 Elderwood Park and that Ms Harrington was in the living area. It is claimed that he placed Santina on a duvet style blanket and then realised that he forgotten his phone and returned to the Higgins' apartment in a bid to retrieve it. He was given “short shrift” by the couple and told to return the following day.

The State will allege that Mr Cawley left the scene by foot at 3.17am on July 5th, 2019 and made his way to the city centre looking for the cousin he had wanted to stay with Ms Higgins. Mr Gillane said that Michael Cawley was captured on CCTV in various locations in Cork city centre before he returned home.

Mr Gillane said that Mr Olney called gardaí at 4.31am after he became concerned about the screaming child at the apartment.

Gardaí. arrived within 20 minutes and knocked on the door of Miss Harrington’s apartment. There was no answer and no sign of disturbance, so they left.

Mr Cawley arrived back at the apartment at 5.07am and met Mr Olney. Mr Gillane said that Mr Cawley entered Ms Harrington’s apartment to a “scene which was difficult to understand".

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The kitchen was in disarray and there was signs of blood, Ms Harrington was on a sofa. Mr Gillane said that Michael Cawley ran to check on his daughter. He found Santina naked on a duvet with bruises on her forehead. She was unresponsive. The alarm was raised.

Mr Cawley asked his then partner Karen what had happened, but she left the scene on foot. When gardaí and paramedics arrived Mr Cawley was in a “considerable state of distress".

CPR

Among those to arrive at the scene was Sgt Brian Teehan who is due to give evidence that Santina was warm to the touch but lifeless. A faint heartbeat was detected and CPR was commenced. Santina was transferred to hospital where she died at 9.20am on July 5th, 2019,

Mr Gillane said that the jurors would hear evidence that clumps of hair were removed from the scene having been pulled from the head of Santina and that one of the child’s earrings was on the floor.

Mr Gillane said that the jurors would also hear evidence from various neighbours in the Elderwood complex on the night of the alleged offence.

One neighbour will give evidence that she heard Karen Harrington shouting and what she thought was the sound of smashing glass at the apartment of the defendant.

The woman was so concerned about the situation that she rang the defendant’s sister shortly before 3.30am. The neighbour will say that at 4am Karen rang her looking for a light for a cigarette.

Mr Gillane said that it is the case of the State that Karen Harrington also knocked on the door of her neighbour Mr Olney looking for a light. He told her that he was going to contact gardaí.

Mr Gillane added that a postmortem carried out on the late Santina Cawley by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster found that she had multiple injuries all over her body.

“There was scarcely a part of her body that did not display an injury.”

The case will continue tomorrow, it is expected to last up to five weeks and will involve the calling of over 100 witnesses. It is being presided over by Mr Justice Michael McGrath.

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