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Inquest into elderly Portadown couple’s murder scheduled almost four years after ‘frenzied’ attack

A Preliminary Hearing into the deaths of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery has been via telephone conference

The Coroners Inquest into the killing of an elderly Portadown couple has been listed for March next year, almost four years since the incident.

During a remote Preliminary Hearing into the deaths of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, counsel for the Coroner Mark Reel told the telephone conference “at the moment we have a listing date for 1 March 2021″

And he added there was a “fairly obvious requirement” for an additional review given the issues which are still outstanding.

Hours after he was spotted standing naked in the grounds of Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry on 26 May 2o17, 43-year-old paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee broke into the home of Mr and Mrs Cawdery in Portadown.

As they returned from their weekly shopping trip, McEntee armed himself with six knives and launched what was described by the judge who jailed him as a “frenzied, horrific and sustained attack” on the 83-year-old couple before dressing in Mr Cawdery’s clothes and stealing their car, which he then crashed into two other vehicles.

Initially charged with double murder, McEntee later pleaded guilty to the couple’s manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, based on the fact that his mental impairment significantly impacted on his culpability, and was handed a life sentence with an order to serve at least 10 years in jail.

Since then, the Department of Health have issued an apology to the Cawdery family after failings were identified in an independent report which found the couple’s deaths could not have been predicted, but could have been avoided in the context of a significant deterioration in McEntee’s mental health.

Having been seen naked at Daisy Hill Hospital, McEntee had been taken to Craigavon Area Hospital in an ambulance, with a police escort, and was waiting to be assessed in the emergency room when he got up and left, walking to the Cawderys’ nearby home where he launched his bloody and devastating attack.

The review on Friday, conducted by telephone conference, heard that while McEntee has given verbal consent to his medical notes and records being disclosed to lawyers involved in the inquest, he has been sent a form in prison seeking his written consent to waive doctor patient confidentiality.

Mr Reel said he had drafted a form which had been forwarded to McEntee for him to sign and while Coroner Patrick McGurgan said he had no powers to direct him to comply, “he has given verbal consent…so there nothing to suggest that he won’t sign the consent forms”.

Mr McGurgan suggested that “it would do no harm” if McEntee’s lawyers consulted with him to hopefully expedite the matter but warned that the parties “will have to tread carefully in terms that we do need his co-operation”.

Counsel for the Trust told the coroner that once the written consent had been obtained, it would take between four to eight weeks to complete the recording of statements from the medical professionals who treated McEntee in the hours and days preceding the double killing.

Counsel for the PSNI, Rachel Best, revealed the police had self referred themselves to the Police Ombudsman, whose review is still ongoing, and that “the police are happy to share” documents relating to their own internal review.

Other issues relating to disclosure of materials, which documents maybe subjected to redactions and potentially hearing testimony from expert witnesses were discussed, but each lawyer agreed the various issues may or may not be resolved by what is disclosed and the views taken on the material.

Due to those ongoing issues, Mr Reel said there would clearly have to be another review which the coroner listed for 2 October.

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