Belfast Telegraph

Probe into killings of pensioners Michael and Marjorie Cawdery finds deaths were 'avoidable'

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery were stabbed to death in their home
Marjorie and Michael Cawdery were stabbed to death in their home

The killings of an elderly couple in their Portadown home by a man with severe mental health issues could have been avoided, a report has found.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were beaten and stabbed to death in May 2017 by paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee (41).

An independent panel, appointed by health authorities to investigate the deaths, has completed a report into the killings.

The BBC reports the investigation found that McEntee's actions on the day the Cawderys died occurred in "the context of a significant deterioration" in his mental health and concluded that the deaths "could not have been predicted but could have been avoided."

The couple's son-in-law Charles Little told the BBC it was "shattering" for the family to hear that the deaths were avoidable.

"We are also very angry that the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and the Health and Social Care Board have taken two years and two months to come to a conclusion that was obvious to the family by the end of June 2017," he added.

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Charles Little speaks to the media on behalf of the Cawdery family outside Belfast Crown Court.

Mr Little said his family were "broadly content" with the investigation's conclusions but said mental health patients need to be handled carefully.

"The fact that the incident could not be predicted is no defence - it is the very unpredictability of behaviour of those mental health patients who lead chaotic lifestyles that means they must be handled very carefully if they are to remain in the community," he added.

An independent panel was appointed to conduct a serious adverse incident review, which has now been shared with the families affected by the tragic incident.

A spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the health and social care system, said: "The HSC will now take time to carefully consider the report and its recommendations and will involve the families in this process.

"We fully recognise the enormous distress that the families affected by this tragedy have suffered and we would unreservedly apologise for this.

"It is essential we learn from this tragic incident and put steps in place to reduce the risk of the possibility of something similar happening in the future.

"There is also a commitment to ensuring that we enhance how we engage with all impacted families affected in these difficult circumstances.

"The HSC would also like to express its gratitude to the panel for the diligent and professional manner in which they conducted this review."

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Thomas McEntee was given a life sentence for the manslaughter of 83-year-olds Michael and Marjorie Cawdery

Last June McEntee received a life sentence for the double manslaughter, with a minimum jail terms of 10 years.

The court case heard that authorities missed chances to take McEntree off the streets, including that he visited hospital four times in the days before the killings.

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 Cawdery'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.

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