Belfast Telegraph

Apology for ‘failings’ that led to stab deaths of elderly couple

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were stabbed by a burglar in May 2017.

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery (PSNI/PA)
Marjorie and Michael Cawdery (PSNI/PA)

The family of an elderly couple stabbed to death in a “frenzied and vicious” attack in their Portadown home, by a man with a mental health condition, have received an apology from a top civil servant.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were stabbed multiple times by Thomas Scott McEntee, 41, when they found him in their home committing a burglary in May 2017.

McEntee, who has paranoid schizophrenia, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

In June 2018 he was sentenced to life in prison, of which he must serve at least 10 years before he becomes eligible for release.

Concerns had been raised over failings in his mental health care.

On Wednesday Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly offered “a full apology” on behalf of the entire Health and Social Care (HSC system) to members of the Cawdery family “for the failings and handling of this very tragic case”.

They failed in their duty of care to us, they failed in their duty of care to Thomas McEntee Charles Little, son-in-law

Mr Pengelly said he “deeply regrets the distress and pain caused to all those who have been adversely affected”.

He also acknowledged that, as the Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) states, “while the events could not have been predicted, they could – and indeed should – have been avoided”.

Charles Little, the couple’s son-in-law, said: “The family is happy with that apology.

“It is a good apology. It recognises that the deaths of Mike and Marjorie could have been avoided. It also recognises that their patient Thomas McEntee should not have been put in that position where he is now serving a life sentence.”

The family had sought an apology for what they said were health service failings that led to the pensioners’ deaths.

“They failed in their duty of care to us, they failed in their duty of care to Thomas McEntee,” Mr Little added.

“They have to take mental health very, very seriously. They have given a commitment today that they will.”

In a statement the Department of Health said it “fully recognised and accepted that there were missed opportunities and failings” in McEntee’s care.

“HSC leaders (including Department of Health, Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency, Trusts and RQIA) will be holding detailed discussions on the recommendations from the independent SAI report,” it added.

“These deliberations will cover the steps needed to enhance mental health provision in Northern Ireland; ways to reduce the risk of something similar happening in the future; and improvements to SAI processes including better engagement with families.

“The department is committed to an ongoing process of engagement with the family and others affected by similar circumstances.”

PA

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