We were back to the forensics today. Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis took the stand to tell the jury his findings from the autopsy of Celine Cawley.
We’ve heard various different scenarios for what happened on December 15th 2008. We know that the account Eamonn Lillis gave of his wife’s death to gardai, emergency services and members of his wife’s family was a lie. At the start of the trial last week Mr Lillis’s defence counsel Brendan Grehan stood up at informed the jury that Mr Lillis admitted that his account of a violent attack by a brick wielding burglar was a complete fabrication.
The fictional burglar has made a number appearances over the course of the trial but we’ve all been waiting to the alternative account of events that Mr Lillis said his solicitor advised him not to tell.
Then yesterday his former mistress Jean Treacy took the stand. She told the court that Mr Lillis had told her how he had fought with his wife and in the struggle that followed she slipped on the frosty decking outside the spacious house in Howth and cracked her head on a cobble brick left over from paving the patio.
Today Mr Lillis’s daughter gave a very similar account. Speaking through a video link from a room in another part of the court complex the 17-year-old recounted the account her father had given her of her mother’s death.
She had seen him after he was released from remand in jail. She had spent the Christmas and New Year in Austria but it had been “the world’s worst Christmas” for her. She told the court that her father had told her he and Celine had scuffled during an argument about putting meal worms out for the local robin and she had slipped.
She said her father told her he had panicked after his wife had died and lied. “He did it for me but I didn’t really appreciate that he did it.” She said that she had forgiven her father for what had happened but not for the lie. “I asked me could I forgive him and I said yes but I couldn’t really forgive him for the lie.”
Eamonn Lillis sat with his eyes fixed on his daughter’s face as she gave her evidence. It was the first time in the trial he had looked up for the majority of a witness’s evidence but this morning it looked as though he had more difficulty looking away.
She told the court that her father had told her her mother had hit him with the brick she had hit her head on and had bitten his finger.
This afternoon we heard another possible sequence of events. Dr Michael Curtis told the court that he doubted that the wounds Celine Cawley had received to her head were all the result of a fall. One wound, on the back right side of the head, could have been but the other two, one toward the front on the left above the ear, the other towards the top of the head on the right side were in unusual positions for this kind of cause.
He said that he did not think the account given by Jean Treacy was plausible, especially a reference to Celine falling then bouncing back up like a beach ball. He told the court “In my opinion that account does not in any way sufficiently explain the injuries of the deceased.”
He went on to say “I don’t think she suffered the three wounds from a single fall and I don’t think that she fell three times and I think two of these wounds are in positions that are not typical of scalp wounds caused by falls.”
Dr Curtis said that in his opinion Celine Cawley had been hit with a blunt implement to the front of the head causing her to fall onto her face. She was then hit two further times to the back of the head causing scrapes and bruises to her face. He said that the weapon would have been wielded with only moderate force.
These head injuries would have resulted in concussion and loss of consciousness but there was no internal bleeding in the skull and no skull fractures. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma to the head but also obesity and an enlarged heart which had meant that, with her breathing restricted from her position she would have suffered oxygen starvation and this too had caused her death.
He told the court that her injuries taken individually would not necessarily be fatal and that her life could have been saved if she had received prompt medical attention.
Dr Curtis disagreed when Brendan Grehan suggested that he could not speculate on how the wounds were delivered or in what order. He said that he had been told by gardai that Ms Cawley was discovered lying face down and this meant that the wound to the front of the skull would have had to be dealt first.
He agreed that if Ms Cawley had not been lying on her front his theory would have been weakened. He said that blood spatter on the wall near the living room window could either have come from a wound or a blood soaked weapon. Any further analysis, he said, was the work of a forensic scientist not a pathologist.
The trial continues tomorrow.