Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman found mum and dad on floor, face down, blood everywhere’

Court told of moment daughter found her elderly parents stabbed to death in Portadown home and how she tried in vain to revive them

By Ashleigh McDonald

The daughter of an elderly couple from Portadown who were stabbed to death in their home tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her father, a court heard yesterday.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, who were both 83, died in a "vicious and frenzied" attack after returning home from their weekly trip to Tesco.

Thomas Scott McEntee - who at the time of the double killing was living at a hostel in Kilkeel - has admitted two counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

The 41-year-old was told yesterday that he will be sentenced next week for the unlawful killings, which Belfast Crown Court heard he committed whilst experiencing an "extremely disturbed mental state".

Had it not been for McEntee's mental state, he could have been facing 20 years behind bars.

Currently housed at the secure Shannon Unit in Knockbracken Healthcare Clinic in south Belfast, McEntee was arrested in the aftermath of the double manslaughter, in a field of cows and wearing Mr Cawdery's clothes.

Since his arrest, he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

As details surrounding the deaths of Mr and Mrs Cawdery emerged for the first time, the court heard the devastating impact the killings have had on the family circle.

Wendy Little-Cawdery, who discovered her parents blood-soaked bodies in their Upper Ramone Park home on May 25 last year, said her mother and father "were the mainstay of our family, always there, willing to help and support the younger generation in whatever way they could.

"We have prematurely lost that all-important guiding influence."

Michael Cawdery's brother, Padraig, described his deceased sibling as "the patriarch of the family for 40 years" and Marjorie Cawdery as his "wife and faithful companion for more than 55 years".

Padraig also said his brother was "a model of compassion and humanity ... I loved my brother and respected his intellect".

Setting out the background to last year's incident, Crown prosecutor Peter Irvine QC said that the day before killing the couple, McEntee was seen "making a nuisance" of himself in The Square in Warrenpoint. Drunk on Buckfast, he made several approaches to women.

At around 7pm, he was taken to Newry train station by police, and that evening he slept in a van.

At 6.30am on Friday, May 26, he arrived at his sister's home in Bessbrook, where he had some food and two beers. She noticed he had cuts to his arm, and he left at 8.45am, telling her he was going to a charity shop.

At 9.47am, a "naked male" -later identified as McEntee - was seen walking on a public road, then he was again spotted naked in the grounds of Daisy Hill Hospital. Police arrived and he was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital.

Mr Irvine said that whilst in the ambulance, McEntee told staff he had suicidal tendencies. He agreed to remain at the hospital for an assessment and for treatment to the cuts on his arms, but the court heard that during the assessment, McEntee's behaviour changed and he left the hospital before the assessment was carried out.

At 12.07pm, McEntee entered an off-licence and stole a bottle of wine, and at 12.20pm he broke into a car parked at Upper Ramone Park in Portadown. He was last seen running in the direction of the Cawderys' home.

Mr Irvine said that at 12.08pm, Mr and Mrs Cawdery left their home for their weekly trip to Tesco. When they returned at around 1.30pm, McEntee was in their house, had stolen a chequebook and keys, and was armed with a knife from the property.

At 3.15pm, Wendy Little-Cawdery - who lives beside her parents - saw McEntee crossing their courtyard and getting into her parents' car. He then crashed the vehicle into a wall, drove through a gate and exited onto the road, colliding with two cars in the process.

Regarding the scene that greeted Wendy Little-Cawdery, Mr Irvine said: "When she entered her parents' home, she saw her father and mother lying on the floor, face-down with blood and glass everywhere.

"She checked for a pulse, and didn't find any.

"She tried to give her father mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."

When police and ambulance staff arrived, the couple were pronounced dead at 3.48pm.

At around the same time, police received reports of a male acting suspiciously with cuts on his arms and under the influence of drugs.

McEntee was approached, standing in the middle of a herd of cows in a field, and when he was searched a large knife was found in the waistband of his trousers and he was dressed in clothes belonging to Mr Cawdery.

The Crown barrister said Mr and Mrs Cawdery "had been subjected to a vicious and frenzied knife attack by the defendant in their own home". He also revealed that McEntee used at least five knives on the pensioners.

A post-mortem was conducted on the couple on May 28, with both causes of death attributed to haemorrhaging from multiple stab wounds.

The autopsy also revealed that Mr Cawdery had been beaten as well as stabbed, and that his death "was not immediate as there is clear evidence ... that he was conscious when some of the injuries were inflicted on him".

When arrested in the cattle field, McEntee made no reply. He was interviewed a total of nine times between May 27 and 29, and whilst he initially gave a "no comment" response, he denied being at Upper Ramone Park.

During the interviews, he claimed he had been off drink and drugs for two years, but had got drunk in Warrenpoint.

He also told police he felt he was being followed by a cult of demons/aliens, and that his memory of other events was blank "other than when he was in a field petting the cows". Branding the attack against the Cawderys as "gratuitous, clearly sustained and frenzied", Mr Irvine told Mr Justice Colton "both victims were clearly vulnerable, not only by their age but also their physical vulnerabilities".

Mr Irvine added there were "multiple injuries inflicted on both victims, by the use of knives", and revealed McEntee had a criminal record which included a robbery charge.

The prosecutor concluded the Crown's case by saying that McEntee had never provided an explanation for or any insight into his actions in Mr and Mrs Cawderys' home - but said it was accepted McEntee was suffering from a recognised mental condition at the time, and was "actively psychotic" which "impaired his ability to form a rational judgment".

He did, however, state there were signs McEntee "may have been aware of his situation" at the house, as he closed the blinds, changed his clothes and took a chequebook and keys.

Defence barrister Kieran Mallon QC, representing McEntee, started his submission by paying tribute to the Cawdery family, saying they displayed "considerable dignity at all stages of this process, which they as a family unit must have found extremely difficult and distasteful".

Saying the family had "acted with consummate dignity", Mr Mallon remarked that McEntee was aware of the distress and grief he had caused them, and had since expressed his remorse for his involvement in the "shocking offence".

The defence counsel told the court his client was "experiencing an extremely disturbed mental state" and was unable to form a rational judgment.

He added however that it would be "naive to suggest what happened ... was anything other than shocking".

Mr Mallon continued, describing McEntee's upbringing and childhood as "very difficult" and "disruptive", and which included periods in and out of care.

The barrister also spoke of a history of mental illness, attempted suicides and hospital admissions.

After listening to both the Crown and defence, Mr Justice Colton said he wanted time to reflect on the matter, and said he would pass sentence on Thursday.

McEntee was returned back to the custody of the Shannon Clinic.

Belfast Telegraph

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