Toddler Santina Cawley 'alive and uninjured' until put into the care of murder accused, court told

Karen Harrington (38) is on trial charged with the murder of two-year-old Santina Cawley in 2019
Toddler Santina Cawley 'alive and uninjured' until put into the care of murder accused, court told

Olivia Kelleher

Prosecuting counsel in the case of a woman charged with the murder of two-year-old Santina Cawley said the toddler “was alive and uninjured” until she was left in the care of the accused.

Karen Harrington (38) of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork is on trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork, charged with the murder of Santina at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road on July 5th, 2019, where Ms Harrington lived at the time of the incident.

The child was hospitalised with 53 injuries, including fractures to her skull, arm, leg and ribs, as well as bruises to her body. She died at Cork University Hospital at 9.20am on July 5th, 2019.

In his closing statement to the jury, Sean Gillane SC, for the prosecution, said Ms Harrington offered a “doughnut shaped” account of what had occurred, claiming there was a massive hole in the middle of her story in relation to the hours in which Santina sustained her injuries.

Mr Gillane said that there was a cloud that needed to be dispelled in relation to Santina's father, Michael Cawley, emphasising that he was in no way responsible for the death of the child.

Mr Gillane said that on the evening of July 4th, 2019, the evidence from several parties was that Santina was uninjured and in good form.

He said there is “no doubt” that there was an argument in another property in Elderwood Park where Ms Harrington and Mr Cawley were socialising with friends, having brought Santina with them.

Counsel said Ms Harrington left the property at 1.25am on July 5th, 2019, returning to her then apartment at 26 Elderwood Park, followed by Mr Cawley at 3.01am, at which point, he said, Santina was uninjured. Mr Cawley then left the toddler in Ms Harrington's care, leaving the apartment to go to the city centre.

Noise complaint

Mr Gillane said the jury had been shown CCTV footage of Ms Harrington at 3.19am, "slamming the door, shouting incoherently", leading to her neighbour, Aoife Niamh McGaley calling to the apartment to express concern about the noise.

At 4.31am, another neighbour, Dylan Olney made a noise complaint to gardaí about Ms Harrington, Mr Gillane said.

"He hears a child crying and being taunted. [Mr] Olney isn’t a fantasist. He has no axe to grind with her," he added.

When gardaí arrived to the apartment at 4.52am, Mr Gillane said there was total silence, at which point, the prosecution believe Santina was dead.

He said that when gardaí arrived at the property at 4.52am there was total silence. He stated that the case of the State is that Santina was silent at this point because she was dead.

Counsel told the court Mr Cawley arrived home after 5am to a scene of "utter horror," raising the alarm.

Mr Gillane said Mr Cawley had trusted Ms Harrington with his daughter and that the accused emphasised that she was a caring person: “Karen being trusted with the child is the point. Michael Cawley trusted her. Karen was very good with Santina. Sometimes people you trust betray that trust and do terrible things.”

Caring nature

Defence counsel for Ms Harrington, Brendan Grehan said his client’s consistent position was that she did not cause Santina's injuries, suggesting it was a case where the jury should be left with a doubt and to find the accused not guilty.

Mr Grehan said Ms Harrington was a person in her 30s with no history of violence, adding: "Her family, including Michael Cawley, vouched for her caring nature with children."

Mr Grehan insisted there was no onus on Ms Harrington to prove she was not responsible for the death of Santina: “The onus is on the prosecution”

He stressed Ms Harrington “consistently and persistently” protested her innocence which, he said, should give the jury reason to pause while making their deliberations.

"She says she does not know what happened. What she does say is she did not do this, and she could not do this. Karen Harrington does not accept that she is responsible for inflicting those injuries.

"She is adamant that she did not harm Santina and that is her evidence," Mr Grehan said.

He further told the court the prosecution case is lacking a forensic link that could put Ms Harrington's guilt beyond doubt.

On claiming her innocence, Mr Grehan said Ms Harrington "never wavered throughout".

'Clinical and dispassionate'

Mr Justice Michael McGrath has commenced his charge to the jury of seven men and four women after the twelfth juror was excused last week.

The judge told the jurors they needed to approach the evidence in a “clinical and dispassionate” manner, adding they most focus solely on the evidence they were presented in court. “You cannot waver in to conjecture or speculation.”

Mr Justice McGrath also outlined the presumption of innocence as the bedrock of the State's jurisprudence, adding that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution.

He said the case is a matter on which the jury may have “strong views”, but insisted their deliberations required an “unbiased sifting of the facts”.

The charging of the jury will continue on Friday.

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