Leading article

Full disclosure needed after tragic Cawdery and Hughes cases

The sudden and brutal killings of innocent victims by paranoid schizophrenics are fortunately rare across Ireland but the consequences of such shocking tragedies can only be devastating at every level.

Grieving relatives must surely be kept fully involved in all the subsequent investigations and it is a matter for enormous concern that serious issues in this respect have emerged in two high profile cases in Belfast and Co Armagh within a matter of weeks.

Earlier this month, the permanent secretary of the health department, Richard Pengelly, offered a deserved apology to the family of Michael and Marjorie Cawdery, both aged 83, for failings in the care of Thomas Scott McEntee (44), a patient who walked out of Craigavon area hospital and stabbed the retired couple to death in a frenzied attack at their nearby home in 2017.

It has now emerged, as we report today, that grave errors on the part of the authorities also surrounded the equally appalling murder of James Hughes (62) in his flat at Divis Tower in Belfast the previous year.

Mr Hughes, a practising Buddhist described as a `super human being', attempted to offer assistance to a neighbour, James Devine (44), a person with 66 previous convictions who ended up stabbing him 32 times two days after ringing health officials and telling them he was going to kill someone.

The family of Mr Hughes were astonishingly never told that that a wide ranging formal review known as a level 3 Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) had taken place into the sequence of events, and as a result a second probe in which they are to be fully consulted has now been ordered.

It will be noted that the relatives of Mr and Mrs Cawdery were told on the record that the killings of the couple were avoidable but not predictable while the family of Mr Hughes had compelling reason to conclude that his death fell into both categories.

A total of seven families across the north have lost loved ones in related circumstances over the last three years and the way in which the Hughes and Cawdery families regard the perpetrators as victims in their own right is compelling. The least all parties deserve is complete disclosure of what really happened.

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