Two-year-old Santina Cawley sustained 53 injuries, murder trial told

Two-year-old Santina Cawley sustained 53 injuries, murder trial told

Olivia Kelleher

A two-year-old girl who was found with critical injuries in an apartment three years ago and died a few hours later in hospital had sustained 49 external and four internal injuries, a murder trial in Cork has heard.

Karen Harrington of Lakelands Crescent in Mahon, Cork is on trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in the city charged with the murder of Santina Cawley at 26 Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road on July 5th, 2019.

Ms Harrington was in a relationship with Michael Cawley, the father of the deceased, at the time of the alleged offence.


Crime scene manager, Det Garda Stephen Dennehy, of the Scenes of Crime Unit, told the jury of seven men and four women of the extent of the injuries sustained by the toddler.

“She had 49 external injuries and four internal. A gold stud earring was present in her right ear similar in size to an earring in the middle of the sitting room floor. There was no earring in the left ear.”

Det Garda Dennehy gave evidence that clumps of hair were found inside the door of 26 Elderwood Park as well as on a three-seater sofa in the property.

A stained duvet with hair attached to it was also recovered, as well as a pair of child’s leopard print leggings with a nappy inside. The leggings had one sock in them.


A gold stud earring was in the right ear of Santina. A stud was found on the sitting room floor with a stud missing from the left ear of the child.

Evidence of a disturbance

Det Garda Dennehy said that there was evidence of a disturbance in the kitchen. Blood stained leggings with a floral design belonging to an adult were discovered in a downstairs bedroom.

An examination of the scene where the child was found was carried out on July 5th, 2019.

Det Garda Dennehy noted contact blood staining inside the door of the apartment and a broken Betty Boop statue on the top of the stairway.


Markers were placed in the living room/kitchen area where the stud earring was found. Markers were also placed in the kitchen where there was a bloodied footmark in the centre of the room.

There was heavy blood staining and drag marks were visible in front of the cooker in the kitchen. Hair was visible in the blood. Large blood droplets were also present by a chair and table in front of the dishwasher in the apartment.

A pink top for a child aged 12-18 months, which had tear marks and was found on a two-seater sofa, was amongst the exhibits. Smaller and finer blood stains were found in front of the dishwasher, as was a broken ashtray.

Meanwhile, the trial also heard evidence from Det Garda Eoghain O’Callaghan who said that he spoke to the accused Karen Harrington outside the property on the morning the death occurred.

Det Garda O’Callaghan said that Ms Harrington was in a “distressed state” and grabbing on to his arm. Ms Harrington asked him if "she (Santina) was okay."

He told the court that the father of the child, Michael Cawley, approached Ms Harrington and a fraught situation developed. Det Garda O’Callaghan said that Mr Cawley accused Ms Harrington of killing his child.

"He shouted 'You killed my baby you monster.' She said ‘I did yeah I did yeah’ sarcastically."

Under cross-examination, defence counsel Brendan Grehan, SC, put it to Det Garda O’Callaghan that his client said "I did yeah" in a sarcastic tone, suggesting that the opposite was the case.

Det Garda O’Callaghan agreed with the statement made by Mr Grehan.

The case continues this afternoon. The twelfth juror in the case was excused earlier this week.