Northern Ireland news

Family seek apology from senior health chief over 'avoidable' deaths of elderly couple

Wendy Little Cawdery and Charles Little, the daughter and son-in-law of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery. The couple, who were both 83, were killed in their Portadown home two years ago by a mentally ill man. A new health service investigation has found their deaths were avoidable. Picture Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

THE family of an elderly couple who were killed by a mentally ill patient have sought a meeting with the most senior figure in the health service after an investigation found the deaths were "avoidable".

Charles Little, son-in-law of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, said he wants to speak with Richard Pengelly in his capacity as the overall chief executive of the Health and Social Care (HSC) system to ask about serious failings in the handling of the case - and why Mr Pengelly "has never apologised to them".

Mr Pengelly is also the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health.

Mr and Mrs Cawdery, who were both 83, were stabbed to death in their Portadown home in a "frenzied attack" by paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee two years ago.

It emerged that McEntee, who was seen naked on the day of the killings and presented himself to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry, had sought medical help on four occasions in the days before the tragedy.

The Cawdery family demanded a fresh health service investigation into the deaths after describing an initial probe by the Southern health trust as "shambolic" and "offensive".

The Irish News yesterday reported that the new independent review, known as a level 3 Serious Adverse Incident (SAI), concluded that although the killings "could not have been predicted", they "could have been avoided".

Mr Little last night said he had requested a meeting with Mr Pengelly three weeks ago through a senior health service official overseeing their case.

"We want to meet Mr Pengelly because he is the chief executive of the whole health service and is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on," Mr Little said.

"We want to know why he allows the service to operate in this way and why there has not, as yet, been a single word of apology from him for what the service has done to us over the past two years.

"There has been more compassion shown to us by the police than the health service."

The Irish News contacted the Department of Health and outlined the Cawdery family's concerns about Mr Pengelly's response to their case and failure to issue an apology.

In response, a spokesman for the department said: "In reply to your query, the Permanent Secretary has not yet received a request for a meeting."

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