Santina Cawley murder trial: Accused gives evidence during cross-examination

Karen Harrington got into the witness box at the Central Criminal Court in Cork for the first time in the eleven-day trial.
Santina Cawley murder trial: Accused gives evidence during cross-examination

38-year-old Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork who denies the murder of Santina Cawley pictured at the Central Criminal court, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Cork Courts Limited

The woman accused of murdering a two-year-old girl at her apartment in Cork insisted she is not guilty but the prosecution said the accused and the dead child were the only ones present and that there was “no mysterious stranger.” 

Prosecution senior counsel Seán Gillane made this point during cross-examination.

Karen Harrington got into the witness box at the Central Criminal Court in Cork for the first time in the eleven-day trial.

Brendan Grehan defence senior counsel’s first question to 38-year-old Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, was that she stands accused of murdering Santina Cawley at her apartment at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5, 2019. “What do you have to say to that?” he asked.

“I did not murder Santina Cawley,” Karen Harrington said.

“That has been your position throughout this?” Mr Grehan asked. “Yes,” she replied. That was the extent of her direct evidence.

Cross examination

Seán Gillane prosecution senior counsel then asked her, “Who did?” Ms Harrington replied, “Who did? I can’t answer that.” “Or you won’t say?” Mr Gillane said. She replied, “I am unsure to say.” 

Mr Gillane said, “Santina did not cause the injuries to herself. Do you accept the only person with her was you?” She replied, “No.” “Would you like to name anyone else with her?” Mr Gillane asked. 

The accused replied that she had been woken from her sleep and that earlier there had been an argument between herself and Michael Cawley – Santina’s dad and Ms Harrington’s then partner – and she left her friend’s apartment where the argument occurred and went home to her own apartment and that there was a call at 3am which she did not expect.

Mr Gillane said that after Michael called with Santina at that time, he left alone, leaving Karen and Santina as the only two people in Karen’s apartment for two hours.

The accused said, “I accept me and Santina were alone for a period in my apartment.” Mr Gillane said, “We have seen Mr Cawley walking around town on the video. You are alone. She is alive.” Ms Harrington replied, “That would have been me… at that time, yeah.” “She is uninjured?” Mr Gillane SC said. The accused replied, “No I can’t confirm that.” “Why not?” the prosecution senior counsel asked. She said she did not know anything about the injuries apart from what she heard like everyone else who heard evidence in the trial.

“If there were injuries, how could you not have noticed?” he asked. 

She replied, “I ask myself the same. All I can recall back when I vision Santina, I don’t see any bruises or injuries or blood or anything like that.” 

Mr Gillane recalled the pathologist’s evidence that when Santina had head injuries she would not have been capable of crying. “Can you help us solve the mystery. Will you do that?” he asked. The accused made no reply.

Two year old Santina Cawley. Pic from Provision
Two year old Santina Cawley. Pic from Provision

“What was done to that child was done to her when only you and she were there?” he said. She replied, “I disagree with that.” “Are you going to be big enough to say Michael did not do it, that Santina did not do it to herself. Do you accept that?” he asked. She replied, “I accept Santina did not do it.” Mr Gillane asked, “Are you trying to say something? Do you accept Michael did not do this to his child?” She replied, “I accept I did not do this to Santina.” “Do you accept Michael did not do this to the child?” he asked again. She replied, “I do not know what happened between 3 and 5. I was suddenly woken from my sleep.” 

Mr Gillane said, “You have seen Mr Cawley (on CCTV) walking around town. We can see him on Winthrop Street and Oliver Plunkett Street. Do you accept he did not do this to his child?” She replied, “It is not for me to answer. I am not in a position to answer. I don’t know.” Mr Gillane said, “Is that your escape hatch?” She replied, “I am not escaping anything.” 

Mr Gillane said, 

“Santina did not do this to herself. Mr Cawley certainly did not do it. There is no mysterious stranger in the apartment. The only other person there is you.

“Did you hear the child crying as the hair was torn from her head? Did you hear her crying as her lip was split? Crying as her ribs were broken? Did you hear any of that? Is Mr Olney (neighbour Dylan Olney) making it up when he says he hears the child crying and hears you taunting her.

“At 4.30, Dylan Olney rang the guards. He said (in evidence in court) he heard Santina crying. Is he making that up?” Karen Harrington replied, “I am not saying [he] is making that up. I don’t know… I don’t know where Dylan is coming from by saying that at 4.30 Santina is crying.” Mr Gillane said, “Dylan Olney does not have an axe to grind with you.” Ms Harrington said, “My sister lives on the other side (of the apartment complex). There had been a few disputes.” Mr Gillane repeated, “Dylan Olney does not have an axe to grind with you?” She replied, “He could have.” Mr Gillane said, “He is not making it up?” She replied, “He could be. It could have been me crying.” Mr Gillane asked, “Were you?” She replied, “I was crying during the night.” Mr Gillane said, “As the child is crying, she is alive. If the child is crying and he (Mr Olney) hears the child and hears you saying shut up to the child, it shows that she is alive and you are awake and you inflicted those horrific injuries on Santina after that.” She denied this.

Mr Gillane said, “Mr Olney used a word that he could not have known how true it was – he said when the guards arrived at your apartment there is a dead silence. It is not a metaphor. It is literally because you have done what you did to Santina.” That was the last proposition Mr Gillane put. Ms Harrington did not say anything but the prosecution senior counsel commented to the accused, “You are shaking your head.” 

Mr Gillane said Karen Harrington was like someone walking between the rain drops, convincing herself she was not getting wet but the only person she was convincing was herself. 

Mr Grehan said the onus was not on the accused to prove anything and he said the jury should be left with a doubt and should find her not guilty.

The trial continues.

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