Gardaí who investigated murder of Cork toddler: 'Justice for Santina was always the ultimate goal'

“This was a particularly emotive case for the members who attended the scene and for the investigation team, many having children of a similar age." 
Gardaí who investigated murder of Cork toddler: 'Justice for Santina was always the ultimate goal'

Detective Inspector Danny Coholan speaking to the media with Sgt Brian Maher (right) after the verdict in the Santina Cawley case was announced in Cork yesterday. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Gardaí who investigated the murder of Santina Cawley, many of whom also had young children, found it a particularly emotive case, the senior investigating officer said. 

Detective Inspector Danny Coholan was speaking yesterday after Karen Harrington was jailed for life for the murder of the two-year-old Cork child. 

“The murder of Santina Cawley has had a profound impact on Santina’s extended family and across the community," Detective Inspector Coholan said. 

“I would like to thank the community in Cork for their assistance and cooperation with the investigation team throughout the investigation into the murder of Santina. 

"The early provision of statements, CCTV, social media videos, doorbell cameras and cooperation with house to house enquiries greatly aided the investigation.

“I would like to particularly thank the investigation team who have worked on this case for almost three years. 

"Justice for Santina was always the ultimate goal for the team since her murder on July 5 2019.

“This was a particularly emotive case for the members who attended the scene and for the investigation team, many having children of a similar age.

“Santina was always in our thoughts. We would like to again express our sympathies to Santina’s family and An Garda Síochána will continue to support them as they continue to grieve for Santina.”

Unanimous verdict 

The jury returned to Courtroom 6 at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork at 3.45pm on Monday afternoon.

The registrar asked the eleven jurors if they had reached a verdict on which all of them were agreed. The jury foreman said they had. The registrar then stated, “You say the accused, Karen Harrington, is guilty.”

There was no visible reaction from the accused when the guilty verdict was handed down. The murder trial was going into the beginning of its fourth week on what is Day 14 of the trial.

Karen Harrington arriving at the Central Criminal Court, Anglesea Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan
Karen Harrington arriving at the Central Criminal Court, Anglesea Street, Cork. Picture Dan Linehan

The eleven jurors — one was excused early in the case — were thanked by Mr Justice Michael McGrath for their attention to the case at the Central Criminal Court.

He excused them for life from further service on any jury.

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

She even opted to give evidence in her own defence – something she was not legally required to do — and used the opportunity to say, “I did not murder Santina Cawley.”

However, the jury did not believe her and returned their unanimous guilty verdict. It took them four hours and 46 minutes of deliberations — which commenced on Friday — to reach this verdict.

Seán Gillane, prosecution senior counsel, had submitted that Karen Harrington was like someone walking between the rain drops, convincing herself she is not getting wet but the only person she is convincing is herself.

Karen Harrington has been on bail throughout the trial and for most of the time since the murder of Santina Cawley — apart from a period of eight days. She was taken into custody immediately on being found guilty of murdering the child.

Imposing the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment, Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said, “The murder of Santina Cawley — a defenceless two-year-old child, is truly shocking. It goes against nature for parents to bury a child but to lose a child in these circumstances is beyond description — the extent of the terror to which Santina was subjected and the brutal nature of her death.

“I have no doubt Santina will continue to live long in the memory of those who knew and loved her. She will continue to be loved by her family and friends.

“It cannot have been easy for Michael Cawley to tell us what he saw in the apartment when he returned — the great courage and dignity he displayed giving evidence in the trial.”

The judge expressed his condolences to the parents, family and friends of Santina and complimented the gardaí on the quality of their investigation of a difficult case.

Det Garda Cormac Crotty said Karen Harrington had two public order convictions, two for theft, and nine under the Road Traffic Act.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130
EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more