Cawdery killer as much of a victim as slain elderly couple, inquest hears

A convicted killer who stabbed two pensioners to death in their Portadown home, is as much of a victim as the couple he attacked.

That's the assessment from the son-in-law of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, the husband and wife who were killed by a mentally ill man in May 2017.

Thomas McEntee was handed a life sentence more than a year on from their deaths, 10 years of which he was ordered to spend in jail.

On the first day of an inquest looking into how the Cawdery couple ended up being killed by a man who spoke with police and spent time in several hospitals in the days before the attack, Charles Little took to the witness box to give evidence.

"We wish to know the truth of what happened and why decisions were made and why procedures and guidance were not followed," he said."We need to know what happened and why."

The inquest will look at the circumstances in the days leading up to killings - namely from 22nd to 26th May 2017.

In that five day period, the inquest heard how Thomas McEntee was spoken to by police and entered several hospitals in Northern Ireland.

At the time of the deaths, he was taking high dosage medication for mental illness.

The inquest heard that Craigavon Area Hospital, only a short distance away from the Cawdery home, was the last hospital Mr McEntee attended before carrying out the 'frenzied attack' on the elderly couple.

The coroner was told that Mr McEntee ripped a needle out of his arm as a nurse was trying to take blood before absconding.

He had been brought to the hospital by police before they were told that would not need to stay while Mr McEntee, originally from Co Down, was treated. He was initially brought to Craigavon over concerns for his mental health.

Soon after, he stole a bottle of wine from an off-licence, made his way to the Cawdery home and killed them.

Charles Little found his mother-in-law and father-in-law's bodies wrapped in separate rugs, with only their feet showing. He told the inquest CPR was attempted on both until an ambulance arrived.

Haemorrhaging from multiple stab wounds and blunt force trauma were the cause of death of both victims, the inquest was told.

Continuing to give evidence, Mr Little said: "We [the Cawdery family] are very conscious he [McEntee] was an ill man and that he tried to get help and was failed.""We do see him as much of a victim," he said.He added: "A system where only the ill man is held culpable is not in my mind justice."When you've someone like Thomas McEntee living a chaotic lifestyle and he's coming for help, on high levels of medication, people should take him seriously when he's attending for help."

The family has previously criticised the response of the Southern Trust. The Trust found that the deaths could not have been predicted but were 'avoidable'.

The inquest, which is expected to last up to three weeks, continues.

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