Family members have paid tribute to the “little angel” whose death in Cork on Friday is the focus of a murder probe as detectives build a picture of what happened in the hours before the alarm was raised.
Relatives of tragic two-year-old, Santina Cawley, took to social media to express their grief and people left flowers and stuffed toys at a makeshift shrine outside the Elderwood complex on Boreenmanna Road where the child was found with critical injuries in the early hours of last Friday morning.
They described her as a “little angel” and “a princess”, with one posting: “A beautiful angel - gone but not forgotten, loved and missed."
The child’s father, Mike Cawley, and his female partner, who is not the child’s mother and in whose apartment the child was found, were both in the apartment when the alarm was raised at around 5.20am on Friday. They have both given voluntary statements to gardaí.
Mr Cawley, a father-of-three originally from Co Clare but who has been living in Cork for several years, was a regular visitor to his partner’s apartment.
Gardaí are working to establish the movements of the two adults and those of the child on Thursday night, Friday morning, amid reports the little girl was in the company of an adult at a house party nearby until around 2am.
The alarm was raised at 5.18am on Friday when neighbours in Elderwood said they heard a distraught man knocking on neighbours’ doors shouting ‘my baby girl is dead’.
Gardaí rushed to the scene and found the toddler with serious injuries - it is understood she had suffered several bone fractures and a traumatic head injury.
They rendered medical assistance until paramedics arrived and rushed the child to Cork University Hospital (CUH) where she was pronounced dead at around 9.20am.
Supt Mick Comyns said detectives are examining statements from several witnesses following door-to-door enquiries and are viewing CCTV footage as they focus on what happened inside the apartment.
Gardaí had been called to Elderwood earlier, at around 3.30am, following a noise complaint but when they arrived, there was no sign of any disturbance and they left. It was not clear last night whether there is a connection between separate calls.
Meanwhile, Canon James O’Donovan, the parish priest of Ballinlough, offered prayers at masses locally yesterday for Santina, for those who mourn her, and for those affected by her death, including the first responders.
“That child is an angel in heaven now,” Canon O’Donovan said.
“People in the community are shocked, mesmerized that something like this could happen, especially to a child who should be safe in the bosom of her family. I just can’t imagine what she suffered.”