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Garda walked 6km to hospital with Santina Cawley's father who wasn’t allowed in ambulance, murder trial told

Karen Harrington (37) has denied the murder of the two-year-old girl

Michael Cawley, father of Santina Cawley. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Karen Harrington. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts

Santina Cawley. Photo: Provision

Ralph Riegel

A DETECTIVE Garda told a murder trial he walked over 6km to a Cork hospital alongside the father of Santina Cawley after the distraught man was not allowed travel in an ambulance with his daughter.

The revelation came as Karen Harrington (37) denied the murder of the two-year-old girl before a Central Criminal Court trial.

Ms Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Santina 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 Boreenmanna Road in Cork city at 5am on July 5, 2019.

Ms Harrington lived in the flat at the time.

The little girl was discovered badly injured when her father, Michael Cawley, 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 play.

A post-mortem examination was conducted at CUH which found Santina had sustained polytrauma and "devastating injuries with no chance of recovery" including a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury and a spinal injury”.

Sergeant Brian Maher said he attended the Elderwood complex shortly after 5am on July 5, 2019 when Santina was discovered.

He was outside the apartment complex and met Michael Cawley.

"He was agitated, distraught and very emotional," he said of Mr Cawley.

Karen Harrington. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts

Mr Cawley kept asking about the condition of his little girl and whether she was still alive.

Sgt Maher said he got a smell of intoxicating liquor from Mr Cawley but "he did not seem to be intoxicated”.

Mr Cawley declined a garda request to go in a Garda car to Anglesea Street Garda Station as he was too worried about his daughter.

"He wanted to go to Cork University Hospital. He wanted to walk from Boreenmanna Road (the 6km) to hospital."

"I said we would go together. So we set off to walk together."

Mr Cawley had wanted to travel in the ambulance with Santina to CUH but was not allowed for medical reasons given the desperate efforts of paramedics to stabilise the little girl's condition.

During the long walk to CUH, Sgt Maher said Mr Cawley remained very upset.

"I was thinking [I would] support him through the journey. He was very emotional."

Sgt Maher said that when they arrived at CUH he made hospital staff aware that he was a garda, who Mr Cawley was and sought information on Santina's condition.

"CUH staff told us (gardaí) to help prepare Michael Cawley for the worst."

Sgt Maher also assisted Mr Cawley in ensuring his wife, Bridget, from whom he was separated, was informed of the critical condition of Santina.

The woman had already been informed of Santina's critical condition and was at CUH.

Later, Sgt Maher went with Mr Cawley to his Grattan Street flat in a Garda car and was provided with the clothing he was wearing on July 4/5 for forensic testing.

Mr Cawley was wearing shorts, a T shirt and joggers.

He said Mr Cawley again became very emotional when he spotted his daughter's toys lying in the apartment.

Sergeant Mark Leonard told the trial he had been called three times to the Elderwood complex in the early hours of July 5 – twice in respect of noise complaints and the third time in respect of the discovery of a critically-injured Santina Cawley.

As he approached No 26 Elderwood Park at 5.23am, Sgt Leonard heard a man shouting from upstairs.

"It was a male voice – scouting and screaming and crying," he said.

Inside the apartment, he spotted Santina Cawley lying on a duvet.

"There was a young girl lying on a duvet. She was motionless and naked. She was pale blue in colour and appeared not to be breathing."

In the kitchen area, he saw a male (Michael Cawley) who was very distressed.

"He was crying and screaming. He kept repeating: 'She killed my baby.' Later, he told me the 'she' he was referring to was Karen Harrington."

Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) expert Dr Sibeal Waldron said she conducted DNA tests on various blood stains identified by gardaí at the Elderwood apartment.

A pair of adult floral-style leggings was discovered by gardaí in a back bedroom at Ms Harrington's apartment.

The trousers showed signs of heavy blood-staining.

On the upper left section of the leggings – which had been pulled inside out – Dr Waldron said the blood stain matched the DNA profile of Santina Cawley.

Other blood stains on the garment matched the profile of Karen Harrington.

A pink child's T-shirt was also examined with blood stains found on the collar and shoulder.

One blood stain returned a mixed DNA sample profile.

Dr Waldron said it was "one thousand million to one" times more likely that the mixed DNA sample was from Santina Cawley and Karen Harrington rather than Santina Cawley and unknown others.

She also said that blood staining analysed from the kitchen of the apartment matched the DNA of Karen Harrington.

An analysis of shorts, T-shirt and runners taken from Santina's father, Michael Cawley, returned no trace of blood.

Forensic scientist Dr Jennifer Ryan confirmed that an analysis of the clumps of hair discovered in the apartment found they had been pulled from the head.

Santina Cawley. Photo: Provision

A DNA analysis indicated the hair clump was from Santina.

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.

She died minutes after being 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 gardaí 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 heavily blood-stained duvet was also found at the scene.

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

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

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

Gardaí also found a suspected cannabis joint in the apartment.

In cross-examination with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, Detective Dennehy said it was an unusual scene.

"It was a strange scene to examine and interpret, especially the living room," he said.

"It was quite difficult to interpret what happened. There was a lot of blood in the kitchen. (But) apart from the duvet there was no blood in the living room."

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 Gda 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 Ms 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 Gda 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 a 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 but 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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