A FATHER, who discovered his critically injured two-year-old daughter at his then-girlfriend’s flat, broke down and wept when CCTV footage of him shopping with his young daughter was shown to a murder trial just hours before her death.
Ichael Cawley, 37, said in the Central Criminal Court murder trial of Karen Harrington, 37, that he got “the shock of my life” when he found his baby girl Santina Cawley, 2, injured in a Cork flat in the early hours of this morning the morning.
Harrington has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the little girl in a trial at Cork Central Criminal Court before Judge Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.
Santina was found with non-life-threatening injuries at 5am on 5 July 2019 at 26 Elderwood Park, on Boreenamanna Road, Cork City.
She was found seriously injured as her father returned to his then-girlfriend’s flat, having left the property at 3am two hours earlier to walk alone into Cork city center to find his Limerick cousin.
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).
She had suffered devastating injuries, including a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.
Harrington, of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon in Cork, was first charged with the child’s murder in Cork District Court three years ago.
Mr Cawley, under ongoing cross-examination with defense attorney Brendan Grehan SC on the fourth day of Karen Harrington’s murder trial, said he remained upset by what he saw when he entered No. 26 Elderwood at 5am on July 5, 2019.
“Finding my daughter was a terrible shock,” he said.
After seeing CCTV images of him shopping with Santina in an Aldi branch in Cork on the evening of July 4, Mr Cawley broke down and cried.
The father paused for a few moments before collecting himself and continuing his testimony.
In response to Mr Grehan, Mr Cawley said he thought his girlfriend at the time was on good terms with his daughter.
“Santina got along with everyone. Everyone loved her. She had a great relationship with people. She was very friendly,” he said.
“I never could have imagined that (any trouble between Karen Harrington and Santina). There was never a problem. Karen got on really well with her. I entrusted Karen Santina.”
After discovering his seriously injured daughter in Flat 26, Mr Cawley said he later challenged Karen Harrington if it was his daughter Santina’s blood he could see splattered all over her Cork flat.
Mr Cawley said he met with Karen Harrington, Santina and a neighboring family on July 4 and into the early hours of July 5.
At 3am on July 5 he realized he had lost his phone – and decided to head to Cork city center to find his cousin.
He said he left Santina in the care of Karen Harrington at her home at No. 26 in Elderwood from 3 a.m. until his return at 5 a.m.
“She (Santina) was great. She was fine. She knew Karen. She got along great with Karen. She (Santina) was in great shape,” he said.
Mr Cawley said the defendant indicated she would look after his daughter while he was away.
“I asked her (Karen) to take care of her (Santina). I wouldn’t be (out of the apartment) for too long. Karen said ‘yes’. Santina was awake.”
Mr. Cawley said he was away from 26 Elderwood from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
As he was walking back, a neighbor (Dylan Olney) met him before he entered #26.
“I asked what’s going on. He said Karen has gone insane – she yells and yells at your baby. Is that your baby in there? (He said) he could hear a baby crying.”
Mr Cawley said he noticed some rubber was now hanging loose from a sliding door of No. 26.
Upon entering the apartment, he was greeted by a scene of disorder with chairs scattered around the apartment.
“There was blood on the floor by the sink. There were broken glass on the floor. Karen was lying on the couch.”
“I could see the blanket where Santina was, but the blanket was over her face. She was in the same place (where I left her). I asked Karen what’s going on?
“I took the blanket off Santina. Santina was naked. She had no clothes on. She was wearing clothes when I left her.”
Mr Cawley said he knew immediately his daughter was injured.
“Her one eye was half closed and the other open. She had a bruise on her left face. I picked her up and she was warm.”
“I tried to talk to her — I was on my knees crying, ‘Santina, please, please say something.’ I told the neighbors to please call the guards.”
“I asked Karen what was wrong with my baby … she didn’t answer.”
Mr Cawley said the defendant then left the scene.
“She (Karen Harrington) just ran down the stairs and out the front door.”
Mr Cawley said he later met the accused outside the home as Gardai and paramedics worked in vain to save his daughter.
“I asked Karen if my daughter’s blood was all over the kitchen? She said, ‘No, that was my blood from my foot’. I cried my heart out.
On cross-examination, Mr. Cawley said he could not recall an argument during previous contacts that had greatly upset his then-girlfriend.
Mr Grehan shared with Mr Cawley that he had told Karen Harrington: “Go back to your foreigners.”
Mr Cawley said he could not recall a conversation in which he accused his then-girlfriend of having affairs at a casino she frequented.
Mr Grehan asked the witness if he had upset his girlfriend by calling her “a whore or a prostitute”.
“Maybe or not,” said Mr. Cawley, insisting he couldn’t remember.
As evidence of that, Mr Cawley said today: “I don’t recall ever naming Karen Harrington like you said yesterday.”
But he acknowledged that Karen Harrington may have been unhappy as she left a neighbour’s flat, Martina Higgins, where they were drinking to return to No. 26.
Mr Cawley said he was a good father, saying: “It has been a privilege to look after Santina.”
He said he split from his wife and mother-of-five, Bridget O’Donoghue, in 2018 and began a relationship with Karen Harrington in December of that year.
Mr. Cawley declined suggestions that he didn’t want to have to deal with Santina.
He also firmly contradicted Mr Grehan that he “couldn’t deal with it”.
“I never told Martina (Higgins) that her mother should take my daughter with her anytime. I never begged Martina.”
Mr Cawley acknowledged that while the group socialized at Apartment 30, the home of Martina Higgins and her partner Eric Okunala, he took offense at what he claimed was a drink thrown at Ms Higgins by her partner .
“I would find it offensive (throwing a drink over a woman). I may have taken my shirt off (for him).”
Mr Cawley said he did not recall calling Eric “a rat” because he threatened to call the Gardai unless Mr Cawley left their flat and returned to his own house.
The process was previously reported by Sean Gillane SC for the state that around 4am on July 5, neighbors heard screams, yells and a crying child in apartment #26.
Gardai were alerted and arrived at the property at 4.52am.
However, they did not have access to No. 26 and heard no sign of interference.
Officers left the property at 5.01am – only to arrive back at the property at 5.23am when the alarm went off after Santina was discovered lying naked and critically injured on a bed cover.
A neighbor, Dylan Olney, who lives at No. 27, called Gardai after hearing loud noise coming from Harrington’s apartment.
Mr Gillane said prosecutors would testify that little Santina’s devastating injuries could not have been sustained in normal rough and tumble child play.
An autopsy was performed at CUH, which found Santina had sustained multiple trauma and “devastating injuries with no prospect of recovery.”
When gardai searched Harrington’s home, they found bloodstains and tufts of hair from the child, torn from a couch.
A stud from Santina’s left earlobe lay on the floor.
“There was hardly any part of her body that wasn’t showing some form of trauma,” Mr Gillane said.
Mr Gillane said Mr Olney heard the defendant screaming – and then a child crying.
“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,” Mr Gillane said.
The process, which is expected to take up to five weeks, will continue.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/father-of-santina-cawley-2-wept-as-murder-trial-shown-cctv-footage-of-him-shopping-with-daughter-hours-before-death-41596260.html The father of Santina Cawley, 2, cried when CCTV footage of him shopping with his daughter hours before the death was shown in the murder trial