Sentence for paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed elderly couple to death 'totally inadequate'

Marjorie and Michael Cawdery who were stabbed to death at their home in Portadown
Rebecca Black

THE family of two pensioners stabbed to death in a "frenzied and vicious" attack at their home in Portadown by a man with paranoid schizophrenia say a life sentence with a 10-year minimum is not enough.

Thomas Scott McEntee (41) stabbed husband and wife Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, multiple times when they found him in their home committing a burglary on May 26 2017.

McEntee pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sentenced today to life in prison, of which he must serve at least 10 years before he becomes eligible for release.

Currently at the secure Shannon Unit in Knockbracken Healthcare Clinic in south Belfast, he is to be transferred to prison.

Charles Little, the couple's son-in-law, said the minimum tariff is "is totally inadequate".

"This was two lives of two really good people brutally and savagely taken away, and that is just not acceptable," he said outside court.

"I know there are sentences running concurrently but in real times it looks like five years a life as a minimum, and that is just not justice as far as we are concerned."

Mr Little also criticised the Southern Health Trust, saying there are "many questions" about what happened in the weeks leading up to the killings.

"He (McEntee) was going for help, he went for help on numerous occasions to the various health trusts, in particular the Southern Trust.

" He did not receive the help he wanted and in failing him, they failed us and Mike and Marjorie paid for it with their lives," he said.

"There are questions that now must be answered. We need an inquest and we call on the coroner to organise an inquest as soon as possible."

Southern Trust chief executive Shane Devlin said a review has been carried out which did "identify missed opportunities in relation to our involvement with Mr McEntee and has highlighted ways to improve the safety of the health and social care system".

McEntee listened at Belfast Crown Court as Mr Justice Adrian Colton detailed his deliberations, including details of the days leading up to the killings.

On May 25, McEntee was found drunk in Warrenpoint, making approaches to women. Police took him to Newry train station at 7pm.

The following morning a "naked male" - later identified as McEntee - was spotted in the grounds of Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry. Police arrived and he was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital.

In the ambulance, McEntee told staff he had suicidal tendencies. He agreed to remain at the hospital for an assessment and treatment to cuts on his arms but McEntee's behaviour changed and he left before it was done.

He was later spotted in the Upper Ramone Park in Portadown around noon.

When the Cawdreys returned from a shopping trip at around 1.30pm, McEntee was in the house and was armed with a knife from the property.

The couple's daughter Wendy Little-Cawdery and her husband Charles found the couple, who were declared dead by paramedics.

McEntee was found in a nearby field wearing Mr Cawdery's clothes.

During sentencing Mr Justice Colton ruled out a hospital order, after hearing McEntee's condition is in remission and taking into account the gravity of the offences.

Detailing McEntee's traumatic childhood, diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and 42 previous convictions, Mr Justice Colton said he was satisfied he is a risk to the public before sentencing him to life in prison with a minimum tariff of 10 years.

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