'God's newest angel': Heartbreaking scenes at ceremony for tragic Cork toddler Santina
CORK toddler Santina Cawley (2) has been hailed as God's newest angel.
There were heartbreaking scenes as hundreds attended Mass of the Angels for the little girl whose death last Friday sparked a Garda murder investigation in Cork.
The mourners at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne were led by her parents, Bridget O'Donoghue and Michael Cawley, as well as Santina's four siblings.
Mr Cawley stood throughout the entire Mass with his hand resting on his little girl's coffin - only interrupting his moving tribute to comfort his distressed daughter, Candice, and youngest son, Thomas.
Ms O'Donoghue was supported by her mother, Eileen, as she wept when the gold and white casket was finally led from the Cathedral.
In a moving tribute, Santina's mother asked celebrant Fr Oscar O'Leary OFM to highlight what the little girl meant to her entire family in her short life.
"She was my angel," Fr O'Leary quoted Santina's mother.
"She always brought a smile to my face.
"Santina was a little girl who knew what she wanted. She loved the Tellytubbies and she always loved watching them on the TV."
Ms O'Donoghue, with her four children, then placed a special card to Santina on the cathedral's memorial tree.
Fr O'Leary noted the national grief that followed the death of comedian Brendan Grace and that he had left Ireland a legacy of laughter and happiness.
Fr O'Leary said that Santina's legacy for her family should similarly be smiles and happiness for the joy she brought them in her all-too-short life.
Gifts to reflect the loves of little Santina's life formed the Offertory procession.
A pink teddy, pink trolls and a Tellytubbies play box were brought to the altar by the toddler's three brothers and sister to highlight what brought joy to the little girl whose middle name was 'Barbie'.
Santina's white coffin was escorted from the cathedral by her parents as it was then covered with floral tributes in the hearse for the short journey to St Catherine's Cemetery in Kilcully.
A number of mourners also donned white 'Santina Angel' T-shirts in tribute to the little girl.
Each of the T-shirts had a colour photograph of a smiling Santina emblazoned on its front.
On the rear of the T-shirts there was a simple message: 'RIP Angel Santina.'
Special balloons were also brought to the cathedral carrying Santina's image and with slogans including: 'We Love You' and 'RIP'.
Santina is survived by her mother, Bridget, her father, Michael, her siblings Candice, Michael, Patrick and Thomas.
After the Mass, a special message was read out on behalf of the family by Frank Lynch.
"The family are extremely grateful for the level of support, prayers and generosity the Cork public has shown them throughout the past week."
"Baby Santina's family cannot express their thanks."
The toddler was then brought to St Catherine's Cemetery, Kilcully for burial following Mass of the Angels.
Gardaí again appealed for public assistance in their murder investigation over Santina's death.
Detectives have taken more than 50 statements from people resident or present at the Elderwood Park flats complex off Boreenmanna Road where Santina was discovered with critical injuries shortly after 5am last Friday.
They are also examining CCTV security camera footage from properties around the area.
However, detectives have again appealed to anyone who has not yet spoken to Gardaí and who may have information to come forward.
Gardaí also urged any motorist, taxi or truck driver who was in the Boreenmanna Road area last Thursday night and Friday morning to contact them, particularly if their vehicle is equipped with a dashcam.
Two properties at the complex were examined by forensic experts as well as two vehicles found parked nearby.
Santina was treated at the scene by paramedics for her injuries before being rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Tragically, she was pronounced dead a short time later.
Gardaí launched a murder investigation on Saturday following a post mortem examination by Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster.
That 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.
A woman in her 30s - who is not related to Santina - was arrested on Monday for questioning by Gardaí in relation to the circumstances of the child's death.
She was released without charge on Tuesday evening with a file now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).