Belfast Telegraph

Cawdery family hail probe as step forward to get answers over killings

By Staff Reporter

The family of a Co Armagh couple stabbed to death in their home have welcomed the launch of a fresh probe into the health care of the mentally ill man convicted of the double killing.

Last month paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The inquiry, ordered by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and the Public Health Agency (PHA), follows recent heavy criticism from the victims' relatives directed at the Southern Trust.

During the trial it was revealed McEntee had been in hospital on four separate occasions in the days and hours leading up the savage attack, which took place at the pensioners' Portadown home in May last year.

The 41-year-old, who was arrested in a nearby field while wearing the clothes of one of his victims within hours of the killings, had earlier walked out of Craigavon Area Hospital before being fully assessed.

After McEntee - who carried out a frenzied knife attack on the pair - was sentenced, the couple's family hit out at health officials for what they insist were "missed opportunities" that could have prevented their loved-ones' deaths. Wendy Little-Cawdery, who - along with her husband - suffered the horrifying ordeal of discovering her parents' bloodied bodies, welcomed yesterday's decision to open the inquiry. The move came a day after the couple met with health officials to discuss the issue.

Mrs Little-Cawdery, who paid a moving tribute to her parents last month, said it was a step in the right direction in the family's search for answers about how the shocking tragedy was able to unfold.

"My mum and dad need to be recognised," she told UTV.

"The whole situation needs to be recognised as an atrocious event that should never have happened."

The family have also previously criticised the length of McEntee's jail sentence.

He must serve a minimum term of 10 years before being considered for parole as part of his life sentence, which the family have insisted is "totally inadequate".

While a previous investigation, - known as a Serious Adverse Incident review - had been carried out, the family believes a new probe will cast further light on to the chain of events that led to the killings of Mr and Mrs Cawdery.

They also hope lessons can be learned from the tragedy, ensuring that those who are suffering from mental illness receive "better care".

And they want to make sure the public is protected from potentially dangerous individuals.

The inquiry, which will include input from experts from outside Northern Ireland, was confirmed by the HSCB, which described the meeting as "constructive".

A spokesperson added: "The PHA and HSCB are working closely with the family to put in place a new process to include a newly appointed independent review panel."

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