Santina Cawley murder trial: Accused claimed she caused no injuries to toddler during garda interview

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.
Santina Cawley murder trial: Accused claimed she caused no injuries to toddler during garda interview

Karen Harrington at the Central Criminal Court in Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

Karen Harrington’s lawyer said in her trial for murdering two-year-old Santina Cawley that she accepted the evidence pointed mainly to her but she did not budge from her position that she did not murder the child.

Brendan Grehan defence senior counsel said, “She does not have a history of violence.” Inspector Dave Callaghan agreed.

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.

Mr Grehan SC cross-examined the inspector about the strategies used by gardaí in their five interviews with Karen Harrington. In particular, he asked about the fifth interview where she was questioned about earlier information she had given – in the light of other evidence gardaí had gathered since the early interviews.

Mr Grehan said, “It seems to be the case that Karen Harrington – despite the strategies – her position did not change. And she denies that she recalled the injuries Santina suffered.” Inspector Callaghan said, “Some further information came to light (in the fifth interview) that was not given in the previous four… It does elicit new information.” Mr Grehan agreed: “Without a doubt. But her fundamental position did not change. She outlined she did not remember. She could not harm anyone, never mind a child or baby and she did not injure Santina.

“She acknowledged the evidence was pointing mainly at her but she did not budge from her position.” 

Cross-examining Det Garda David Noonan, Mr Grehan said, “You have thrown everything you have at her but she said she did not cause any of Santina’s injuries.” 

Interview 5

A DVD of interview 5 was played to the jury today, catching every word spoken during the interview. The opening question from Detective Garda David Noonan was a long scene-setting statement: “Santina Cawley was murdered – murdered at 26 Elderwood Park – your address. We are talking about your address. A two-year-old child. Defenceless, yeah?” Karen Harrington replied, “Yeah.” 

The detective said, “In here I cannot lie to you. I can only tell you the truth. This is a large investigation with many detectives who have been getting CCTV, getting witness statements, we have had technical aspects, we have had some analysis, of the murder of Santina Cawley – a two-year-old defenceless child at your address.

“You have told us in your own words who was at that address at that time – you were there.” 

During the interview, the accused repeatedly denied murder.

Det Garda Noonan asked the accused to close her eyes at one stage during the fifth interview.

“Try closing your eyes. I want you to think back to that night when you were in the apartment and Michael (Santina’s dad, Michael Cawley) had left. Keep your eyes closed for a second. I want you to think back of all the objects that were around you. I want you to think about that location at that time and your best memory of what went on in as much detail as possible,” the detective said.

The accused replied, 

“I think I fell asleep. I had an argument with Michael. Santina is crying. I remember she was roasting, taking off her clothes. Laying her down in the blanket and I was just lying down on the sofa.

“I remember Michael is standing in front of me with the child.” 

The detective said she put a lot more details into it in earlier interviews.

“What happened Santina?” he asked. She replied, “I don’t know. I am sick.” 

“How did the nappy stay inside in the pants – were they ripped off?” he asked. She replied, “No.” “Was the top ripped off? You describe them as torn. Look at them (picture of torn top),” she was asked and she replied, “Jesus Christ I am sick.” 

“How did Santina sustain those injuries that were listed out?” he asked. She replied, “I am sick.” 

“The picture you have painted of lying down going to sleep. There are numerous statements. You did say you remember about the roaring and shouting?” he said. She replied, “I was roaring and shouting because I had an argument with Michael. I was ranting and raving to myself after he left.” 

The accused said she was not taunting the child. The detective said, “We have a statement that says you were taunting the child.” She replied, “I had no reason to taunt the child.” “You caused the injuries to Santina?” the detective said. She replied, “Oh Jesus Christ, it is looking like I did. I would not harm a child. By no means. I am around children all my life.” 

“A two-year-old defenceless child is dead,” Det Garda Noonan said. She replied, “This is looking like it is me.” The detective said, “We are following the evidence, Karen.” She sobbed.

She said, “I know all the evidence is all on me. It is the way it is looking.” 

Referring to a pair of pants on the bedroom floor, the detective said, “Explain to me how Santina’s blood is on your pants, taken from your bedroom, explain that to me.” She replied, “I cannot explain it.” “When did you change them?” he asked. She replied, “I have no memory of it whatsoever.” 

A short time later the detective commented to the accused, who wept a number of times during the interview, “You are smiling, Karen.” She replied, “I am just thinking to myself.” Asked, “Why are you smiling?” She replied, “I am not smiling.” The detective commented, “Santina cannot smile. Santina Cawley is dead. I imagine her family cannot smile. It is very unfair on that family – they want to know what happened to their daughter, their niece, their grandchild. A reasonable explanation.” She replied, “I would love to be able to give one.” 

“You have blood on your clothing, blood belonging to Santina Cawley, on pants you were wearing, found in the bedroom,” Det Garda Noonan said. She replied, “I did not cause any injuries to Santina.” 

The trial continues before Mr Justice Michael McGrath and the seven men and four women of the jury at the Central Criminal Court in Cork. (One juror was excused last week).

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