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Karen Harrington Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Santina Cawley

Woman accused of Santina Cawley murder says that evidence points to her being the culprit

The accused told gardaí that she would give them an explanation of how Santina ended up critically injured if she could.

A WOMAN ACCUSED of the murder of a two-year-old girl was shown pictures of the bloodied apartment where the child was found injured and told gardaí that all of the evidence seemed to point to her having committed the crime.

The jury at the trial of Karen Harrington, who is charged with the murder of Santina Cawley on the 5th of July, 2019 at Boreenmanna Apartments in Cork, was given the opportunity to view the recording of the fifth garda interview the accused underwent following the death of the child.

Karen told gardai that she “couldn’t explain herself” but that the scene suggested that she “went mad”.

“This all says to me that I went mad.”

The trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork was shown footage where  Harrington conceded that all of the evidence was pointing to her being the culprit.

“It is looking like I did. I never killed anyone in my life. This is pointing to me. I would never hurt no one — never mind a child. The evidence is all on me. I would never hurt a child. I have been around children all my life. “

Harrington told investigating gardaí that she felt sick looking at the images. Repeatedly sobbing, she emphasised that whilst she couldn’t provide an explanation for what occurred she didn’t commit a murder.

“I did not murder Santina Cawley, I didn’t not — I would not harm a child, let alone murder a child.”

Harrington, who was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of the deceased at the time of the alleged offence said she accepted that it looked as though all the evidence was pointing at her. She said that all of the evidence “was coming towards me”.

Detective garda David Noonan put it to Harrington that “no stone was being left unturned” in the garda investigation and that all of the evidence was painting a picture. He asked her to say what she saw in a certain picture and Karen replied that she could see Santina’s hair on a sofa.

When asked how she knew that it was clumps of Santina’s hair she stated that it was the same colour hair as the child.

“It is the same colour as her hair. Auburn. It could even be my hair. I don’t know.”

Shown a picture of a child’s earring on the floor Karen said that it was Santina’s.

“Santina had them earrings. I got her ears pierced for her. “

When Detective garda Noonan asked how the earring was on the floor she said she didn’t know.

“I can see where this is all leading but I don’t know.”

She insisted that she didn’t taunt the child.

“I wasn’t taunting the child. I weren’t like. I had no reason to taunt the child.”

Detective garda Noonan put it to Harrington that Santina had sustained “horrific injuries”. He asked her how hair could “come away” from the head of a child. Harrington said “Oh Jesus Christ” but insisted she didn’t know how it occurred.

Harrington was asked if she ripped off the child’s clothes. Having described the child’s top as torn she refuted the proposition that she had ripped the top off the child or hurt Santina in any way.

The 38-year-old accused, of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork, told gardaí that she had soothed Santina in her arms before putting her down on a blanket after she had an argument with her then-boyfriend, Michael Cawley. He left the apartment at 26 Elderwood Park in a bid to meet up with a cousin in Cork city centre.

She admitted “ranting and raving” and screaming and opening and closing a sliding door three times which led to a neighbour knocking on the door of her property and threatening to call the gardaí.

Harrington told gardaí that she would give them an explanation of how Santina ended up critically injured if she could.

“Everything I said to you is what I remember – I’m in the front room – I wake up and have an argument with Michael and then Michael goes out and I put Santina down and I fall asleep and when I wake up again Michael is standing in front of me with the child,” she said. 

“I was roaring and shouting because I had an argument with Michael – I was ranting and raving to myself after he left.” She again denied taunting Santina. “I had no reason to taunt the child,” she said,

“I never in my life harmed no one, let alone a child – I would never harm a baby and I’ve been around children all my life” said Harrington.

She agreed that all the evidence was pointing to her.

“All the evidence is on me – it’s all looking like me.”

The trial also heard evidence from Inspector David Callaghan who said that the first four garda interviews with Harrington involved trying to obtain an account of the knowledge the accused possessed. The fifth interview involved challenging the account of the evidence.

Defence Senior Counsel Brendan Grehan put it to Inspector Callaghan that his client’s position never changed.

“Her fundamental position didn’t change. She insisted she couldn’t harm anyone never mind a child. She is a person who doesn’t have a history of violence on the garda record.”

Photographs ‘looked very bad’

Harrington acknowledged to gardaí in her fifth interview that photographs taken in her apartment that night “looked very bad”.

However, she continued to insist that she did not murder Santina Cawley.

Gardaí put to to her that the blood of the child was found on a pair of her pants. The accused said it all looked “crazy”.

“It looks terrible. It looks very bad. [Blood on the pants] looks bad. I don’t know. It looks all crazy,” she said.

“I did not cause any injury to Santina or would I cause any injury to any baby or genuinely to anyone. I 100% wouldn’t harm anyone.”

The accused said that she was “blank” about the evening. Detective Sergeant David Noonan asked if she was without recollection how could she be so sure she hadn’t killed the child. The accused again insisted that she would never hurt a child.

“I would never [hurt a child]. I am minding children all my life. Honest to God, I told you from start to finish what I recall. I total you everything. I feel sick to my stomach. “

The garda put to the accused that she was the only person in the apartment the night Santina was murdered.

“You had blood on your clothing. Blood belonging to Santina Cawley on your pants,” he said.

The accused acknowledged that she was in the apartment but denied any involvement in the death of the child.

She said that her “place was upside down” but stated that other than accidentally breaking a glass she didn’t know what had happened to cause such disarray.

She stressed that she hadn’t seen Santina bleeding on the night and said that she couldn’t explain the blood of the child being found on a pair of pyjamas pants in the property.

“When asked when she changed in to a new pair of pants, the accused indicated that she “honest to God’’ didn’t remember.

At one point during the question the garda asked the accused why she was smiling. He denied that she was smiling. The Garda said that Santina was dead and would never smile again.

“It is very unfair on the family not to know what happened. I am not here to judge you. I am here to listen. To get to the truth,” the garda said.

The accused stressed that she “would love” to be able to give an explanation as to how the child ended up critically injured but she didn’t have one.

Meanwhile, the garda took to the stand where he said that the first four garda interviews with the accused involved getting an “uncontaminated account”. The fifth interview served as an opportunity to challenge the account of the accused.

Whilst cross examining, the garda, Brendan Grehan SC for the defence said that in spite of the challenge, the accused never changed her basic account of what occurred.

“You did all that but she didn’t budge. She had the right to say ‘no comment.’ Karen Harrington co operated fully in the interview.”

Inspector Callaghan confirmed that Harrington had no history of violence on the Garda record.

The trial continues in front of the judge and a jury of seven men and four women. The twelfth juror was excused from the jury last week.

Olivia Kelleher