Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: The grieving Cawdery family need answers

Editor's Viewpoint

The family of the elderly Portadown couple killed in a frenzied attack by a mentally ill man in May last year showed great dignity at the end of the court case where he was sentenced to life with a recommended minimum term of 10 years.

They accepted that he had sought help and was suffering from severe mental problems, and argued that he had been failed by the local Southern Health Trust when he turned to hospitals for assistance.

Given the nature of the unprovoked attack, that was a remarkably generous gesture.

But now we also see the traumatic effect this horrendous crime had on the family. Mike and Marjorie Cawdery were beaten and stabbed to death by paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee.

What confronted members of the family when they entered the house where the couple had been slaughtered was a scene of horror.

Daughter Wendy gives us some indication of how that scene is replayed in their minds over and over again. All they can do is manage those dreadful images as best they can.

Her daughter Tasha halted her university course and will repeat it later this year.

The couple's son Graham had to take unpaid leave from work to attempt to come to terms with his parents' death.

These are graphic examples of the impact that a shocking crime of this nature has on those who witness it or its aftermath.

This family is enduring the legacy of an event beyond even their worst nightmares.

And while coping with that legacy, they are also trying to establish how the chain of events unfolded which led to their loved ones being killed in their own home.

It is telling that they regard the health trust as being equally culpable as the killer for the deaths.

That is a very strong accusation, but they certainly raise legitimate concerns over how the mentally ill McEntee was treated.

The family also question the jail term given to him, but it is difficult for lay people to accept that judges are bound by sentencing guidelines which take a wide range of factors - both for and against the convicted person - into account in determining the term to be served.

This is a family that deserves all the aid required to help them cope with the trauma they have undergone, and that includes counselling and answers to the questions they have posed to the trust.

Belfast Telegraph

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