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'Devastating injuries' Cork toddler Santina Cawley was found with 53 separate injuries, murder trial told

Santina died from poly-trauma and had suffered a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.


Santina Cawley

Santina Cawley

Santina Cawley

A MURDER trial was told that Cork toddler Santina Cawley (two) was found to have a total of 53 separate injuries.

A Central Criminal Court murder trial jury heard that Gardaí were informed following a post mortem examination at Cork University Hospital (CUH) that the little girl was found to have 49 separate external injuries - and four different internal injuries.

Santina died from poly-trauma and had suffered a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.

The trial also heard that the toddler's father, Michael Cawley, confronted murder accused Karen Harrington (37) at the scene in front of Gardaí and shouted that she was "a monster".

Harrington (37) of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the two year old at a Central Criminal Court trial before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and four women.

Santina was found lying naked on a dirty blanket with critical injuries at 26 Elderwood Park off the Boreenamanna Road in Cork city at 5am on July 5 2019.

Karen Harrington lived in the flat at the time.

The little girl was discovered badly injured when her father, Michael Cawley (37), returned to his then-girlfriend's flat having left the property two hours earlier at 3am to walk alone into Cork city centre in a bid to locate his Limerick cousin.

Despite desperate efforts by doctors and paramedics to stabilise the condition of the little girl, she was pronounced dead a short time after being rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Sean Gillane SC, for the State, said that little Santina's injuries could not have been suffered in the normal rough and tumble of child play.

A post mortem examination was conducted at CUH which found Santina had sustained poly trauma and "devastating injuries with no chance of recovery."

CUH paediatric consultant Professor Deirdre Murray pronounced the child dead at 9.20am with the little girl having suffered devastating injuries from which there was no hope of recovery.

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The little girl died minutes after she was placed by doctors and nurses into the arms of her mother, Bridget, when all life saving procedures had been ceased.

Prof Murray had rushed at 6.30am to the CUH emergency department to treat the little girl.

In written evidence to the trial, read out by Mr Gillane, Prof Murray said Santina was found with "multiple bruises (including on the) forehead, bruises to the chest, a swollen leg, a femur fracture (historic)...and her pupils were fixed and dilated indicating a severe brain injury."

Detective Garda Stephen Dennehy, who was the crime scene manager appointed to the case, said Gardaí were informed Santina had suffered 49 external injuries and four internal injuries.

The little girl was also missing an earring or a stud from her left ear lobe.

A stud earring matching it was found by Gardai on the floor of the apartment.

Clumps of hair were found just inside the door of the apartment as well as near a couch.

A blood stained duvet was also found at the scene.

Gardai also found blood stains in the apartment including footprints in blood and a drag-mark in blood.

Det Garda Dennehy said that there was evidence of a disturbance in the kitchen of the property.

Blood-stained adult leggings were later discovered in a downstairs bedroom.

Detective Garda Eoghain O'Callaghan, who was called to the Elderwood complex shortly after 5am when Santina was found critically injured, said he had to act to calm tensions between Santina's father, Michael Cawley, and his then-girlfriend, Karen Harrington.

"Michael Cawley came up to her (Karen Harrington) and shouted in her face."

"(He shouted) you killed my baby - you monster."

Det Garda O'Callaghan said he noted a smell of alcohol from both Mr Cawley and the defendant.

Both were very distressed at different times outside the Elderwood complex.

He said that Karen Harrington was cautioned as she stood outside.

"(She said) she had returned to No 26 (after 1.30am) by herself.

"Michael Cawley (later) arrived with the child asleep in his arms.

"She (the defendant) was woken up by Michael Cawley shouting that the child was dead (5am)."

"She said she was asleep for the rest of the night. She said she was woken up by Michael Cawley shouting that the child was dead and she ran out of the apartment."

Det Garda O'Callaghan noted that Mr Cawley had shouted at the defendant that she was "a monster."

He said that Karen Harrington, who was flanked by a female friend, replied to him: "I did yeah, I did yeah" in a sarcastic tone.

The garda agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that her sarcastic tone suggested that the opposite was in fact the case.

Gardaí moved Mr Cawley and the defendant away from each other to calm tensions - and away from paramedics who were desperately trying to save the little girl.

Cork Fire Brigade lead fireman, Pat Hayes, said he noted blood spatters on the kitchen floor of No 26 where Santina was found.

He also noted a nappy in an undergarment near to the dirty duvet where the child was found in critical condition.

He was approached by Mr Cawley, who he did not know, and was asked:

"Can you tell me, is my child alive or not?"

"I told him he had to calm down - he was being very aggressive. I said we have a pulse and we are doing the best we can."

He confirmed that Mr Cawley wanted to travel in the ambulance with his daughter to CUH was not permitted to do so.

Mr Hayes said he offered to consult with Gardaí about them bringing Mr Cawley to the hospital.

"He was behaving in a very aggressive manner," he said.

Minutes later, he said Mr Cawley noticed two females near the Elderwood complex, one of whom was Karen Harrington.

"(He said) That's the people you should be looking at - that's your suspect there."

Mr Hayes said that when he went into the apartment he noticed an infant girl lying naked on a dirty duvet.

Other paramedics said the duvet was dirty and smelled strongly of urine.

"One of her legs was distorted and there was blood around her mouth and nose. There were bruises on her arms."

"The scene was frantic with everyone (Gardaí, fire brigade and paramedics) trying to save the child."

The trial continues.

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