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Two-year-old Santina Cawley was killed on 5 July 2019. Provision

Santina Cawley was 'alive and uninjured' until put in care of Karen Harrington, prosecution says

Before her death, the child was hospitalised with 53 injuries including fractures to her skull, arm, leg femur and ribs.

THE PROSECUTING COUNSEL in the case of a woman charged with the murder of two-year-old Santina Cawley in Cork three years ago say that the youngster “was alive and uninjured” until she was left in the care of Karen Harrington, the then partner of her father, at an apartment in the city.

Karen Harrington (38) 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.

The child was hospitalised with 53 injuries including fractures to her skull, arm, leg femur and ribs as well as bruises to her body. She died at Cork University Hospital at 9.20am on 5 July, 2019 in spite of the efforts of medics to save her.

Sean Gillane, Senior Counsel for the Prosecution, in his closing statement to the jury, said that Karen Harrington offered a “doughnut shaped” account of what had occurred. He claimed that there was 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.

“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.”

Gillane said that there was a cloud that needed to be dispelled in relation to to Michael Cawley, the father of Santina Cawley.

He emphasised that Cawley was in no way responsible for the death of Santina and that it was “desperately unfair” for “wink or nudge or hints” to be allowed to “hang there.”

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.”

Gillane said that on the evening of 4 July 2019 the evidence from several parties was that Santina was uninjured and in good form.

He said that there is “no doubt” that there was an argument in another property in Elderwood Park where Harrington and Cawley were socialising with friends. Santina was also in the property.

Gillane said that Karen Harrington left the property at 1.25am on 5 July, 2019 and returned to her then apartment at 26 Elderwood Park.

Gillane said that the evidence was that Michael Cawley returned to the apartment at 3.01am and that the child was uninjured. He left his daughter in the care of Harrington and went to the city centre.

The Prosecution Counsel said that there wasn’t a “hair’s breath of evidence” that Michael Cawley caused any injuries to his daughter.

“He is there for minutes and he is gone. At 3.05am a figure Michael Cawley (is on CCTV) on the upper stairwell. He left (the complex) by 3.10am.”

Gillane said that the jury had been shown CCTV footage of Karen Harrington at 3.19am.

“You heard Karen Harrington slamming the door shouting incoherently culminating in what is a cri de couer ‘everyone wake the fuck up.’ She (Karen) is slamming that door to the extent that the rubber comes off.”

Gillane said that Karen made phone calls at several points during the night and that her neighbour Aoife Niamh McGaley called to her apartment expressing concern about noise. He said that neighbours reported hearing the door being slammed thirty to 40 times.

Karen Harrington Karen Harrington is on trial for the alleged murder of Santina Cawley in an apartment in Cork city. Daragh Mc Sweeney / Provision Daragh Mc Sweeney / Provision / Provision

He stated that there was no doubt that at 4.31am neighbour Dylan Olney made a noise complaint to gardaí about Karen Harrington.

“He hears child crying and being taunted. It (the taunting) is making the child cry more. Olney isn’t a fantasist. He has no axe to grind with her.

There are two basic facts. She (Karen) is awake and Santina is alive. That is undoubted.”

He said that when gardaí arrived at the property at 4.52am there was total silence. He stated that the case of the State is that Santina was silent at this point because she was dead.

Gillane said that Michael Cawley arrived home after 5am to a scene of “utter horror.” He raised the alarm and was in a state of “unimaginable grief.”

Gillane said that Santina had suffered polytrauma.

“That simply means (she had injuries) everywhere. Once she (Santina) had head injuries she wouldn’t have been able to cry. “

Gillane said that Michael Cawley had trusted Karen with his daughter and that the accused emphasised that she was a a caring person.

“Karen being trusted with the child is the point. Michael Cawley trusted her. Karen was very good with Santina. Sometimes people you trust betray that trust and do terrible things.”

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. “

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

“The onus is on the prosecution”

He stressed that his client “consistently and persistently” protested her innocence and that this should give 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.”

Grehan said that it was a harrowing case and that his client had taken the unusual step of giving evidence under oath to say that she had not killed Santina.

“She is adamant that she did not harm Santina and that is her evidence. There is no forensic (evidence) really that make the case which the prosecution wants to make.

What the case is lacking is the forensic link that could put it beyond doubt — it is just not there She acccepts that the evidence points to her but insists that she did not do it. She never wavered throughout (about her innocence.)”

Meanwhile, Justice Michael McGrath has commenced his charge to the jury of seven men and four women on the twelfth day of the trial. The twelfth juror was excused last week.

Justice McGrath told the jurors that they needed to approach the evidence in a “clinical and dispassionate” manner and based on the evidence that they had heard.

“You cannot waver in to conjecture or speculation.”

The Judge described the presumption of innocence as being the bedrock of our jurisprudence.

“The burden of proof is at all times on the Prosecution.”

He emphasised to the jury the importance of all of their voices being heard during deliberations.

“Everyone’s view must be heard. Everyone’s view carries equal weight.”

Justice McGrath said the case is a matter on which the jury may have “strong views” but that their deliberations required an “unbiased sifting of the facts.”

The charging of the jury continues tomorrow.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings.

Olivia Kelleher