‘I left my daughter with someone I thought I could trust,’ father of Santina Cawley (2) tells murder trial

Michael Cawley (37) said he never thought Karen Harrington would harm his daughter

The father of a two-year-old toddler who died after suffering multiple injuries has told the trial of his former partner for murder how he never thought the woman would harm the child as they had always got on very well together.

Michael Cawley (37) told the trial of Karen Harrington that he never thought she would harm his daughter, Santina Cawley, in any way when he left her in Ms Harrington's apartment in the early hours of July 5th 2019 to go into Cork city to look for his cousin.]

“I left my daughter with someone I thought I could trust – I had left her with Karen a few times and there was never a problem,” Mr Cawley told Ms Harrington’s counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, during cross-examination on the fourth day of the trial.

Ms Harrington (38) of Lakelands Crescent, Mahon, Cork, who has denied the murder of Santina Cawley at Elderwood Park, Boreenmanna Road, on July 5th, 2019, is on trial before a jury of seven men and five women at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork.


Broke down

Mr Cawley broke down a number of times when he was shown CCTV footage of himself with Santina at a local Aldi store less than 12 hours before he discovered his daughter badly injured at Ms Harrington's duplex apartment at Elderwood on Boreenmanna Road.

During cross-examination by Mr Grehan on his second day in the witness box, Mr Cawley agreed that Ms Harrington had always got on well with his daughter as he told the jury he had no concerns about leaving his daughter with his then partner.

“I could never say anything bad about Karen – she got on good with Santina and Santina would have gotten on with her . . . I thought it would be okay to leave Santina with Karen, I trusted Karen.”

The jury also heard from Ms Harrington’s friend, Martina Higgins, that Mr Cawley had asked Ms Harrington to take Santina home with her when she stormed out of Ms Higgins’ apartment, at about 1.25am on July 5th after a row broke out between the couple.

“She [Karen] left alone and, as she was at the gate, Mike said, ‘Take Santina with you’ and she said ‘No, she’s your child’,” said Ms Higgins as she recalled how Mr Cawley and Ms Harrington brought the girl with them when they called for drinks to her apartment.

Ms Higgins also revealed that at one stage after Ms Harrington had left and Mr Cawley had continued drinking, she had offered to allow him to leave Santina Cawley with her as she was asleep on the sofa and she thought it would be best not to disturb her.

Cousin visiting

But Mr Cawley picked his daughter up in his arms and brought her back to Ms Harrington’s apartment, leaving her there when he returned to Ms Higgins’ apartment to find his phone and later when he went into Cork city centre to try to find his cousin visiting from Limerick.

Ms Higgins also told the trial how she went to bed after Mr Cawley left with Santina Cawley at about 3.15am and the next time she saw him was shortly after 5am when he started banging on their door and was shouting that Ms Harrington had killed his daughter.

“I heard banging on the doors of the stairs and it was Mike – he was screaming and roaring ‘Santina, Santina, my child, my child is dead – Karen has killed my child’ or something along those lines – he sounded frightened,” she said.

The case continues.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times