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Case latest Karen Harrington's sister gives evidence at murder trial of toddler Santina Cawley

Ms Harrington has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Santina Cawley (2)

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Santina Cawley died on July 5, 2019

Santina Cawley died on July 5, 2019

Santina Cawley died on July 5, 2019

Murder accused Karen Harrington (37) told her sister she awoke to discover her partner, Michael Cawley, holding his daughter, Santina (2), in his arms in her apartment and claiming the infant was dead.

The revelation came as a murder trial heard that Ms Harrington later arrived by foot at a friend's house in Cork that morning of July 5, 2019, in a distraught condition, barefoot and with her feet bleeding.

She was very distressed and the friend, Yvonne Walsh, said Ms Harrington looked like "a ghost" and claimed her partner had just accused her of suffocating the child.

Gardai who responded to the scene at the Elderwood complex in Cork said the body of Santina Cawley was discovered lying naked on a blanket and resembled a small doll.

Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Santina Cawley (2) 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 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).

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Michael Cawley, father of tragic Santina Cawley.

Michael Cawley, father of tragic Santina Cawley.

Michael Cawley, father of tragic Santina Cawley.

Santina had suffered a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury and a severe spinal injury.

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."

In evidence on the sixth day of the trial, Janice Harrington, a sister of the accused, recalled the events of July 4 and 5.

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Janice Harrington said she spoke by phone with her sister Karen at 3.10am having been alerted by a neighbour that there was a commotion near her sister's apartment.

She said she was informed Karen had an argument with her partner, Michael Cawley (37), who had since left the apartment.

A few days later, she attended the home of Yvonne Walsh with Karen Harrington.

"(They) asked Karen what happened. (She said): I don't know - all I remember is I woke up and Michael (Cawley) had Santina in his arms and said she was dead."

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Karen Harrington is on trial for the murder of Santina Cawley. Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Karen Harrington is on trial for the murder of Santina Cawley. Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Karen Harrington is on trial for the murder of Santina Cawley. Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

She said Mr Cawley handed the child to Karen but she handed the child back a few seconds later.

Yvonne Walsh told the trial she was outside her Blackrock home around 5.30am on July 5.

Ms Walsh was a friend of Karen Harrington's mother and had known her since she was a child.

"I thought I seen a ghost - the way Karen approached my home (I) was in shock. She was distraught. I took no notice of what she was wearing because I could see her face.

"She had no shoes on and her feet were bleeding.

"I said what is wrong - I went to hug her. She said I think there is something wrong with Santina.

"She said I don't know what is after happening in my apartment? She said he (Michael Cawley) said I tried to suffocate his child.

"She said she got a shock - he (Mr Cawley) placed the baby in her arms and said she had tried to suffocate it.

"(She said) her (Santina's) head was a bit lifeless - floppy."

Ms Walsh said she immediately drove Karen Harrington back to the Elderwood complex.

When they arrived, she said Michael Cawley came over and confronted them.

"(Mr Cawley said to her) Have you suffocated my child?

"He was a big, growly man coming over to us.

"I stepped between them - I said 'don't you dare'. She (Karen) didn't say anything to him.

"Karen was kind of afraid to get out of the car. She was trembling."

Michelle Harrington, another sister of the accused, said she spoke to her older sister in the early hours of July 5 but also had a number of subsequent missed calls from her.

When she spoke to her sister later on July 5, Karen kept telling her that Santina was dead.

"She (Karen) heard a child crying in her sleep and when she woke up the child was lying (on a blanket) and with no clothes on.

"Karen said she woke up and seen Santina was dead."

Michelle Harrington agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, for the defence, that Karen had said she was asleep and heard a child crying only to wake up and see Santina lying on the blanket.

The witness said Karen Harrington was crying during their call and was very upset.

She also insisted that her sister loved children and was very good at caring for them.

The witness said Karen Harrington, the eldest of a family of four girls, had acted as a parent-like figure for her younger siblings.

"She reared all of us when my mum got ill. (Karen was) very good (with children) - children loved Karen."

She agreed with Mr Grehan that it was not in her sister's nature to be mean to children.

Ms Walsh said the only person she trusted her child to be cared for was Karen Harrington.

The trial continues.

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