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Jury in Santina Cawley murder trial to resume deliberations on Monday

The two-year-old girl was killed in an apartment in Cork city in 2019.

Toddler Santina Cawley died at Elderwood Apartments in Cork.
Toddler Santina Cawley died at Elderwood Apartments in Cork.
Image: Provision

A JURY IN the trial of a woman charged with the murder of a two-year-old girl in an apartment in Cork city in 2019 will resume their deliberations on Monday.

Karen Harrington, of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon in Cork, is on trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in the city charged with the murder of Santina Cawley at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road on 5 July, 2019.

At the time of the alleged offence Harrington was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of Santina.

Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, who carried out the postmortem of the child previously told the trial that Santina died as a result of a traumatic brain injury and an upper spinal cord injury. Those injuries were coupled with polytrauma and lower limb injuries due to blunt force trauma.

The toddler sustained 53 injuries – 49 external and four internal – including fractures to her skull, two fractured ribs and fractures to her right arm and end of her left thigh as well as extensive bruising to most parts of her body.

Dr Bolster said that the head injuries sustained by Santina were likely caused by it being struck against a flat surface.

Dr Bolster gave evidence that the toddler would have immediately stopped crying and fallen in to a coma after she sustained the fracture to her head. Dr Bolster also told the court that the injuries were “forcefully inflicted” and were not consistent with an accidental fall.

Justice Michael McGrath commenced his charge to the jury yesterday which was the 12th day of the trial.

He spent a further two hours summarising the evidence to the jury of seven men and four women today before they commenced their deliberations at 12.19pm. The 12th juror was excused last week.

The jury were recalled at 1.30pm and sent home for the weekend. They will resume their deliberations on Monday.

The judge told the jury that the verdict must be unanimous. He advised them to look at the evidence in a clinical and dispassionate manner and to give it due consideration.

“It is very important that you consider all of what you have heard in this courtroom. You have all the time you need. You do not have to rush. It is your duty to engage in the process. Everyone’s view must be heard. Everyone’s view carries equal weight.”

He told the jury to set aside any sympathy they may have felt for Karen Harrington and her relatives as well as for he deceased child and her family.

“You must cast any prejudice or sympathies from your mind – you must decide the case coldly and dispassionately and, on a sober analysis of the evidence – you must cast a cold and sceptical eye over the evidence, that is how you must test the evidence.”

Karen Harrington Karen Harrington is on trial for the alleged murder of Santina Cawley. Source: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The judge said that the presumption of innocence was a bedrock principle of Irish jurisprudence and that must inform their deliberations. He stressed that the onus of proof always resting with the prosecution in the case.

He said that there was no onus on Harrington or her legal counsel to prove or disprove anything and the jury must always be cognisant of that principle in their deliberations as to her innocence or guilt.

Returned to apartment

Meanwhile, Santina was found lying naked on a duvet at 26 Elderwood Park on 5 July 2019.

Her father Michael Cawley returned to the apartment of his then partner Karen at 5am to find Santina critically injured.

She was rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital where she died at 9.20am that day in the arms of her mother Bridget.

On Wednesday, Harrington (38) took took to stand and gave direct evidence in which she said that she did not murder Santina. She told defence counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, that she couldn’t provide an answer as who killed the child as she was “unsure.”

She was cross examined by prosecuting counsel Sean Gillane SC, who asked her if she accepted that Michael Cawley did not inflict the injuries on his daughter.

She replied : “It is not for me to answer. I am not in a position to answer. I don’t know.”

Gillane said: “Santina did not do this to herself. Mr Cawley certainly did not do it. There is no mysterious stranger in the apartment. The only other person there is you.

Did you hear the child crying as the hair was torn from her head? Did you hear her crying as her lip was split? Crying as her ribs were broken? Did you hear any of that?

In his closing statement to the jury, Gillane said that Karen Harrington offered a “doughnut shaped” account of what had occurred with a massive hole in the middle in relation to the hours in which Santina sustained her injuries.

Gillane said that Karen Harrington was like somebody walking between rain drops, convincing herself she was not getting wet.

He said the raindrops were the evidence in this case and Harrington was drenched in it.

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“The only person she is convincing is herself. The rain drops are all the evidence and she stands drenched soaked to her neck in the evidence.”

He emphasised that the trial was not an inquiry in to parenting or relationships.

“It is not a morality play. The narrow focus is what happened to Santina Cawley that morning. The issue here is straightforward. It is not easy. It is tragic.”

Meanwhile, Brendan Grehan, counsel for the defence, said that his client’s consistent position was that she did not cause Santina Cawley’s injuries.

He suggested it was a case where the jury should be left with a doubt, and he called on the jury to find his client not guilty.

Grehan said that Karen was a person in her thirties with no history of violence.

“Her family, including Michael Cawley, vouched for her caring nature with children. “

Mr Grehan said that there was no onus on Harrington to prove that she was not responsible for the death of Santina.

“The onus is on the prosecution”

He said that his client “consistently and persistently” protested her innocence and that this should given the jury reason to pause whilst making their deliberations.

“What I say to you on behalf of Miss Harrington is that she did not murder Santina. The fact that she cannot explain what happened is not enough (for a conviction).

“She says she does not know what happened. What she does say is she did not do this and she could not do this. Karen Harrington does not accept that she is responsible for inflicting those injuries.”

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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