A neighbor accused of the murder, Karen Harrington, 37, said he called Gardaí after becoming very concerned that a crying baby was being sarcastically mocked from next door.
Ylan Olney said before a Central Criminal Court murder trial that he was “a little shocked” by the defendant’s behavior in the early hours of the morning.
Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Santina Cawley (2) in a trial at the Central Criminal Court before Lord Judge Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and four women.
Santina was found naked on a blanket with life-threatening injuries at 26 Elderwood Park off Boreenamanna Road in Cork City at 5am on 5 July 2019.
Karen Harrington lived in the apartment at the time.
The little girl was discovered seriously injured when her father, Michael Cawley, 37, was returning to his then-girlfriend’s flat after leaving the property at 3am two hours earlier to walk alone into Cork city center to to find his cousin from Limerick.
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).
Santina had suffered a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.
Dylan Olney, who lived next door to Karen Harrington, told the trial he was concerned about the defendant’s behavior in the early hours of July 5, 2019.
Mr Olney said he went to bed at 2am – but then heard a commotion outside on a sidewalk of an apartment complex.
“It was like someone having a fit or a tantrum. I was like, ‘Oh god, here we go again’.”
“The accused person (Karen) slammed the (sliding door) open and shut. The door slammed shut over and over again.”
Mr Olney said he told the accused: “Listen you bloody dingbat, you better stop this or I’ll call the gardaí.”
He went back to his apartment but the defendant started yelling at him to call the Gardaí.
“She was screaming, ‘Dylan, go and call her — call her, call her.’
“I was a little scared because she was acting weird.”
Some time later, Karen Harrington knocked on his door and asked for a lighter.
“I said you won’t get anything from me. I closed and locked the door.”
Mr Olney said he was then concerned when he heard a baby crying from the flat next door for 15 or 20 minutes.
“The next thing I heard was a child – a crying child. That alarmed me,” he said.
“I didn’t think a kid should be in a situation like that.”
He said he could hear a female voice coming from the apartment next door.
“I could hear mockery – ‘Oh poor baby, fine’ … ‘Stop crying baby’, something like that. I thought I heard her say ‘Stop it’ or ‘Shut up.’ I said I’m going to call the police because I didn’t like what was going on.”
Mr Olney recalled that the baby’s screams were made worse by the taunting – and he said he thinks he mentioned his concerns for the child’s safety in his call to Gardaí.
He said he called Gardaí because: “I was concerned for the well-being of the child I heard.”
“I didn’t think it was the way to comfort a crying child – it was the opposite. (She said) ‘Ah poor baby,’ it was kind of sarcastic.”
“I could tell that from the muffled noise I heard.”
Mr Olney said he saw Gardaí arriving at 4.52am and went to let them in and take them to Apartment 26.
However, Gardaí could not gain access to No. 26 and no more noise came from the apartment.
“It was dead quiet – you could hear a pin drop.”
Mr Olney said Gardaí left a short time later – but a few minutes later he heard a man arrive on the pavement outside his flat.
“I looked outside. It was a guy (Michael Cawley, Santina’s father). I recognized him – I knew he was related to her (Karen Harrington) in some way.”
“I asked him what the hell is going on? What’s wrong with yours? She caused a stir.”
He said he told the man the woman had “gone crazy.”
Mr Olney said minutes later the man came out of No 26 shouting his child was dead.
“I heard him come out and yell, ‘Call an ambulance, my baby is dead’. He yelled – heartbroken. He kept yelling, ‘My baby is dead, my baby is dead.’ “I called the Gardaí. He was very upset – he just screamed.”
Mr Olney said when Gardaí arrived an officer asked him what was going on.
“He (Garda) said what are we looking at? I said murder.”
Mr Olney said he also saw Karen Harrington run away from the scene, only to return later in a small silver car.
Another neighbor, Martin McSweeney, said he saw Karen Harrington early that morning and she looked “like a ghost”.
The witness was awakened at 3 a.m. by the sound of a sliding door opening and closing 30 or 40 times.
He said she muttered to herself at one point, saying, “I’ll show ’em, I’ll show ’em — this isn’t a f***ing joke.”
He said she seemed “freaked out” and wondered if she was “drunk or on drugs.”
Another neighbor, Aoife Niamh McGaley, who has known Karen Harrington since she was a teenager, said she heard fighting, breaking glass and screams from the neighbor’s apartment in the early hours of July 5
“I heard noises… I heard screams. Was it 3am? I heard a fight and it sounded like a fight between a man and a woman. It was muted.”
“Shortly after that, I heard Karen yell.[She yelled]’I’m going to tell them all.’ Then I heard glass shatter, but it didn’t make any sense at all.”
The witness said she believed one of the voices involved in the argument sounded rather low-pitched and male.
Later she heard a woman scream.
“She (Karen) screamed — I’ll tell, I’ll tell.”
“I was in my bedroom. I jumped up immediately. I grabbed my hoodie and put it on. I ran up and down my stairs to Karen’s apartment.”
Ms Galey said she had knocked on the door repeatedly to inquire about Karen Harrington’s wellbeing.
“I was really concerned for Karen’s safety.”
The witness said she was convinced she heard the sounds of a man and woman arguing from the apartment.
She once said she saw what she thought was “a person’s shadow” around the apartment, but couldn’t make it out clearly.
“I could hear someone sobbing. At that point I was very, very concerned.”
A short time later, Karen Harrington opened her door.
She wore flower-colored pajama bottoms and a thong top.
“She (Karen) looked very distressed. She looked very upset. She was calmer within herself.”
Ms McGaley said she spotted a Betty Boop statue adoring Karen Harrington lying smashed in the flat with fragments strewn on the floor.
“She (Karen) kept apologizing (for the noise). She said she didn’t want to cause (a problem).”
“Karen got up and turned around – I noticed a mark on the side of her face. It looked like a piece (of her hair) had been ripped off.”
“I got the impression that she (Karen) was scared of something. I got a bad feeling about her.”
Ms McGaley said she saw no one in the flat – and returned to her own home when she was assured by Karen Harrington that she was going to bed.
“(But) I wasn’t happy with the situation at all. I went back to my own apartment. But I definitely heard an argument with someone with a deep voice.”
She was so concerned that she decided to call Karen Harrington’s sister to bring her attention to the events that had transpired.
That call was made at 3.27am – and at 3.42am Karen Harrington called her looking for a fire for a cigarette.
Around 5 a.m., Ms McGaley said she heard more screams.
“She was outside the apartment yelling at a guy named Dylan … She was yelling, ‘Dylan, come on, come on – call the guards.’
A short time later, Ms McGaley said she heard a man howl loudly.
The trial was told last week that Santina had suffered devastating injuries, including a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and a serious spinal injury.
Sean Gillane SC, for the state, said little Santina’s injuries could not have been inflicted 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.
The process, which is expected to take up to five weeks, will continue.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/neighbour-says-he-was-creeped-out-by-behaviour-of-murder-accused-on-night-santina-cawley-2-was-found-critically-injured-court-hears-41609873.html The neighbor says he was “snuck out” by the behavior of the murder charged the night Santina Cawley, 2, was found seriously injured, the court hears