Life sentence for man who killed devoted elderly couple in 'frenzied, horrific and sustained attack'

Thomas Scott McEntee killed Michael and Marjorie Cawdrey
Thomas Scott McEntee killed Michael and Marjorie Cawdrey

A 41-year old man who stabbed an elderly couple to death in a 'frenzied, horrific and sustained attack' was today handed a life sentence and told he will serve a minimum of ten years in prison for the double-killing.

Thomas Scott McEntee used six knifes to kill Michael and Marjorie Cawdery in their Portadown home last May. The devoted couple, who were both 83, were attacked in their Upper Ramone Park home after returning from their weekly shopping trip to Tesco.

McEntee - who at the time was living at a hostel in Kilkeel - has since been diagnosed with paranoid paranoid schizophrenia. He admitted two counts of manslaughter on the ground of diminished responsibility.

Handing McEntee a life sentence after ruling that a hospital order was not appropriate, Mr Justice Colton said that while he accepted McEntee was in an "extremely disturbed mental state" and was "actively psychotic" when he carried out the knife attack, he told the court "it must be remembered that we are dealing here with a double-killing."

Speaking outside court, Mr and Mrs Cawdery's son-in-law Charles Little said that while the family welcomed the life sentence, he said the minimum tariff of 10 years was "totally inadequate."

He said: "This was two lives of two really good people brutally and savagely taken, and that is just not acceptable. I know the sentence is running concurrently, but in real time it looks like five years a life as a minimum, and that is just not justice as far as we are concerned."

The Cawdery family attended today's sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, where they heard Mr Justice Colton describe the fatal knife attack on the elderly couple as "gratuitous"

In his sentencing remarks, the judge spoke of the effect the "tragic and traumatic" death has had on the family circle. Mr Justice Colton noted their sense of bewilderment and helplessness as they struggle to cope with what happened.

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 Mr and Mrs Cawdery's home and killed them using six knifes. In the aftermath of the double-killing, he dressed in Mr Cawdery's clothes and stole their car which he then crashed into two other vehicles.

McEntee was arrested later that day standing in a field surrounded by cattle.

Mr Justice Colton noted that McEntee had a "horrific upbringing" which included a history of hospital admissions, alcoholism, and non-engagement with mental health services. He also revealed to the court that when discussing the deaths of Mr ans Mrs Cawdery with the Probation Sevice, McEntee was "calm and unemotional" - but recognised the grief and distress he caused.

McEntee, who has been housed at the secure Shannon Unit in Knockbracken Healthcare Clinic in south Belfast for several months, was told he will serve a minumum of 10 years in prison for the manslaughter of the couple, before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission.