Evidence of trauma found all over toddler’s body, murder trial hears

Karen Harrington (38) denies murdering Santina Cawley at Cork apartment

A two-year-old child suffered a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury which could not have happened in the normal rough-and-tumble of child's play, a murder trial in Cork has been told.

The State alleged Santina Cawley suffered polytrauma, including bruising to her head, thorax and abdomen as well as fractures to her rib and skull and an injury to her spine.

Karen Harrington (37), of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Co Cork, has denied the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5th, 2019.

Outlining the State’s case, prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC said that the jury of seven men and five women would hear Ms Harrington was in a relationship with Santina’s father, Michael Cawley, who had care of the child at the time.


Mr Gillane told the jury how Santina was found with critical injuries at Ms Harrington’s duplex apartment at Elderwood Park shortly after 5am on the morning of July 5th, 2019 and rushed by ambulance to Cork University Hospital.

He said the jury would hear doctors worked on her in the resuscitation room at the hospital for several hours but without success.

He said a postmortem found she had multiple injuries all over her body. “There was scarcely a part of her body that did not display some form of trauma,” he said.


Mr Gillane had earlier told the jury that Santina lived with her father, Michael Cawley, on Grattan Street in Cork but, on the evening of July 4th, 2019, he brought her with him to meet Ms Harrington and her friend, Martina Higgins.

They were drinking by the Atlantic Pond but all returned to Ms Higgins’s apartment at Elderwood where a row broke out between Mr Cawley and Ms Harrington and Ms Harrington went home at 1.25am, he said.

Mr Cawley later left with Santina and put her on a duvet at Ms Harrington’s apartment before he returned to Ms Higgins’s to get his phone. He was told to return the next day.

He said the State would call evidence from neighbour Dylan Olney that he heard shouting coming from Ms Harrington’s flat and warned her he would call the gardaí if she did not stop.

The State would also call evidence from neighbour Aoife Niamh McGawley that she heard Ms Harrington screaming and what she thought was glass smashing.

Mr Gillane said that Mr Olney would give evidence that sometime after 4am, when Mr Cawley was still wandering about Cork city centre, he heard more screaming and banging coming from Ms Harrington’s apartment.

“Not only did Mr Olney hear a child screaming, he could also hear the accused shouting directly at the child, taunting and mocking the child and terrorising the child, so he rang the guards at 4.31am,” said Mr Gillane.

No response

Mr Gillane said gardaí arrived at around 4.50am and approached Ms Harrington’s apartment but got no response when they knocked and could not see anything suspicious through the door so they left shortly after 5am.

Mr Cawley returned to Elderwood at 5.07am and when he entered Ms Harrington’s apartment he found Santina naked under a duvet with bruising to her head.

He woke Ms Harrington, who was asleep on a couch, to ask her what had happened to Santina but she left the apartment on foot and he got Mr Olney to raise the alarm. The first to respond were members of the Garda ASU.

A trained paramedic, Sgt Brian Teehan of the ASU found Santina was still warm but lifeless to the touch, save for a faint pulse. There was bruising on her body, blood on her face and clumps of her hair were missing.

The case continues.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times