Michael and Marjorie Cawdery killings: Health trust hiding truth, says couple’s son-in-law

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were killed by Thomas McEntee in May last year
Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were killed by Thomas McEntee in May last year

The family of an elderly couple stabbed to death last year by a man with severe mental health issues is demanding “the truth” from health bosses over the sequence of events leading up to the brutal killing.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both aged 83, were killed at their home by 41-year-old Thomas Scott McEntee on May 26 last year.

Thomas McEntee admitted manslaughter and was given a life sentence

Thomas McEntee admitted manslaughter and was given a life sentence

McEntee admitted manslaughter and was given a life sentence in June.

The Cawdery family believe several oppportunities were missed over the course of the week leading up to the horrific killing, when McEntee made four separate visits to hospital seeking help, on one occasion while completely naked, with cuts on his arm after self-harming, and believing his life to be in danger.

Charles Little, son-in-law of Mr and Mrs Cawdery, told the News Letter he wants health officials to “tell us the truth about what actually happened and to be honest about where mistakes were made”.

He said the Southern Health and Social Care Trust has fought “tooth and nail” to avoid telling the family “the truth” about what happened, and what went wrong.

A review was carried out by the Southern Trust and given to the family back in May, which found that there was “nothing” that could “reasonably have predicted that (Thomas McEntee) was at risk of carrying out such an act”.

The ‘Serious Adverse Incident’ (SAI) report, which has been seen by the News Letter, was heavily criticised by the Cawdery family and the trust has since agreed to carry out a new review.

Charles Little described the SAI report as “a shambles”.

“They hadn’t followed their own procedures, they hadn’t used the right terms of reference, they hadn’t got independent members on the panel,” he said.

“It was supposed to be a root cause analysis. There was no root cause analysis whatsoever. They had missed critical evidence and they had conclusions which bore no resemblance to the evidence presented.”

The family is seeking an inquest into the killings but, in August, a senior coroner said a decision on whether to hold such an inquest would have to wait until the review is complete. Mr Little said he is concerned that, unless lessons can be learned, another family could suffer a similar fate.

“We would like the trusts and the health and social care board to tell us the truth about what actually happened,” he said. “And to be honest about where mistakes were made.

“We would also like them to reform their system to ensure this doesn’t happen again to another family like this.”

He continued: “We are now nearly 18 months after the murders. The health trusts fought us tooth and nail to try to avoid telling the truth. The families involved must not be treated in the way we were treated.

“The most important thing is that they’ve got to reform how they look after these people.

“Thomas McEntee killed my parents-in-law, brutally and savagely. But he had spent the week trying to get help. He is a victim of this as well. The man was ill, he needed help, and at least he tried to get the help that he needed. He was failed, and in failing him they have failed us.

“I can’t forgive the man but I feel very sorry for him. He should never have been in the position where he ended up killing people. The opportunity was there to avoid it. Had things been done properly then it would have been avoided.”

The chief executive of the Southern Trust admitted, in a radio interview broadcast in June, that there were “opportunities” when McEntee had turned up at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry to “do something different” with “different processes in place”.

Shane Devlin, speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, extended his sympathies to the Cawdery family but said the killings were impossible to predict.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust said: “The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) are working closely with the Cawdery family to put in place a process to include a newly appointed independent review panel. The trust is fully committed to this process and we will be working closely with all those involved in the review.”

The new review is due to officially get under way within the next 10 days, Mr Little told the News Letter.