Family of slain pensioners call for NI crime victims’ commissioner

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery. PACEMAKER BELFAST  27/05/2017
Michael and Marjorie Cawdery. PACEMAKER BELFAST 27/05/2017

The family of an elderly couple who were stabbed to death by a man with mental health problems have called for a victims commissioner to advocate for victims of crime.

Michael and Marjorie Cawdery died in a knife attack by Thomas McEntee in 2017.

The Portadown pensioners’ family endured a lengthy struggle to secure a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the killings after learning McEntee had 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.

Last month, two years after the killings, the family received n apology from the head of the Department of Health for “missed opportunities and failings”.

The pensioners’ son-in-law Charles Little was the first to arrive on the scene after the killings.

He is now calling for a victims’ commissioner to act on behalf of victims of crime in Northern Ireland.

“England and Wales has a victims’ commissioner and her role, primarily, is to be the voice of victims. That commissioner has direct access to government ministers and can act on behalf of victims. If legislation is being passed that affects victims, they can step in and say ‘hang on’.

“That commissioner deals with all victims – victims of crime, victims of terrorism, the whole lot.

“Here, we have one commissioner who deals with Troubles victims and no-one else.

“There is nothing here for people like us. What really brought things to a head for us was that the Secretary of State for the Department of Health had withdrawn funding for research into homicides by mental health patients.

“The victims commissioner in England stepped in immediately and said ‘this is wrong, you’ve got to stop this’. But there was nobody in Northern Ireland doing the same thing – no voice for victims here.”

Mr Little said that, had a victims commissioner been in place, he would have asked them to speak out on their behalf “straight away”.

He claimed the failure to appoint or elect an advocate for victims of crime in Northern Ireland was “clear discrimination”.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie is backing the family’s calls.

“The family’s calls are absolutely right. There is a problem here in Northern Ireland in that we went through the Troubles, which was traumatic, and we quite rightly dedicate time and effort to those who suffered in the Troubles.

“But because we are focussed on that we sometimes take our eyes off everything else. Victims of crime deserve exactly the same support.”