First Garda on scene of Santina Cawley death tells court she looked 'like a child's doll'

38-year-old Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, denies the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019.
First Garda on scene of Santina Cawley death tells court she looked 'like a child's doll'

Garda witness Sgt Bryan Teahan arriving at the Central Criminal Court at Anglesea Street, Cork.

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THE first garda who arrived on the scene in the Santina Cawley murder trial told how the two-year-old was lying on a quilt in an apartment in Cork city and that she looked like a child’s doll.

Garda David Tobin testified, “I saw Santina Cawley lying on a quilt. She was pale. From looking at her, she was deceased. There was blood on the quilt. It looked like she was placed on the quilt.

“The best way I can describe it is that her legs were twisted in like a child’s doll. Her eyes were only slightly open. Her hands were lying by her side and her head was back and she was naked and she had a bruise on her forehead and she was not breathing. I think there was a small bit of blood in her mouth.”

38-year-old Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, denies the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019.

Garda Tobin told the trial how he met neighbour, Dylan Olney at the Elderwood after Mr Olney had called the gardaí to say that there may be a dead baby in an apartment in the complex.

Garda Tobin went into Ms Harrington’s apartment and found the child’s lifeless body on the floor of the apartment.

Garda Tobin told how he met Santina’s father, Michael, at the scene and he was totally distraught, crying ‘She killed my baby’ but when he asked who she was, Mr Cawley did not seem to hear and just kept crying, ‘She killed my baby’. He was in total despair, Garda Tobin said.

Cross-examining, defence senior counsel, Brendan Grehan, suggested that Mr Olney had not mentioned a child being in distress in his first call and added, “If there was, gardaí might have considered other action.” Garda Tobin agreed and said, “That would be correct.” 

Sgt. Bryan Teahan told the jury of seven men and four women (one juror was excused on Tuesday) at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork that at the crime scene before he went into the apartment, he met the child’s father, Michael Cawley, and that he kept saying, “She killed my daughter”.

 “When I went into the room, I observed a child who appeared to be deceased – she was lying on a duvet that was folded up roughly – the child was completely naked, lying face up on the duvet with her head tilted back and her eyes were open.” Sgt Teahan said he tried to take a pulse at Santina’s wrist but could find none before then trying to take a pulse from her carotid artery at her neck only again to fail to find one and although her body was still warm, he listened to her chest and found no sign of breathing.

He said that he began performing CPR on Santina and moved her on to a solid surface to do so and as he began to compress her chest, he felt a faint heartbeat but her heart was beating so rapidly, he was unable to take a heart rate.

“That was the first time I made an assessment that the child might be alive,” Sgt. Teahan said, adding that he noticed bruising to her forehead and emergent bruising all over her body while he also noticed there was blood between her teeth when he opened her mouth.

Sgt Teahan told how he was assisted by some paramedics from Cork City Fire Brigade who had arrived at the scene and they gave Santina oxygen but they could not resuscitate her and she was also treated by HSE advance paramedics at the scene.

She was taken by ambulance to Cork University Hospital where she received further treatment before she was pronounced dead at 9.20am on July 5.

TESTIMONY OF  ACCUSED'S SISTER

The woman accused of murdering two-year-old Santina Cawley would not have it in her nature to be mean to a child, it was claimed by one of her three sisters.

Michelle Harrington, younger sister of the accused, testified that in April 2019 when Santina suffered an injury to her leg it was her dad, Michael Cawley, and Karen, who was in a relationship with him since December 2018, who went to hospital with the infant for her appointments.

Michelle Harrington said her sister, Karen, rang her at 11.36 p.m. on July 4, 2019 asking her if everything was OK. Michelle said it was and they agreed to talk again in the morning.

It was around 12 noon when Michelle spoke to her sister and had seen news coverage in relation to an incident at Elderwood Park. She asked her sister Karen what happened.

“She could barely speak. She said, ‘Santina is dead’,” Michelle Harrington testified.

Questioned by Seán Gillane prosecution senior counsel, she said that Karen said she woke up and could see that Santina was dead.

Mr Gillane said, “You were angry and said you have to have heard something and she said she heard a child crying when asleep – when she woke up the child was crying under the blanket with no clothes.” Michelle Harrington agreed with this and said her sister – the accused – told her the reason the child had no clothes was because her top got wet earlier. Asked about blood at the scene, Karen Harrington told her sister she cut her own foot during the evening.

Michelle said Karen was crying and very upset. Defence senior counsel Brendan Grehan said, “She was clearly very upset – not able to throw any light whatsoever on what happened. She was asleep. When she woke up the child was crying. She saw the child was lying there.”

Accused Karen Harrington arriving at the Central Criminal Court at Anglesea Street, Cork.  38-year-old Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, denies the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019. Pic: Larry Cummins.
Accused Karen Harrington arriving at the Central Criminal Court at Anglesea Street, Cork.  38-year-old Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, denies the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019. Pic: Larry Cummins.

 Mr Grehan asked, “Is it in her nature to be mean to a child?” Michelle Harrington replied, “Oh no." Mr Grehan added, “Never mind anything else?” Again Michelle Harrington replied, “Oh no.” Another sister, Janice Harrington, said that in an early hours of the morning phone call with her sister on July 5, 2019, Karen told her she was having an argument with Michael Cawley and he had left the apartment.

She asked Karen later what happened and the accused told her, “I don’t know. All I remember was I woke up, Michael had Santina in his arms, he said she was dead, Karen said she took her in her arms and handed her back to Michael and ran from the apartment to her friend, Yvonne Walsh’s house.

Yvonne Walsh testified that she was sitting on the wall outside her home at Cherrylawn, Blackrock, smoking when Karen Harrington arrived. She said her feet were bleeding and she was distraught, telling her, ‘There is something wrong with Santina… I don’t know what is after happening in my apartment. There is something gone wrong’. Ms Walsh said the accused told her that Michael Cawley had said, ‘Karen, you smothered my child’.

Ms Walsh said Karen Harrington was her babysitter for years and that the only people she would trust to mind her daughter was Karen or her own mother.

Professor Deirdre Murray, paediatric consultant, rushed to an urgent call to the resuscitation room at Cork University Hospital and found that after efforts made to resuscitate the child it was found that her injuries were so devastating there was no chance of recovery. The professor said Santina was then placed in her mother’s arms and passed away quickly at 9.20 a.m. on July 5, 2019.

The trial continues.

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