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Blood found on leggings matched both toddler Santina Cawley and murder accused Karen Harrington, trial hears

Two-year-old had 53 separate injuries, court told


Santina Cawley

Santina Cawley

Santina Cawley

A blood stain found on adult floral-design leggings discovered by Gardaí at the home of murder accused Karen Harrington (37) matched the DNA profile of Santina Cawley (2).

The revelation came as a Central Criminal Court murder trial was told that the two year old was found to have a total of 53 separate injuries.

Clumps of hair found in the apartment of Karen Harrington were also found to have come from Santina Cawley.

The trial also heard that the toddler's father, Michael Cawley (37), confronted murder accused Karen Harrington at the scene in front of gardaí and shouted that she was "a monster".

Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of the two year old at a Central Criminal Court trial before Mr Justice Michael MacGrath and a jury of seven men and four women.

Santina was found lying naked on a dirty blanket with critical injuries at 26 Elderwood Park off the Boreenamanna Road in Cork city at 5am on July 5, 2019.

Karen Harrington lived in the flat at the time.

The little girl was discovered badly injured when her father, Michael Cawley, returned to his then-girlfriend's flat having left the property two hours earlier at 3am to walk alone into Cork city centre in a bid to locate his Limerick cousin.

Despite desperate efforts by doctors and paramedics to stabilise the condition of the little girl, she was pronounced dead a short time after being rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Sean Gillane SC, for the State, said that little Santina's injuries could not have been suffered in the normal rough and tumble of child play.

A post mortem examination was conducted at CUH which found Santina had sustained poly trauma and "devastating injuries with no chance of recovery."

Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) expert Dr Sibeal Waldron told the seventh day of the trial that she conducted DNA tests on various blood stains identified by gardaí at the Elderwood apartment.

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A pair of adult floral-style leggings was discovered by gardaí in a back bedroom at Karen Harrington's apartment.

The trousers showed signs of heavy blood-staining.

On the upper left section of the leggings - which had been pulled inside out - Dr Waldron said the blood stain matched the DNA profile obtained of Santina Cawley.

Other blood stains on the garment matched the profile of Karen Harrington.

A pink child's T-shirt was also examined with blood stains found on the collar and shoulder.

One blood stain returned a mixed DNA sample profile.

Dr Waldron said it was "one thousand million to one" times more likely that the mixed DNA sample was from Santina Cawley and Karen Harrington rather than Santina Cawley and unknown others.

She also said that blood staining analysed from the kitchen of the apartment matched the DNA of Karen Harrington.

An analysis of shorts, T-shirt and runners taken from Santina's father, Michael Cawley, returned no trace of blood.

Forensic scientist Dr Jennifer Ryan confirmed that an analysis of the clumps of hair discovered in the apartment found they had been pulled from the head.

A DNA analysis indicated the hair clump was from Santina.

CUH paediatric consultant Professor Deirdre Murray pronounced the child dead at 9.20am with the little girl having suffered devastating injuries from which there was no hope of recovery.

The little girl died minutes after she was placed by doctors and nurses into the arms of her mother, Bridget, when all life-saving procedures had been ceased.

Prof Murray had rushed at 6.30am to the CUH emergency department to treat the little girl.

In written evidence to the trial, read out by Mr Gillane, Prof Murray said Santina was found with "multiple bruises (including on the) forehead, bruises to the chest, a swollen leg, a femur fracture (historic)...and her pupils were fixed and dilated indicating a severe brain injury."

Detective Garda Stephen Dennehy, who was the crime scene manager appointed to the case, said gardaí were informed Santina had suffered 49 external injuries and four internal injuries.

The little girl was also missing an earring or a stud from her left ear lobe.

A stud earring matching it was found by gardaí on the floor of the apartment.

Clumps of hair were found just inside the door of the apartment as well as near a couch.

A heavily blood stained duvet was also found at the scene.

Gardaí also found blood stains in the apartment including footprints in blood and a drag-mark in blood.

Det Garda Dennehy said that there was evidence of a disturbance in the kitchen of the property.

Blood-stained adult leggings in a black floral pattern were later discovered in a downstairs bedroom.

Gardaí also found a suspected cannabis joint in the apartment.

In cross-examination with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, Detective Dennehy said it was an unusual scene.

"It was a strange scene to examine and interpret, especially the living room," he said.

"It was quite difficult to interpret what happened. There was a lot of blood in the kitchen. (But) apart from the duvet there was no blood in the living room."

Detective Garda Eoghain O'Callaghan, who was called to the Elderwood complex shortly after 5am when Santina was found critically injured, said he had to act to calm tensions between Santina's father, Michael Cawley, and his then-girlfriend, Karen Harrington.

"Michael Cawley came up to her (Karen Harrington) and shouted in her face,” Det Gda O’Callaghan said.

"(He shouted) you killed my baby - you monster."

Det Gda O'Callaghan said he noted a smell of alcohol from both Mr Cawley and the defendant.

Both were very distressed at different times outside the Elderwood complex.

He said that Karen Harrington was cautioned as she stood outside.

"(She said) she had returned to No 26 (after 1.30am) by herself,” the detective garda said.

“Michael Cawley (later) arrived with the child asleep in his arms.

"She (the defendant) was woken up by Michael Cawley shouting that the child was dead (5am).

"She said she was asleep for the rest of the night. She said she was woken up by Michael Cawley shouting that the child was dead and she ran out of the apartment."

Det Gda O'Callaghan noted that Mr Cawley had shouted at the defendant that she was "a monster."

He said that Karen Harrington, who was flanked by a female friend, replied to him: "I did yeah, I did yeah" in a sarcastic tone.

The garda agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC that her sarcastic tone suggested that the opposite was in fact the case.

Gardaí moved Mr Cawley and the defendant away from each other to calm tensions - and away from paramedics who were desperately trying to save the little girl.

Cork Fire Brigade lead fireman Pat Hayes said he noted blood spatters on the kitchen floor of No 26 where Santina was found.

He also noted a nappy in an undergarment near to the dirty duvet where the child was found in critical condition.

He was approached by Mr Cawley, whom he did not know, and was asked: "Can you tell me, is my child alive or not?"

"I told him he had to calm down - he was being very aggressive. I said we have a pulse and we are doing the best we can."

He confirmed that Mr Cawley wanted to travel in the ambulance with his daughter to CUH was not permitted to do so.

Mr Hayes said he offered to consult with Gardaí about them bringing Mr Cawley to the hospital.

"He was behaving in a very aggressive manner," he said.

Minutes later, he said Mr Cawley noticed two females near the Elderwood complex, one of whom was Karen Harrington.

"(Mr Cawley said) That's the people you should be looking at - that's your suspect there,” Mr Hayes said.

Mr Hayes said that when he went into the apartment he noticed an infant girl lying naked on a dirty duvet.

Other paramedics said the duvet was dirty and smelled strongly of urine.

"One of her legs was distorted and there was blood around her mouth and nose. There were bruises on her arms,” Mr Hayes said.

"The scene was frantic with everyone (Gardaí, fire brigade and paramedics) trying to save the child."

The trial continues.

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