‘I did not murder Santina Cawley’: Murder accused takes stand

Karen Harrington (38) said she had no involvement in causing injury or death of girl (2)

The woman accused of the murder a two-year-old girl in Cork three years ago has told a court she did not have any involvement in causing either the injuries to, or the death of, the child in her apartment.

Karen Harrington (38) told the jury of seven men and four women at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork that she could not explain what happened to Santina Cawley in her apartment at Elderwood in Cork, but she had nothing to do with the girl's death.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC asked Ms Harrington what she wanted to tell the court immediately upon her entering the witness box in Court 4 at the Anglesea Street Courthouse on Wednesday and Ms Harrington replied: “That I did not murder Santina Cawley.”

She confirmed to Mr Grehan this had been her consistent position from the outset since she was first arrested by gardaí on July 9th 2019 for questioning about the killing whereupon Mr Grehan concluded his examination in chief of the accused.

Prosecution counsel Sean Gillane SC then began a 15 minute cross-examination of Ms Harrington of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, who denies the murder of Santina Cawley at her apartment at Elderwood Park, Boreenamanna Road, on July 5th, 2019.

Mr Gillane asked Ms Harrington who did kill Santina Cawley, if she did not, and Ms Harrington said she could not answer that. She agreed Santina did not cause the extensive injuries to herself, but she did not accept she was the only person who was with Santina that night.

Mr Gillane then asked Ms Harrington to name anyone else who was with Santina that night and she said that she had been woken from her sleep and that earlier there had been an argument between herself and Santina’s father, Michael Cawley, at the apartment of her friend Martina Higgins.

She said she had gone home and fallen asleep only to be woken from her sleep by Mr Cawley returning home with Santina around 3am and they had an argument which escalated.

“I was asleep and Michael Cawley came in on top of me – I wasn’t expecting anyone to come into the apartment.”

Pressed by Mr Gillane SC, Ms Harrington said she accepted Mr Cawley left the apartment after a few minutes and he left on his own and did not take Santina with him.

“I accept that me and Santina were alone for a period in my apartment,” she told the court.

Ms Harrington said she accepted Santina was alive and alone with her at the time when Mr Cawley left and went walking into Cork city centre, as seen on CCTV footage shown to the jury, but she said she could not confirm if Santina was uninjured at the time Mr Cawley left.

“No, I can’t confirm that [that Santina was uninjured when Mr Cawley left]”, said Ms Harrington before going on to say that she knew nothing about Santina’s injuries other than what she had heard like everyone else who heard evidence in the trial.

Mr Gillane asked Ms Harrington if she had noticed the cut to Santina’s lip, the bruising to her face and body, the tufts of pulled out hair and asked, if the injuries were already inflicted on Santina before Mr Cawley left, how did she not notice them when she took off Santina’s top and leggings?

“I ask myself the same. All I can recall back, when I envision Santina, I don’t see any bruises or injuries or blood or anything like that,” said Ms Harrington before agreeing that she remembered Santina in hysterics and crying but again reiterating that she had no idea how Santina suffered the injuries.

Mr Gillane recalled the evidence of Assistant State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, that when Santina had suffered head injuries, she would not have been capable of crying. “Can you help us solve the mystery? Will you do that?” he asked. The accused made no reply.

Mr Gillane asked Ms Harrington if she accepted the evidence of Garda Donal Daly who studied all the CCTV footage of the entrance to Ms Harrington’s apartment at Elderwood Park and concluded that no one else entered the apartment after Mr Cawley left after 3am to go into the city centre.

“Are you going to be big enough to say that Michael didn’t do it, that Santina didn’t do it?” asked Mr Gillane as he pressed Ms Harrington to explain to the jury what she believed happened to Santina.

“I accept Santina didn’t do it,” replied Ms Harrington before adding that she did not accept that she did anything to Santina even though she did not know what happened to the child.

“I couldn’t say if he made that up,” said Ms Harrington when asked by Mr Gillane if she thought witness Dylan Olney had for some reason fabricated his evidence that he heard a child crying and that he heard her [Ms Harrington] taunting and mocking the child as they cried in her apartment.

“I did not inflict injuries on Santina Cawley,” said Ms Harrington as Mr Gillane concluded his cross-examination.

Mr Grehan confirmed that Ms Harrington was the only witness that the defence intended calling to testify and he was therefore closing the defence case. The case continues before the jury and Mr Justice Michael MacGrath.