Belfast Telegraph

Daughter of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery killed by mentally ill man relives horror of finding their bodies

Wendy Little Cawdery with family members outside court
Wendy Little Cawdery with family members outside court
Michael and Marjorie Cawdery
Killer Thomas McEntee
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The daughter of an elderly Portadown couple killed in a frenzied attack in their own home has spoken of the horrifying moment she found them.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were beaten and stabbed to death in May last year by paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee (41).

Speaking to UTV, Wendy Little Cawdery recounted the horrific ordeal.

"It's not the image I want to see, there was blood everywhere," she said.

Her husband Charles Little said: "Both of them were lying half in and half out of doorways, both face down, both wrapped up in rugs."

McEntee was handed a life sentence for manslaughter on Friday, with a minimum jail term of 10 years, instead of being medically detained.

"I know the judge went through the process. And given the mental health, that seemed appropriate, but not for two people. That is not right," said Wendy.

Last week the family described the sentence as "totally inadequate" and called for a full inquest into the killings.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

McEntee visited hospital four times in the days before the killings and the Cawdery family have demanded to know why he was not flagged up as dangerous.

It's reported that on Monday, May 22 last year, he had visited his sister, who called the police to say he was suffering from mental health issues.

The PSNI then took him to the Mater Hospital where he was assessed by the mental health team and taken back by police to a train station to make his way home.

On Wednesday afternoon, two days before the fatal attack, he was waiting to be seen at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry.

It's believed he came back later that evening before spending the night in a hotel.

Early the day of the killings, Friday, May 25, he turned up at his sister's house in Bessbrook and appeared to be injured.

After having food and two beers he left and was next seen naked on Millvale Road.

At around 10am Daisy Hill's mental health team reported a naked man shouting outside. After police restrained him and he was assessed, it was decided he should be transferred to Craigavon Area Hosptial.

While a nurse attempted to take blood, however, he left and made his way towards Bluestone mental health unit in Craigavon.

Shortly after midday, McEntee stole a bottle of wine from an off-licence before making his way to the Cawdery family home on Upper Ramone Park, Portadown.

After breaking into a car he gained entry into the unsuspecting pensioners' home.

By 12.40pm the PSNI was informed McEntee had left the hospital but he was already inside the Cawdery home by this point. The grandparents had been returning from their weekly shop in Tesco when they were savagely killed with six knives.

Before leaving McEntee dressed in Mr Cawdrey's clothes and took the car, which he soon crashed into two other vehicles.

Police arrested him later that day, standing in a field surrounded by cattle.

"I know it was handled badly. This man was in mental health crisis," Mrs Little Cawdery told UTV.

"He was doing the right thing (going to hospital) yes, but that doesn't mean he should be ignored. He knew himself he wasn't well."

Her husband Charles said: "We have paid with the loss of two wonderful people in the most brutal manner and McEntee himself has lost his freedom and none of that should have happened."

Speaking after the sentencing, the Southern Health Trust's chief executive Shane Devlin maintained that McEntee's actions could not have been predicted.

He added that the trust would now participate in a review of the case, having already completed a serious adverse incident review, and would co-operate fully with any inquest.

Mr Devlin has apologised to the Cawdery family and said every step would now be taken to reduce the risk of anything similar ever happening again.

Speaking to BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster, Mr Devlin commented: "It's a very difficult situation.

"He was about to have blood taken and absconded. Our teams in the emergency department then contacted the police to notify them after half an hour.

"Our emergency departments are not prisons and this gentleman was not being restrained; he was there to seek assistance and help."

Belfast Telegraph


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