Cawdery family gets health chief apology over double killing

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were killed in their Portadown home in May 2017
Michael and Marjorie Cawdery were killed in their Portadown home in May 2017

The family of an elderly couple stabbed to death by a man with severe mental health problems have received an apology from the head of the Department of Health.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were killed in their own home by Thomas Scott McEntee on May 26, 2017.

The attack took place at the property in Portadown shortly after McEntee had walked out of Craigavon Area Hospital’s emergency department while waiting to be assessed.

Over the course of the week leading up to the horrific killing, 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.

McEntee admitted manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility and was given a life sentence in June last year.

Following a meeting with Richard Pengelly on Wednesday, the Cawderys’ son-in-law, Charles Little, said the family was happy with the health chief’s apology, as it recognises that the double tragedy was preventable.

“They basically said the deaths could have been avoided, and should have been avoided, and that they were sorry for that, which was fine,” Mr Little said.

“They should have said it two years ago but they’ve said it,” he added.

A Department of Health statement said it was “fully recognised and accepted that there were missed opportunities and failings” in Mr McEntee’s care.

Mr Little told the News Letter last year that the family has been forced to fight “tooth and nail” for “the truth” about the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

He also claimed there was a “culture of concealing, denying, hiding and not actively seeking the truth”.

Following Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Little said he would describe it as “very positive and very constructive,” but also spoke of his regret that both his own family, and the family of Mr McEntee, should “not have been traumatised” in the way they have been.

He said: “We discussed issues around the duty of candour, the SAI [serious adverse incident] review system and getting mental health dealt with on a Province-wide basis.

“There was an agreement that we will have follow-up meetings to discuss this further, and that other families in similar situations will also be invited.”

Mr Little added: “It’s all gone very well. Right up front, [Mr] Pengelly set the tone. It wasn’t confrontational in any way.

“They know they got it wrong and they’re hopefully now going to get it right.

“But of course we are judged by actions, not by words.”