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Sunday 17 December 2017

Pensioners were murdered in 'completely random attack' at their home

Undated handout photos issued by the PSNI of Marjorie Cawdery (left) and Michael Cawdery, both 83, who were found murdered in their own home in Portadown, Co Armagh. Photo: PSNI/PA Wire
Undated handout photos issued by the PSNI of Marjorie Cawdery (left) and Michael Cawdery, both 83, who were found murdered in their own home in Portadown, Co Armagh. Photo: PSNI/PA Wire

Victoria Leonard

A brutal knife attack that left an elderly couple dead "could have happened to anyone" in the area.

Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie also called for an investigation into security at Craigavon Area Hospital after the shocking murders of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, who were both 83.

The elderly couple were found dead in their home in Co Armagh.

It is believed that a man arrested in connection with the case was taken there for treatment earlier that day.

It was reported yesterday that the same man was spotted walking naked around Newry on Friday morning before being taken to hospital.

It was also reported that the male subsequently left the hospital and visited an off-licence, before being caught on CCTV near the Cawderys' home.

The Southern Health Trust said it had "no comment" to make on the incident due to the fact that there is an ongoing police investigation.

A court yesterday granted the PSNI more time to question a 40-year-old man, who was arrested on Friday night in the Springfields area of Portadown.

There were reports of a man attempting to break into a car in Upper Ramone Park at around 12.20pm.

The Cawderys' bodies were found by their daughter and son-in-law at their nearby home around 3.40pm.

Police have appealed for information about the movements of the couple's car, a grey Renault Kango van, registration NJZ 6101, which was taken from the house and later found at around 5pm in Edenderry Gardens.

Officers were still at the scene yesterday, and have mounted extra patrols in Portadown.

Mr Beattie said it appeared the murder was random.

"I don't believe the attacker knew them; he just chose this house," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"They weren't targeted, it's a good chance it was purely speculative."

Mr Beattie said he believed that "questions had to be asked" about how the man reportedly came to leave a local hospital.

"What was the sequence of events? Were the police informed about this individual, was he being monitored or looked after?" he asked. "We all have to look, listen and learn. We must look at the mechanisms and security at that incident, and a learning exercise needs to be undertaken.

"We need to ensure that people who are taken into the hospital are looked after and get the treatment they need, and also that those who need to be are kept securely to help the confidence of people in the surrounding area.

"The hospital backs onto the estate where the incident happened and there are a couple of footpaths linking them."

Mr Beattie, who lives near the hospital and only 600 metres from the murder scene, said there was still a sense of shock in the quiet, tight-knit community over the savage double killing of the pensioners.

"I was at the scene quite quickly, I spoke to a lot of residents and you could see that they were physically shocked and didn't understand what was going on," he added.

"It's an area where you wouldn't expect this type of thing to happen - it's a quiet cul-de-sac, the people there are settled and many have lived there for years.

"I have got to commend the police, who caught the alleged attacker very quickly and put him in custody.

"This is a tragic, horrific event but it is also very rare and police have increased patrols in the area."

Sending his condolences to the victims' family, he added: "I would like to express my sympathy and condolences to the family and the wider Portadown community, who will be shocked by this. They are a very close-knit family and will be looking after each other well. It will have been a tremendous shock for their daughter, who discovered them.

"I spoke to their son-in-law and I could see the shock when I spoke to him and I know that family and friends will gather around to help them." In a statement, the Cawdery family described the devoted couple as "wonderful people".

They said: "The awful and incomprehensible events of Friday 26 May have deprived our family of two wonderful people, Michael and Marjorie, who were our father, mother, brother, sister and grandparents. We thank the police for their prompt response and professional actions.

"We also thank everyone who has expressed sympathy in whatever way and offered help. Finally, we ask for respect and privacy in the coming days as the family try to come to terms with their loss."

Belfast Telegraph

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