The father of Santina Cawley, 2, ran to the neighbor’s house screaming that his then-girlfriend had “choked” his daughter, according to the court
A FATHER ran screaming to the home of a neighbor whose then-girlfriend had ‘choked’ his two-year-old daughter Santina Cawley, 2.
The revelation came as Michael Cawley, 37, testified visibly emotionally at the Cork murder trial of his former girlfriend Karen Harrington, 37.
Ms Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the little girl in a trial at the Central Criminal Court before Lord Judge Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and five women.
She denies the murder of Santina on 5 July 2019 at Apartment 26, Elderwood Park, just off Boreenmanna Road in Cork.
Mr Cawley broke down in tears when CCTV footage of him shopping with his daughter was shown to the murder trial just hours before her death. Footage was also shown of him later entering Apartment 26 at 5am on July 5 to find Santina lying naked and critically injured on a blanket.
The child died shortly after being rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) after suffering a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.
Sean Gillane SC, for the state, said almost every part of Santina’s body was bruised.
On the fourth day of the hearing, Elderwood Park neighbor Eric Okunala recalled the events of July 4th and 5th.
His partner Martina Higgins had been drinking with Mr Cawley and Mr Harrington at their home at Apartment 30 Elderwood Park, not far from Apartment 26, on July 4 and into the early hours of July 5.
Around 5 a.m., Mr. Okunala said he heard screams outside the home.
“He (Mr Cawley) came back. He banged on the door and yelled ‘Karen wants to choke my kid’.”
He said he realized what Mr Cawley was shouting must be serious when he realized Gardaí were present.
His partner, Ms Higgins, said she was woken up around 5am by a loud knock on her front door.
“He (Mr. Cawley) screamed ‘my child, my child, Santina, Santina. Karen killed my child. My child is dead’. Something like that.
“To be honest, Mike sounded scared.”
Mr Okunala said he had previously wanted his partner, Ms Higgins, to stop drinking with Mr Cawley around 3am.
Karen Harrington had left Apartment 30 an hour and a half earlier after an argument with Mr Cawley and returned to Apartment 26 alone.
“She (Karen) was very upset … she was crying and was very loud. When she got down the street I could still hear her.”
Mr Okunala said the row broke out earlier in Apartment 30 when Mr Cawley wanted a relative to come to the area from Limerick, with both Ms Harrington and Ms Higgins objecting.
“Karen disagreed – Karen was very upset and got up screaming. They just gave each other something. I had never seen her (Karen) like this before,” he said.
Later, Mr Okunala said he was shocked when Mr Cawley – after being asked to leave his home at 3am – suddenly wanted to fight him.
“He was running around town wanting to fight. I was shocked how suddenly he turned around and wanted to fight. I called the gardaí.”
At one point, Mr. Cawley removed his shirt and swung a 10kg weight.
Upon hearing that Gardaí had been called, Mr Cawley apologized to Mr Okunala and begged him not to give Gardaí his name before voluntarily leaving the apartment with Santina.
Mr Okunala said he noticed Santina – who had previously suffered a leg injury – was unable to walk.
He said that the child does not walk, does not talk and only moves by a kind of “butt-shuffling”.
Cross-examined by Brendan Grehan SC, for the defence, Mr Cawley said he got “the shock of my life” when he found Santina naked and badly injured in Apartment 26 at 5.11am.
Mr Cawley said he wondered if his then-girlfriend left Flat 30, where they were meeting, because she wanted to smoke cannabis in her own flat.
“I thought that was Karen’s reason [for leaving early] “It was like going back to her apartment to smoke some weed,” he said. “I thought so afterwards.”
Ms Higgins said in her evidence she was drinking near the Atlantic pond with Ms Harrington on July 4 and they smoked a joint together.
They bought alcohol from Mr. Cawley and went to Apartment 30.
Mr Cawley broke down and cried after seeing CCTV images of himself and Santina shopping at an Aldi branch in Cork on the evening of July 4.
He collapsed a second time after seeing CCTV images of himself walking into apartment number 26 at 5.11am to discover his daughter was seriously injured.
The father paused for a few moments before collecting himself and continuing his testimony.
“Finding my daughter was a terrible shock,” he said.
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 well with her. I confided in Karen Santina.
“I didn’t think Karen would hurt my daughter.”
At 3am during the trial, Mr Cawley returned to Apartment 26 for just minutes after leaving Apartment 30 – and then walked into Cork city centre.
He said Santina remained in the care of Mrs Harrington.
Mr. Cawley left the Elderwood complex between 3am and 5am.
After discovering at 5.11am his daughter was seriously injured in Apartment 26, Mr Cawley said he later challenged Ms Harrington whether it was his daughter Santina’s blood he found all over her flat and on his girlfriend’s leg could see splashed.
Mr Cawley said the defendant indicated she would look after his daughter while he was away from 3am.
“I asked her (Karen) to take care of her (Santina). I wouldn’t take too long [gone from the apartment]. Karen said yes. Santina was awake.”
As he was walking back at 5 a.m., a neighbor, Dylan Olney, met him before he entered No. 26.
“I asked what’s going on. He said Karen has gone insane — she yells and yells at her baby. [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 spot (where I left her). I asked Karen what was going on? What’s happening?
“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 (Ms. Harrington) just ran down the stairs and through the floor of the apartment through the front door.”
Mr Cawley said he later met the accused outside the home as gardaí 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.
The trial was previously told by Mr Gillane that around 4am on July 5, neighbors heard screams, shouts and a crying child in apartment number 26.
Gardaí were alerted and arrived at the property at 4:52 a.m.
However, they did not have access to No. 26 and heard no sign of interference.
Officers left the property at 5.01am and arrived back at the property at 5.23am when the alarm went off after Santina was discovered critically injured on a bed cover.
Mr Olney, who lives at No 27, called Gardaí after hearing a loud disturbance from Ms Harrington’s flat.
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 Ms Harrington’s home, they discovered 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 (Ms Harrington) yelling directly at the child, taunting and taunting the child and terrorizing the child,” Mr Gillane said.
The trial, which is expected to take up to five weeks, will continue on Monday.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/father-of-santina-cawley-2-ran-to-neighbours-home-screaming-that-his-then-girlfriend-had-smothered-his-daughter-court-hears-41596260.html The father of Santina Cawley, 2, ran to the neighbor’s house screaming that his then-girlfriend had “choked” his daughter, according to the court