Santina Cawley murder trial: Neighbour heard accused taunting crying child

Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent in Cork is charged with the murder of two-year-old Santina Cawley
Santina Cawley murder trial: Neighbour heard accused taunting crying child

Olivia Kelleher

Updated at 4.14pm

A neighbour of a woman who is on trial for the murder of a two-year-old girl has said he heard the sound of a crying baby next door with the infant becoming increasingly distressed as a woman sarcastically taunted her.

Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork is on trial at a Central Criminal Court sitting in the city charged with the murder of Santina Cawley at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road in Cork on July 5th, 2019.

At the time of the alleged offence Ms Harrington (37) was in a relationship with the father of the child Michael Cawley.

Ms Harrington was living at 26 Elderwood Park in 2019. Her next door neighbour Dylan Olney, who lived in number 27, said that he went to bed at 2am on July 5th, 2019. He started to hear a “commotion.”

“The next thing I heard was an almighty commotion. Things getting broken and thrown around the place in number 26.”

He said that it sounded like someone was having “a tantrum or throwing stuff around”.

Mr Olney then gave evidence that he heard “repetitive banging” and “almighty thumping”.

“The walls are thin where I live. I went out. The accused person was smashing the sliding door open and closed. It was repetitive smashing open and closed. I was annoyed. I didn’t want to go up.”

He went out and swore at Miss Harrington calling her a “dingbat” and telling her to stop.

'Freaked out'

Mr Olney warned Miss Harrington that he planned to call the Gardaí. He stated that Karen replied ‘go ahead and call them’.

He told the jury that Karen started shouting 'Call them. Call them. I beg you call them.'

"I was a bit freaked out by it. She was acting weird,” he said.

He returned to his apartment. Mr Olney said that at one point Karen appeared at his door asking for a lighter for a cigarette. He told her to leave.

Then he heard a child crying at her apartment. This was a cause of concern for him.

“That alarmed me. I heard a child crying coming from next door at 26. That concerned me. It wasn’t painful crying — just crying. I was concerned. I didn’t think a child should be in that.

“I could hear taunting. The baby was getting worse and crying. I heard what I heard. I was concerned for the wellbeing of the child I heard crying.”

He said he could hear her [Karen] saying ‘poor baby alright’ in a ‘sarcastic’ voice. Mr Olney gave evidence that the child wasn’t being spoken to in a manner which would provide comfort and as a result the crying got worse.

“I heard her saying 'stop crying', I think I heard her say ‘stop crying or shut up. I made the decision to call the Garda.”

'Very distraught'

The trial heard that Gardaí responded to a call at 4.31am on July 5th, 2019. When they arrived at 4.52am there was no sign of disturbance at Karen Harrington’s apartment and they left the scene.

Shortly afterwards Mr Olney heard the sound of someone walking on the gangway. He went out and saw Michael Cawley, the father of the child, whom he only knew to see.

“I asked him ‘what the hell is going on?’ What the hell is going on with your one?’ He didn’t seem inebriated.”

Mr Olney said Michael Cawley went in to the apartment and he came out in a distressed state shouting that his “daughter was dead”. Mr Cawley asked him to contact the Gardaí and call for an ambulance.

“He was roaring. He was inconsolable. I was trying to console him. He was very distraught.”

Mr Olney called the Gardaí. When they arrived Gardaí asked Mr Olney “what are we looking at? I said murder.”

Earlier the trial heard from Karen’s neighbour Aoife Niamh McGaley who said that on the morning when Santina was found critically injured she heard Karen arguing with a person with a deep voice whom she assumed to be a male.

“Karen’s voice was muffled, but I could hear her clearly saying ‘I am telling. I am telling."

Ms McGaley said that she first met Karen she was a teenager. At 1.27am on July 5th, 2019 Karen rang her phone asking her to let her in to the entrance of the apartment building. The code wasn’t working and Karen thought she had forgotten her key.

However, Karen found her keys and let herself in. She said that there was a disruptive neighbour living in the apartment complex and when she heard arguing it was like “hearing rain outside.”

Texting a friend

They were used to noise in the apartments she told the jury that she recalled texting a friend in Australia during the night saying that she was awake because where she lived was “like the Bronx.”

At 3am she said she heard a man arguing with a woman. The woman, who sounded like Karen, was saying “I am going to tell them all. I am going to tell them all.”

She said she jumped up and grabbed a nightdress and went to Karen’s apartment. She banged on the glass of the sliding door. She said the situation was “completely out of character” for Karen.

Ms McGaley said she could hear muffled voices and a woman who sounded like Karen saying “I will tell. I will tell.” She went to the main door of Karen’s apartment where she heard sobbing.

“I started beating down the door. I was very concerned. I was kicking it(the door). She said ‘is that the guards and I said ‘No it’s me you spacer.’ She opened the door. She looked very distressed. She kept apologising saying ‘ I didn’t mean to be shouting and causing trouble.’

She said Karen poked her head in a door in the apartment as if she was looking at something.

Ms McGaley saw no sign of any persons other than Karen in the apartment. She stated that she saw a mark on Karen’s face and noticed that hair had been ripped out of her head. She stated that it looked like a “chunk” of it had been removed. She also spotted that Karen’s Betty Boop statue had been smashed.

She asked Karen about the sound of breaking glass which she had heard and Karen told her that she had accidentally smashed a drinking glass in the kitchen.

“At this stage I was tired and annoyed. I said ‘really a drinking glass?’ I didn’t believe it. She just apologised.”

Ms McGaley said that she got the impression that Karen was scared.

“I got this uneasy feeling for her. I didn’t see anyone [else] but I wasn’t happy.`”

Another neighbour Martin McSweeney told the trial that he woke at around 3am on July 5th, 2019 to the sound of a sliding door opening and closing thirty to forty times. He heard a man saying ‘I am going to call the cops you dingbat.’

At 5am he heard a man wailing and shouting “My baby is dead.”

He said at one stage he thought Karen Harrington might have died as he heard the gentleman say “My baby is dead”.

“I thought ‘Baby’ might have been a nickname for her.”

He had earlier seen her earlier looking “drunk or on drugs.”

The case continues on Wednesday.

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