Karen Harrington, 38, was blank as she received a life sentence after a Central Criminal Court jury rejected what prosecutors called her “doughnut-shaped” argument that she did not kill toddler Santina Cawley, 2.
Arrington had pleaded not guilty at Apartment 26 in Elderwood Park on Boreenmanna Road in Cork in the early hours of July 5, 2019, but she could have had no idea how the child had suffered such catastrophic injuries.
However, the jury of seven men and four women convicted them after hearing detailed prosecution evidence about the harrowing four-week trial that Harrington was the only person in the home with Santina between 3.10am and 5.11am when the little girl suffered her death Injuries including a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and severe spinal cord injury.
When she was discovered by her father Michael Cawley, 37, who was returning to Flat 26 at 5.11am, Santina was lying naked and blood spattered on a dirty bed cover.
Clumps of her hair lay on the floor and on the couch.
Harrington’s DNA was found in a blood sample obtained from the toddler’s pink T-shirt, while the child’s DNA was found in a bloodstain on adult female leggings found by Gardaí in a rear bedroom of the apartment.
Sean Gillane SC, for the state, said Harrington’s argument was effectively “donut shaped – with a massive hole in the middle”.
“I submit that there is only one conclusion – that Karen Harrington is guilty of the murder of Santina Cawley.”
Mr Gillane said the killer was “unable to utter a single syllable in relation to anything that happened to Santina”.
Harrington couldn’t explain how Santina sustained her horrific injuries at Harrington’s home — and couldn’t say who was responsible. “(But) I’m telling you that even on its own there is only one explanation (for what happened).”
The prosecutor argued that the backbone of the meticulous CCTV, forensic and witness evidence clearly led to only one person – Karen Harrington. “There is a body of unanswerable evidence … there are avenues of deliberate violence aimed at getting a child together.”
After her arrest, the defendant admitted during Garda interviews on July 8 and 9, 2019 that the Garda evidence pointed to her – but steadfastly claimed she did not kill the child.
The state argued that hundreds of hours of CCTV footage showed that Karen Harrington was the only person entering and exiting Apartment 26 with Santina during the critical time in the early hours of July 5.
The child’s clothing was damaged, there were signs it had been torn off, and Santina’s diaper was found inside her pants lying on the floor.
Neighbors had told gardaí they heard Harrington screaming and screaming in the wee hours of July 5 – and repeatedly slammed the sliding door of their apartment to demand: “Everybody fuck you wake up.”
In her Garda testimonies and in direct testimony before the trial, Harrington said she could not explain how Santina sustained her devastating injuries despite the child being alone with her.
“I can’t answer that (how Santina was injured),” she said in direct testimony at the trial. “I’m not escaping anything. I don’t know exactly what happened during that time…it’s not all blank…there are parts of the night that I remember.
“I can’t describe in detail what happened to Santina and her injuries.”
She stressed she wasn’t mocking or taunting the child that night – and questioned the testimony of a neighbor, Dylan Olney, who said he heard a sobbing child being taunted in the apartment by a woman. The defendant insisted she was a very caring person – and didn’t know how to hurt a child.
“Not myself (noticing injuries before being woken up at 5am). I can call you back I don’t see any bruises or blood or anything like that. I don’t know anything about her,” she said.
However, in an emotional videotaped interview with Gardaí on July 9, 2019, she said: “The evidence looks like it’s all on me, all on me. That points to me…everything says I’ve gone insane. I do not know. Jesus Christ. I can not remember. I’m sick.”
Santina was discovered with a total of 53 separate injuries – 49 external bruises, abrasions and wounds along with four internal injuries.
The deputy state pathologist Dr. Margaret Bolster performed a post-mortem at Cork University Hospital (CUH) and found the toddler died of a traumatic brain injury after suffering a complex skull fracture, severe spinal cord injury and fragmented fractures to her leg and arm.
dr Bolster warned that the injuries were not an accident.
The pathologist said the blunt trauma injuries were likely caused by Santina being hit against something rather than something.
Santina was rushed to CUH before 6:00 am but never regained consciousness and doctors ceased life-saving activities at 9:05 am.
The toddler was placed in the arms of her mother Bridget and pronounced dead at 9.20am.
Santina’s father Michael Cawley has been separated from his wife Bridget and has been in a relationship with Harrington since December 2018.
The trial heard Santina was spotted at 5.11am by her father, who had left her in the defendant’s care for two hours while he went to Cork city center to look for his cousin.
Mr. Cawley left Santina at Apartment 26 at 3:10 a.m. and left the Elderwood complex at 3:17 a.m.
Almost every movement he made from Elderwood to Cork city center and back in those two hours was captured on CCTV footage.
When he left, Santina and Harrington were alone in Apartment 26.
Prosecutors maintained that Santina was alive and well when Mr Cawley left.
Mr. Cawley had met with Harrington at a neighboring apartment in the Elderwood complex on the evening of July 4th and into the early hours of July 5th. Both had been drinking and were accompanied by Santina.
Karen Harrington had previously been drinking and smoking some cannabis with a friend at Cork’s Atlantic Pond.
At around 1.30am an argument broke out between the defendant and Mr Cawley.
Harrington didn’t want Mr. Cawley’s cousin coming to the Elderwood complex – and also insisted that Mr. Cawley have his own daughter to look after.
Mr Cawley called Harrington “a slut”, “ac ***” and “a prostitute”.
The defendant became very upset and left the home of Martina Higgins and Eric Okunala at 1:25 am and returned home alone at 26 Elderwood Park at 1:31 am.
Mr Olney – who previously confronted Harrington about her yelling and loud slamming of a sliding door – said he was “sneaked out” by her behaviour.
He called gardaí but when he let them into the complex at 4:52 a.m. there was no answer from apartment 26. “There was dead silence – you could hear a pin drop,” Mr Olney said.
Mr Cawley arrived at 5.11am to find his daughter lying bleeding and critically injured on a dirty bed spread in the home.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/forensic-evidence-and-cctv-were-crucial-in-deeply-harrowing-murder-trial-over-death-of-santina-cawley-2-41656605.html Forensic evidence and video surveillance were crucial in a deeply harrowing murder trial over the death of Santina Cawley (2)