The camera men shoved forward towards the front door of the Criminal Courts of Justice this evening. Eamonn Lillis had just been found guilty of the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley. The press had gathered outside the door in the hope that the Cawley family would say a few words but the convicted man was first on the scene.
As he came out of the doors the scrum pushed forward and the barrage of flashguns was blinding. He pushed through, as he had through the crowds of onlookers every day of his trial, his head lowered and his hands stuffed into his pockets. But he was now a guilty man, who will learn his punishment next Thursday, and the snappers were not going to let him get away. As he disappeared down the road they ran after him and his footsteps could not be heard over the snapping of the shutters.
The verdict had come at 6.25 after the jury had been deliberating for almost nine and a half hours. There had been a lot of false starts in the day, as the jury manager appeared with a request for a smoke break or a point of clarification but when he appeared at around ten past 6 the whole room could tell this was it.
The room filled quickly and the tension heightened. The families took their seats and Mr Lillis sat into the small box that looks suspiciously like a dock in the new courtrooms. He looked visibly nervous and was biting his lip as he waited for the judge. A couple of rows behind the jury box his family were also showing the stress of the three week trial.
Eventually Mr Justice Barry White took his seat and the jury came out. They looked tired after their three days of deliberation. The registrar asked the foreman if they had reached a decision on which at least ten of them were agreed. He said yes and handed over the issue paper.
There was a moment of bated breath as the registrar turned and unfolded the paper, reading it through for a moment before reading out the verdict. Mr Lillis was guilty of manslaughter. The foreman had also noted down which of the four possible reasons they had decided on for this result…that the prosecution had proved that the death of Celine Cawley was an unlawful killing but not that Mr Lillis had intended to kill her or to cause her harm.
Mr Lillis barely flinched as the verdict was read out. He sat, his head cocked, as he had for the majority of the more damning evidence in the trial. His family took the news with a slight look of relief…it could after all have been so much worse.
In the bench at the back of the courtroom where the Cawley family had sat throughout the trial, Celine’s niece wept openly beside her grandfather. Celine’s sister Susanne’s emotion only showed as they left the courtroom, the tears welling up as they headed to the offices of the Courts Service Victim Support.
They stayed hidden from sight until they finally came to be confronted by the wall of photographers. It was announced that no statement would be made until after the sentence had been handed out then posed with quiet dignity for the photograph. The press parted with minimum fuss as they headed towards the steps and they were left to leave unobstructed.
We will all gather at the courts next week to find out what will happen next. Until then Eamonn Lillis will sign on twice daily as he puts his affairs in order. He is now, as Judge White pointed out, a convict, even on bail.