Sunday 22 September 2019

Pregnant woman is charged with murder of toddler Santina (2)

Karen Harrington (35), who appeared at a special sitting of Cork District Court charged in connection with the death of Santina Cawley. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts
Karen Harrington (35), who appeared at a special sitting of Cork District Court charged in connection with the death of Santina Cawley. Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Cork Courts

Ralph Riegel

A pregnant woman has been charged with the murder of Cork toddler Santina Cawley.

Karen Harrington (35) appeared before Judge Mary Dorgan at Cork District Court charged with the murder of two-year-old Santina, who died after being found with critical injuries in a Boreenmanna Road flats complex on July 5.

Det Garda Cormac Crotty gave the court details of the arrest, caution and charge.

The detective said Ms Harrington was arrested at 7.56am yesterday.

When the charge was formally put to the defendant, she replied: "I do not understand why I am being charged - I did not murder no one."

Ms Harrington, of Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, Co Cork, remained silent throughout the brief hearing at the Angelsea Street Courthouse.

She appeared in court wearing a grey fleece top and tan slacks.

She was not related to Santina and is originally from the Mahon area of Cork.

As the charge involved is murder, bail can only be dealt with by the High Court.

Judge Dorgan remanded Ms Harrington in custody to appear again before Cork District Court on Monday.


Solicitor Paula McCarthy applied for free legal aid and submitted a statement of Ms Harrington's means for the consideration of the court.

The solicitor said bail would be an issue for the High Court and her client understood she would be remanded in custody.

She also asked the court for her client to receive all required medical attention while she is in custody as she is four-and-a-half-months pregnant.

Judge Dorgan granted free legal aid in the name of Eddie Burke Solicitors and further directed the defendant receive all necessary medical attention while in custody.

Members of the toddler's family were in court, including her mother Bridget O'Donoghue.

Ms O'Donoghue wept throughout the hearing and was supported by a number of family members and friends.

The toddler's father, Michael Cawley, was in the public gallery. He sat at the back of the court accompanied by a friend.

Both parents left the court immediately after the hearing and the defendant was remanded in custody.

The Garda case file was prepared over the past two months.

It ranked as one of the most intensive investigations mounted by gardaí in Cork in recent times.

Instructions to charge the defendant came after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had studied the detailed file involved.

Santina was found with critical injuries at 5am on July 5 in a flats complex just over 1km from Cork city centre.

Gardaí and paramedics raced to the Elderwood complex after the alarm was raised.

Santina was initially treated at the scene by paramedics for her injuries before being rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

She was in a critical condition on admission and was placed on life support.

Tragically, despite desperate efforts by doctors to stabilise her condition, she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Gardaí launched a murder investigation on July 6 following a post-mortem examination by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster at CUH.

The examination revealed Santina had met a violent death and had sustained multiple injuries.

Detectives have refused to release the details of the post-mortem examination for operational reasons.

There were heartbreaking scenes at Santina's Mass of the Angels at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne.

Mourners were told she was "God's newest angel".

Many attended the Mass with T-shirts and balloons emblazoned with Santina's name and face as marks of respect.

Mourners were led by her heartbroken parents and her four siblings.

In a moving tribute, Santina's mother asked celebrant Fr Oscar O'Leary to highlight what the little girl meant to her entire family in her short life.

"She was my angel. She always brought a smile to my face," Fr O'Leary quoted Ms O'Donoghue.

Irish Independent

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