Belfast Telegraph

Family of couple killed in knife attack demand answers as they await inquest

By Claire McNeilly

A close relative of an elderly couple brutally killed by a paranoid schizophrenic has said the devastated family can't properly grieve until they find out exactly how their loved ones died.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both aged 83, were subjected to a frenzied and sustained knife attack by Thomas McEntee (41) in their home at Upper Ramone Park, Portadown, in May last year.

McEntee was recently given life for the double manslaughter, with a minimum jail term of 10 years - a sentence described as "totally inadequate" by the victims' family, who also demanded answers from the health trust that treated him.

Following an inconclusive preliminary hearing at Laganside House yesterday, son-in-law Charles Little told the Belfast Telegraph that the family are still hoping for an inquest into Mr and Mrs Cawdery's deaths.

"We want to know exactly what happened; we need an inquest," he said. "In our view, the deaths were totally avoidable and should not have happened.

"Two people were brutally killed and another man has got a life sentence and all that could have been avoided.

"The problem is that the incident isn't over for us because it's just rolling on with all the investigations and court cases, we haven't had time to grieve yet.

"All that is still there. It's extremely painful. We try to get on with things but at the moment life is on hold, effectively, until this is all out of the way."

Mr Little said he doubts whether the Cawdery family will ever get closure after the tragic and traumatic events of May 26, including McEntee's behaviour ahead of the double killing.

This included him being found naked in the grounds of Daisy Hill Hospital, being taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital, and leaving before a full assessment had taken place.

McEntee broke into Mr and Mrs Cawdery's home hours later and killed them using six knives. In the aftermath he dressed in Mr Cawdery's clothes and stole their car, which he then crashed into two other vehicles.

He was subsequently arrested later that day, standing in a field surrounded by cattle.

Mr Little said the family are struggling to cope in the aftermath of the profound tragedy.

"It's good days and bad days," he said. "I don't think you ever get over it, you just have to learn to live with it.

"It just disrupts everything for everybody. The incident is still going on. Particularly the way the Southern Trust handled it. It meant we were constantly beating our heads against a brick wall and being re-traumatised.

"They didn't seem to understand that we were involved. Now they're involving us - a year later, but they're involving us - and this is what they should have done in the first place."

Despite the difficulties they continue to face, Mr Little said they try to remain strong "for Mike and Marjorie". He said: "We've got to make sure this never happens to another family.

"It will, but the way that we've been treated should never happen to another family and we've got to prevent that happening.

"And we've absolutely got to make sure that we get to the real truth of what happened."

Mr Little attended yesterday's hearing with his wife Wendy Little Cawdery, their 15-year-old son Alexander, Wendy's sister Shirley Nelson and her husband Brian Nelson, and the victims' son, Graham Cawdery.

Yesterday, coroner Patrick McGurgan said he would decide on an inquest pending the outcome of an independent inquiry being led by the Heath and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency, with input from other agencies.

A new preliminary hearing is expected to be scheduled in due course.

Belfast Telegraph

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