Santina Cawley trial: Garda sergeant recalls performing CPR on lifeless two-year-old

Karen Harrington (37) is on trial at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork charged with the murder of Santina Cawley
Santina Cawley trial: Garda sergeant recalls performing CPR on lifeless two-year-old

Olivia Kelleher

Updated at 4.38pm

A garda sergeant has told a murder trial about undertaking CPR on a two-year-old girl whom he first believed was dead because of the grey colour of her skin before detecting a “faint heartbeat” when he placed his hands on her chest.

Karen Harrington (37) is on trial at a Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork charged with the murder of Santina Cawley at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road in the city on July 5th, 2019.

Santina died at Cork University Hospital at 9.20am on July 5th, 2019 in spite of desperate efforts by medics to revive her.

Ms Harrington of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon, Cork was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of the child, at the time of the alleged offence.

Sgt Brian Teahan, who is a licenced emergency medical technician, said that he was called to the scene at the apartment complex at 5.25am on July 5th, 2019.

He was informed by another garda that he was attending a crime scene and that a child appeared to be dead.

Sgt Teahan arrived at the door of 26 Elderwood Park and met the father of the child, Michael Cawley, who was very distressed.

“He kept saying ‘She (Karen) has killed my daughter.’ He asked ‘Is she dead?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’

“I left a colleague at the door. I (went into the apartment) and observed a child who appeared to be deceased.

“She was face up on a duvet in the centre of the room. The child appeared to be deceased.

“There was blood on the duvet. Her head was titled backward, and her eyes were open.

“There was a bruise on her forehead. I was concerned with the colour of her skin. Her skin was lacking in profusion. Grey. Colourless.

“Her skin was warm to the touch, but she was completely unresponsive.”

Faint heartbeat

Sgt Teahan said there was no pulse on the neck of the child but when he put his hands on Santina’s chest he detected "a very faint heartbeat."

In order to carry out CPR, Sgt Teahan had to remove the child from the duvet she was on. He put her on a hard surface.

“She was limp. With no structure to her body. I picked her up. There was blood between her teeth.

“I started CPR compressions at a continuous rate. I delivered oxygenated air to the child from an O2 cylinder.”

Sgt Teahan said that the HSE advanced paramedics then took over the care of Santina. He told the jury that when he entered the apartment he noticed that there was blood on the floor.

There was a large amount of blood in the kitchen and the kitchen was in disarray.

Sgt Teahan said when he came outside the apartment, Michael Cawley asked if his daughter was dead.

“I answered that I didn’t believe she was dead, but she was very seriously injured.”

Distressed

Meanwhile, the trial also heard from a friend of Ms Harrington, Yvonne Walsh, who said that the accused arrived to her home not wearing any shoes and with bleeding feet. She told the court that Ms Harrington said that her partner Mr Cawley had accused her of trying to suffocate his child.

Ms Walsh said she was having a cigarette on the wall outside her home at Cherry Lawn in Blackrock in Cork at around 5.30am to 6am on July 5th, 2019 when she saw Ms Harrington approaching her property.

"I thought I was seeing as ghost. I know Karen. I know she was distressed. She had no shoes and her feet were bleeding. I said ‘what is wrong?’ I went to hug her.

"She said ‘I don’t know what is after happening in my apartment.’ She said he (Michael Cawley) said that I tried to suffocate his child.”

Ms Walsh said that Ms Harrington had believed that Santina was lying on a blanket in the apartment.

She said that Ms Harrington told her that Mr Cawley had placed Santina into her arms and said: "Karen you smothered my child."

“She (Karen) said she couldn’t hold her. She saw her (Santina’s) head was lifeless and a bit floppy. I said ‘Karen get into my car. We will go see what is wrong.”

Fight or flight

Ms Walsh said that it was a case of fight or flight for Ms Harrington, who had woken up to this situation in her apartment.

She stated that when she went back to the Elderwood apartments complex she noted the presence of gardaí and an ambulance.

Ms Walsh, who has known Ms Harrington all her life, told the court that the accused was “afraid and shaking”.

Mr Cawley spoke to them in a “very forceful” manner and asked her if she had suffocated his child.

“I said ‘she did nothing.’ She didn’t answer.”

Ms Walsh said that she had been friends with Ms Harrington’s mother and knew the defendant “since she was in the womb.”

She described Ms Harrington as someone she trusted completely.

“Karen was my babysitter for years. I wouldn’t trust anyone with my daughter. It was either my mother or Karen (minding her).”

'Not in her nature to be mean to a child'

Meanwhile, Michelle Harrington, who is a sister of the accused, told the court that Karen had accompanied Mr Cawley to Santina’s hospital appointments.

She and Karen exchanged a few missed calls with each other in the early morning of July 5th, 2019. However, they did speak at 11.56am on July 4th and Karen sounded “alright.”

Michelle Harrington said that Karen, who is the eldest in her family, had assumed the role of parent to her three younger siblings when she was a teenager amid family difficulties.

Ms Harrington said that Karen was a major support network to her sisters and a person who loved kids.

“She is very good [with kids]. She was always friendly to children. She reared all of us. It is not in her nature to be mean to a child.”

Janice Harrington, another sister of the accused, also gave evidence. She said that she was contacted by Aoife Niamh McGaley, a neighbour of Karen’s, shortly after 3am on July 5th, 2019. Janice called Karen and asked her was everything okay because there was talk of a commotion. She said Karen sounded sleepy.

A few days later she attended at the home of Yvonne Walsh with Karen Harrington.

“They asked Karen what happened. She said: “I don’t know — all I remember is I woke up and Michael had Santina in his arms and said she was dead.”

The jury also heard from a former member of the National Ambulance Service, Vivienne Forde, who said that when she saw Santina in the apartment she had scratch marks and welt marks to her chest and bruising to the upper body and forehead.

Other paramedics gave evidence that there was a soiled nappy at the scene and that the duvet which Santina was found under was dirty and had urine stains.

Evidence was also read into the record from Professor Deirdre Murray, Consultant Paediatrician at CUH, who said that Santina died at 9.20am on July 5th at Cork University Hospital.

Professor Murray noted that Santina had sustained devastating injuries and died in the arms of her mother.

The case continues between a jury of seven men and four women on Thursday. The twelfth juror has been excused from the trial.

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