Inquest may not be needed into fatal stabbing of two Portadown pensioners

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery were stabbed to death in their Portadown home in May of last year
Marjorie and Michael Cawdery were stabbed to death in their Portadown home in May of last year

An inquest into the killing of two pensioners in Co Armagh may not be required according to a senior coroner.

The family of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery – who were stabbed to death at their Portadown home in May last year – had demanded an inquest into their deaths but coroner Patrick McGurgan has said a new health review may negate the need for an inquest.

Family members of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery attend  the inquest hearing at Laganside House in Belfast

Family members of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery attend the inquest hearing at Laganside House in Belfast

Thomas McEntee, 41 – who had visited hospital four times prior to the killings – was given a life sentence for the manslaughter of the 83-year-olds.

Although a Serious Adverse Incident Report (SAI) had been issued by the Southern Trust, it was confirmed last week both the Public Health Agency and the Health and Social Care Board are in the process of setting up an independent review panel.

After McIntee was sentenced in June, the Cawderys’ son-in-law Charles Little had called for an inquest into the double killing, accusing the Southern Trust of failing both McEntee, and in turn Mr and Mrs Cawdery.

The court heard on Monday that the family are now prepared to wait for the outcome of the independent review.

Coroner Mr McGurgan said: “Obviously the inquest process is entirely separate from the other inquiry that is being made but I do think it would be premature for me to make a decision with regards to whether or not we should have an inquest given that there is going to be what appears to be quite a wide ranging inquiry which would be beyond my remit as a coroner.”

He continued: “The statutory questions that I have to answer as a coroner – the who, the where, the when and the how – could already be answered.”

Ahead of another review hearing Mr McGurgan requested a timetable as to how long the planned review led by the Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board is expected to take.

Inquests generally take place when a person has died in unnatural circumstances.

Following court proceedings, the Coroners Service advised the News Letter that it is the coroner who makes the decision as to whether an inquest is held. The exception to this is where a deceased passed away in prison.

At the time of the pensioners’ killings McEntee was living at a hostel in Kilkeel. He has since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

He admitted two counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

At the time of sentencing Mr Justice Colton said McEntee was in an “extremely disturbed mental state” and was “actively psychotic” when he carried out the knife attack.

Also noted by the judge was McEntee’s behaviour in the run-up to the double killing on May 26 last year, which 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.

Hours later, he broke into the home of Mr and Mrs Cawdery and killed them using six knifes.