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Face of evil child killer as Santina Cawley’s mum asks ‘how could she do this to a little baby?’


Here is evil child killer Karen Harrington — enjoying her last hours of freedom before she was convicted of the murder of tragic tot Santina Cawley.

Our exclusive pictures show cowardly killer Karen, 38, and the face she desperately tried to hide throughout her trial for the murder of the two-year-old, who she mercilessly beat and inflicted 53 catastrophic injuries upon in her Cork apartment in 2019.

During a four-week trial Harrington hid behind a mask and sunglasses — but now her face can be revealed for the country to see after she was sentenced to life behind bars on Monday for Santina’s horrific murder.

READ MORE:Karen Harrington found guilty of murdering Cork toddler Santina Cawley

The remorseless killer, dressed in a pink shirt and black suit, sat stone-faced and stared straight ahead in the dock of Cork’s Central Criminal Court as the verdict of ‘guilty’ was read out by the jury shortly before 4pm on Monday.

The courtroom sat silent as the jury confirmed the verdict after four hours and 46 minutes of deliberating — ending a three-year wait for justice for Santina’s family.



Karen Harrington leaving for court on her last day of freedom
Karen Harrington leaving for court on her last day of freedom

And in a heartbreaking victim impact statement read out by a Garda liaison officer, Santina’s father Michael described being “haunted” by the moment he discovered her body in the early hours of July 5, 2019.

“Santina was brutally murdered. The worst thing was finding her disfigured body under a blanket.

“I will be haunted by this horror for the remainder of my life,” he said.

Mr Cawley, who has been present throughout the trial and gave evidence during it, paid an emotional tribute to his beloved daughter — describing her as a “beautiful, happy, friendly, caring, fun loving” girl.



Karen Harrington was found guilty of the murder of Santina Cawley in her apartment in Cork City
Karen Harrington was found guilty of the murder of Santina Cawley in her apartment in Cork City

“She enjoyed life — always smiling, she loved life, everyone loved her. She brought joy to my heart. She was my pride and joy. I will always be so proud of her.

“When I look at some of her clothes and toys in her bedroom it breaks my heart. I miss the sound of her sweet little voice, her laugh, her smile, her beautiful blue eyes and red hair. She loved music, playing with her dolls and her sisters and brothers.

“She loved being involved with everything with was happening around her, folding clothes and helping around the house,” he said.

He also spoke about how his daughter’s birthday occurred on May 6, and how it devastates him to visit her grave.

“It breaks my heart to visit her grave. All I have now are heavenly birthdays and memories. These beautiful memories can never be taken from me,” he said.

“Since Santina was taken from this world, I feel my life can be described as mental torture.

“This is honestly the worst thing any parent can go through. I would not wish this on any family.”



Santina Cawley
Santina Cawley

Bridget O’Donoghue, the mother of Santina, also delivered a harrowing victim impact statement which was read out by a Garda liaison officer.

Ms O’Donoghue described Santina as an “old soul” who she said seemed to have been here before.

“She was a premature baby. She was small but she was a fighter. She was loved and adored by her family the minute we saw her.

“She was the baby of our family, loved cherished and spoiled by us all. Especially her Nana. She loved her rhymes, her cartoons and Barney. She loved her trips to town with me and her Nana,” she said,

“She was very cute for her age. She as clever and bright. She knew all the names of the Teletubbies and was a happy soul. She was very soft and gentle yet was hardy, determined and a little fighter.”

Ms O’Donoghue told how she would never forget the knock on the door in the early hours of May 5, 2019 when a Garda told her she needed to come to the hospital as her child had been in an “accident”.

“Eventually I was told that Santina had passed away from the her injuries and I went into a state of shock. I could not believe what I had been told,” she said.

The heartbroken mother told how her daughter’s body was placed in her arms — and she was in disbelief at the injuries she had suffered.

“When I asked to see her, she was put in my arms and I could not believe the condition of her, she was covered in bruises from head to toe. Her hands were cold and she was so pale,” she said.

“I am devastated. My heart is in pieces and the hurt continues every day. So many times I have wished I could turn the clock back, the disbelief that this could have happened haunts me to this day.

“My last memory of Santina was her hugging and squeezing me and not wanting to leave me. I thought I was leaving her for an overnight stay with her dad and would see her the next day.

“I hope in Santina’s last moment she remembered and felt the love of me her mother, her Nana and family.”

Ms O’Donoghue also said she felt anger towards Karen Harrington.

She said: “I am angry at the accused Karen Harrington and continuously I ask myself how could someone be so cruel to a two-year-old? A soft and gentle soul.

“Just how can you hurt a baby like this. I wonder was she looking for me in the those last moments. What was Santina thinking and feeling during her terrible death?”



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Mr Justice Michael McGrath sentenced Harrington to mandatory life imprisonment.

The judge described the killing of a “defenceless” child “truly shocking” and said: “Santina’s parents have lost a daughter and it is clear from their victim impact statement’s that this was a great loss to them.”

The trial heard how Santina was found critically injured by her father under a soiled duvet on the morning of July 5, 2019, at the apartment of his then partner Harrington at Elderwood Park in Boreenmanna Road in Cork.

Neighbours had reported hearing an “almighty commotion” coming from the apartment during the night, with one neighbour giving evidence he had heard Harrington taunting the crying child and telling her to “shut up”.

The jury was told that Harrington was “mocking, taunting and terrorising” the child.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster gave evidence that Santina died as a result of a traumatic brain injury and upper spinal cord injury with polytrauma and lower limb injuries due to blunt force trauma.

She stressed that Santina’s injuries were not consistent with an accidental fall, pointing to the fact that they were located all over the child’s body.

“They are not accidental but are forcefully inflicted injuries,” Dr Bolster said.

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