Santina Cawley trial: Woman accused of murdering toddler says evidence points to her

Santina Cawley Trial: Woman Accused Of Murdering Toddler Says Evidence Points To Her
The trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork was shown footage where Karen Harrington conceded that all of the evidence was pointing at her being the culprit.
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Olivia Kelleher

Updated at 4.50pm

A woman accused of the murder of a two-year-old girl was shown pictures of the bloodied apartment where the child was found injured and told Gardaí that all of the evidence seemed to point to her having committed the crime.


The jury at the trial of Karen Harrington, who is charged with the murder of Santina Cawley on the 5th of July 2019, at Boreenmanna Apartments in Cork, were given the opportunity to view the recording of the fifth garda interview the accused underwent following the death of the child.

Ms Harrington told Gardaí that she “couldn’t explain herself” but that the scene suggested that she “went mad.”

“This all says to me that I went mad.”


The trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork was shown footage where Ms Harrington conceded that all of the evidence was pointing at her being the culprit.

“It is looking like I did. I never killed anyone in my life. This is pointing to me. I would never hurt no one — never mind a child,” Ms Harrington said.

“The evidence is all on me. I would never hurt a child. I have been around children all my life.”

Ms Harrington told investigating gardaí that she felt sick looking at the images. Repeatedly sobbing, she emphasised that whilst she could not provide an explanation for what occurred she did nott commit a murder.


I did not murder Santina Cawley, I did not — I would not harm a child, let alone murder a child.

Ms Harrington, who was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of the deceased at the time of the alleged offence said she accepted that it looked as though all the evidence was pointing at her. She said that all of the evidence “was coming towards me”.

Detective Garda Sergeant David Noonan put it to her that “no stone was being left unturned” in the garda investigation and that all of the evidence was painting a picture.

Same colour

He asked her to say what she saw in a certain picture and Ms Harrington replied that she could see Santina’s hair on a sofa.


When asked how she knew that it was clumps of Santina’s hair she stated that it was the same colour hair as the child.

“It is the same colour as her hair. Auburn. It could even be my hair. I don’t know.”

Shown a picture of a child’s earring on the floor, Ms Harrington said that it was Santina’s.

“Santina had them earrings. I got her ears pierced for her.”


When Det Sgt Noonan asked how the earring was on the floor she said she didn’t know.

“I can see where this is all leading, but I don’t know.”

She insisted that she did not taunt the child.

“I wasn’t taunting the child. I had no reason to taunt the child.”

'Horrific injuries'

Det Sgt Noonan put it to Ms Harrington that Santina had sustained “horrific injuries.”

He asked her how hair could “come away” from the head of a child. Ms Harrington said “Oh Jesus Christ’ but insisted she did not know how it occurred.

Ms Harrington was asked if she ripped off the child’s clothes. Having described the child’s top as torn she refuted the proposition that she had ripped the top off the child or hurt Santina in any way.

The 38-year-old accused, of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork, told gardaí that she had soothed Santina in her arms before putting her down on a blanket after she had an argument with her then boyfriend Michael Cawley.

He left the apartment at 26 Elderwood Park in a bid to meet up with a cousin in Cork city centre.

She admitted “ranting and raving” and screaming and opening and closing a sliding door three times which led to a neighbour knocking on the door of her property and threatening to call the gardaí.

Ms Harrington told gardaí that she would give gardaí an explanation of how Santina ended up critically injured if she could.

“Everything I said to you is what I remember – I’m in the front room – I wake up and have an argument with Michael and then Michael goes out, and I put Santina down, and I fall asleep and when I wake up again Michael is standing in front of me with the child.”

“I was roaring and shouting because I had an argument with Michael – I was ranting and raving to myself after he left.”

She again denied taunting Santina: “I had no reason to taunt the child.”

“I never in my life harmed no one, let alone a child – I would never harm a baby, and I’ve been around children all my life” said Ms Harrington.

She agreed that all the evidence was pointing to her.

All the evidence is on me – it’s all looking like me.

The trial also heard evidence from Inspector David Callaghan who said that the first four garda interviews with Ms Harrington involved trying to obtain an account of the knowledge the accused possessed. The fifth interview involved challenging the account of the evidence.

Ms Harrington acknowledged to gardaí in her fifth interview that photographs taken in her apartment that night “looked very bad.”

However, she continued to insist that she did not murder Santina Cawley.

'Very unfair'

On Tuesday afternoon, the trial heard that gardaí put it to Ms Harringon that Santina's blood was found on a pair of her pants.

Ms Harrington said it all looked "crazy".

“It looks terrible. It looks very bad. [Blood on the pants] that looks bad. I don’t know. It looks all crazy," she said.

"I did not cause any injury to Santina or would I cause any injury to any baby or genuinely to anyone. I 100 per cent wouldn't harm anyone."

Ms Harrington said she was “blank” about the evening.

Det Sgt David Noonan asked if she was without recollection how could she be so sure she had nott killed the child. Ms Harrington again insisted that she would never hurt a child.

“I would never [hurt a child]. I am minding children all my life. Honest to God I told you from start to finish what I recall. I total you everything. I feel sick to my stomach. “

Det Sgt Noonan put to Ms Harrington that she was the only person in the apartment the night Santina was murdered.

"You had blood on your clothing. Blood belonging to Santina Cawley on your pants."

Ms Harrington acknowledged that she was in the apartment but denied any involvement in the death of the child.

Ms Harrington said her “place was upside down” but stated that other than accidentally breaking a glass she did not know what had happened to cause such disarray.

She stressed that she had not seen Santina bleeding on the night and said she could not explain the blood of the child being found on a pair of pyjamas pants in the property.

“I can’t explain it. They [the pants] are mine.”

When asked when she changed in to a new pair of pants Ms Harrington indicated that she "honest to God" did not remember.

At one point during the questioning, Det Sgt Noonan asked Ms Harrington why she was smiling, but the accused denied that she was smiling.  Det Sgt Noonan added that Santina Cawley was dead and would never smile again.

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Ms Harrington said she "would love" to be able to give an explanation as to how the child ended up critically injured, but did not have one.

Whilst cross-examining Det Sgt Noonan, Brendan Grehan SC, for the defence, said that in spite of the challenge Ms Harrington never changed her basic account of what occurred.

“You did all that, but she didn’t budge. She had the right to say ‘no comment’. Karen Harrington co-operated fully in the interview.”

The trial continues on Wednesday before Justice Michael McGrath and a jury of seven men and four women after the twelfth juror in the case was excused last week.

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