Northern Ireland

Cawdery family say trust 'responsible' in parents' killings

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Marjorie and Michael Cawdery were found dead in their home in Portadown

A health trust must bear responsibility for the deaths of an elderly couple killed in their own home by a man suffering from severe mental health issues, the victims' family have said.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were killed by Thomas Scott McEntee in their home in Portadown in 2017.

On Thursday, McEntee, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The court heard that authorities missed chances to take him off the streets.

The Cawdery family said the health system, and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, had failed both their parents and McEntee.

The trust said that a review had indicated "missed opportunities" in relation to McEntee and added that it would work with the Cawdery family to ensure that lessons would be learned.

Image caption The Cawdery family appeared outside court after the sentence was handed down

The court was told that McEntee was causing a public nuisance in Warrenpoint the day before the killings.

Police then took him to Newry Train Station, where he said he planned to travel to Lurgan.

However, he did not board a train and instead broke into a garage in nearby Derrybeg Lane.

The next morning police received reports about McEntee walking naked along the road between Bessbrook and Newry.

Frenzied, gratuitous attack

He was taken to the nearby Daisy Hill Hospital, but was not admitted.

Instead he was taken to Craigavon in an ambulance, with a police escort.

While waiting to be assessed in the emergency department, he got up and left.

A short time later, McEntee was in the Cawdery's home, which is near the hospital.

They died in what the court heard was a sustained, frenzied and gratuitous attack, which included the use of six knives.

After attacking the couple, McEntee stole their car and drove away in the direction of the Killycomain Road.

The Cawdery's daughter, Wendy, had spotted McEntee crossing the courtyard outside her parents house.

She entered their home and attempted to resuscitate them but they were pronounced dead a short time later.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption A forensic officer leaves the house where Mr and Mrs Cawdery were killed

McEntee was later found a short time later by police, in a field surrounded by cattle wearing clothes he had taken from the house.

In May, he pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

The Cawdery family released a statement after McEntee was sentenced on Thursday.

"Many serious and, as yet, unanswered questions remain and, in our view, it is essential that both a robust inquest and a Health and Social Care Board independent investigation take place that will thoroughly investigate the full circumstances leading up to the murders," they said.

'Missed opportunities'

Speaking outside the court, Charles Little, the couple's son-in-law, said the minimum tariff of 10 years for McEntee was "not justice".

"The judge has quite rightly imposed a life sentence and we welcome that - but we do think that the minimum tariff of 10 years is totally inadequate."

However, he added that the family was aware that McEntee was ill and noted that he "went for help on numerous occasions to the various health trusts, and in particular the Southern Trust".

"He did not receive the help he wanted and, in failing him, they failed us - and Mike and Majorie paid for it with their lives."

In a statement, Shane Devlin, the chief executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said that a review had been carried out and its findings shared with the Cawdery family.

"While it is impossible to have predicted or foreseen the events that took place in May 2017, the review did identify missed opportunities in relation to our involvement with Mr McEntee and has highlighted ways to improve the safety of the health and social care system."

He added that the trust had agreed to a family request for a "further wide-ranging review of how the trust can engage and meaningfully involve victim's family members" in the review process in the future.

"The trust will work with the Cawdery family to ensure that the lessons learned over the last year in relation to this issue are shared widely throughout health and social care."

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