Neighbor heard woman accused of murdering Santina Cawley, 2, screaming and mocking child, court hears


A WOMAN accused of murdering a two-year-old girl was heard by a neighbor at the complex yelling, taunting and terrorizing the child just before her naked body was discovered, covered in bruises and with strands of her hair torn out.

The revelation came on the opening day of the murder trial of Karen Harrington, 37, who denies the murder of Santina Cawley, 2, in Cork three years ago.

Ms. Harrington pleaded not guilty at the opening of her trial in the Central Criminal Court before Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.

The little girl was found with critical injuries at around 5am on 5 July 2019 at 26 Elderwood Park on Boreenamanna Road in Cork City.

Despite desperate efforts by doctors and paramedics to stabilize the little girl’s condition, she was pronounced dead shortly after being admitted to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Mrs Harrington, of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon in Cork, was first charged with the child’s murder in Cork District Court three years ago.

Sean Gillane SC, for the state, explained the prosecution’s case to the jury on the opening day of the trial.

Mr Gillane said the State would testify that little Santina’s devastating injuries could not be sustained in normal rough and tumble child play.

When Gardaí and paramedics were called to the scene at 5am on July 5, Santina was found recumbent with multiple traumatic injuries.

An autopsy was performed at CUH, which found she had sustained multiple trauma and “devastating injuries with no prospect of recovery.”

Santina had suffered bruises on almost every single part of her body.

She had suffered a fractured skull with traumatic brain injury, as well as fractured ribs and a spinal injury.

When gardaí searched Harrington’s apartment – where Santina was found lying naked on a bed cover – they discovered bloodstains and tufts of the child’s hair, torn from it, lying next to a couch.

A stud from Santina’s left earlobe lay on the floor.

Mr Gillane said the state would bring into the trial evidence from neighbors who were concerned about the sound of a loud disturbance at the defendant’s home at 26 Elderwood Park around 4am on July 5

Mr Gillane said a neighbour, Dylan Olney, who lived at No 27, said he heard the defendant screaming – and then a child crying.

Other neighbors heard the sound of a door slamming, as well as screams and shouts from number 26.

“Not only could he (Mr. Olney) hear a child crying, he could hear the defendant (Harrington) yelling directly at the child, taunting and taunting the child and terrorizing the child,” he said.

Mr Gillane said Mr Olney – who had previously confronted Ms Harrington about the noise she was making in the early hours – was so concerned that he contacted Gardaí, who were visiting the property.

On the evening of July 4, Ms Harrington had met with Santina’s father, Michael Cawley, with whom she was involved.

Mr Cawley was separated from Santina’s mother, Bridget, and the child was in his care that summer weekend.

“At this time in 2019, she (Harrington) was in a relationship with Michael Cawley and had been for some time. He (Cawley) and Santina were regular visitors to this address (Elderwood), sometimes staying overnight.”

Mr. Cawley and Mrs. Harrington – who had Santina with them – met with others throughout the afternoon and evening of July 4th.

The adults had bought alcohol and consumed it near Atlantic Pond in Cork.

They all returned to the apartment complex and went to the home of the defendant’s friend, Martina Higgins, at 30 Elderwood.

The adults kept drinking until an argument arose over Mr. Cawley wanting to allow his cousin to stay at the property overnight.

Another argument arose at 3am on July 5 when Ms Higgins’ disgruntled partner Eric Okunala demanded that everyone go home given the late hour.

Mr Cawley initially wanted to stay but later returned to No 26 with the accused and his daughter.

Then he realized he had lost his cell phone and went out to find it.

Mr. Okunala refused him entry to house number 30 and said they would locate the phone the next day.

Mr Cawley then went into Cork city center where his movements were captured by various surveillance cameras as of 3am.

He had been out of the apartment complex from 3am to 5am.

Around 5am Mr Cawley returned to the apartment complex and was shocked to see the disarray in apartment number 26.

Mr Gillane said Mr Cawley had met Mr Olney minutes earlier, who informed him of the loud disturbance he had heard shortly before.

Mr Cawley discovered the body of Santina lying naked and unresponsive on a bed cover – and woke Karen Harrington, who was lying on a couch nearby, to ask her what had happened.

The child had visible bruises on his face and head.

Mr Gillane said evidence is being presented to show the accused then left the apartment complex.

Gardaí arrived and Santina received emergency medical treatment at the scene before being taken to CUH, where she was pronounced dead.

Mr Cawley was in a very distressed state at the scene.

Mr Justice MacGrath has been told the case is likely to be heard for up to four weeks, with the possibility of entering a fifth week.

Brendan Grehan SC is the defense attorney.

Mr Justice MacGrath was also told the trial could involve more than 100 witnesses, which could include Gardai, residents of the affected area, relatives of both the deceased and the accused, and medical and forensic experts.

Santina Cawley’s family, including her parents, Bridget and Michael, were both in favor of the prosecution at Angelsea Street Courthouse. Neighbor heard woman accused of murdering Santina Cawley, 2, screaming and mocking child, court hears

Fry Electronics Team

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