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Tag: Celine Cawley (Page 3 of 4)

The Sentence is Finally Given

There wasn’t a sound as judge Barry White read out his judgement.  Eamonn Lillis stood to attention, his eyes fixed on the judge, his chin tilted upwards in the nervously arrogant gesture he adopted each time the going got tough during his trial.  Ultimately though the news wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

The court was not as full as it had been throughout the three week trial.  Today and yesterday the throngs of public had been banished to the downstairs viewing room where they could watch proceedings on a live video feed.  For once the Cawley family did not have shopping bags resting on the back of their bench and a press of bodies leaning over them as hearing aids struggled with the acoustics of the court.

Lillis’s friends and family sat, as they had throughout the trial in the second row to the side of the now empty jury box.  His younger sister Carmel and friend Gerry Kennedy, who spoke in his defence at yesterday’s hearing, were able to talk briefly to the convicted man after his first night in custody.  When he came into court, a few moments after 11 o’clock, he looked more relaxed than he had during the trial, as if the worst was over and all he was now waiting for was to know when it would finally end.

Judge White took his seat at 11.08 and Lillis got to his feet.  The judgement was lengthy and considered.  Judge White told Lillis that he he had at least had the decency to call the emergency services after he had injured his wife and had aided them in their attempts to save her but this, in his opinion was “the only decent action or actions you committed on that particular morning.”

He said that Lillis’s continuing lies, the changing and hiding of his clothes and the blaming of an innocent man were purely to conceal his own guilt and that he considered Lillis’s admissions at the start of the trial, principally that his story of a masked assailant was a complete fabrication, were merely self serving.

Judge White also said that he did not believe Lillis’s apology to the court yesterday.  He said that a plea to manslaughter at an earlier stage in the investigation, even if it had been refused by the Director of Public Prosecutions, would have shown genuine contrition and remorse.

Lillis did not falter as the judge told him that considering the facts of the case and considering the lies and deceit he had practised the appropriate sentence for his crime was ten years.  There was a slight gasp in the court room from Lillis’s family as the figure was mentioned.  The Cawley family sat tensely as the judge continued his judgement, turning  now to the mitigating factors he must take into account.

Judge White said that it was obvious Celine Cawley’s death had a devastating effect on people of all ages, from her 80-year-old father to her 17-year-old daughter as her sister Suzanna’s victim impact statement yesterday had shown.  He said that the victim impact statement handed in on behalf of Mr Lillis’s daughter had shown strongly how a 16-year-old girl had changed into a hardened 17-year-old adult.

He said he accepted that Lillis’s actions had been out of character although he found this hard to reconcile with Lillis’s own account of the row with his wife, in which he shoved the brick at her and told her to “shove it where the sun doesn’t shine”.

However he said he also took into account the fact that the case had received considerable media attention and publicity and that this was likely to continue even after Lillis had served his time in prison.  The final sentence he handed down was for seven years, reduced to 6 years and 11 months to take into account the time Lillis had served on remand.

Then he turned to the media.  Looking at the three rows of journalists sitting in front of him, with others scattered around the court Barry White said that after reading the victim impact statements he thought that the media had “little or no respect for the privacy or dignity of the Cawley family”  He continued “it’s also clear to me watching news bulletins that there has been  a constant media scrum whenever you entered or left the building.  I consider that to be an affront to human dignity.”

He asked the media to respect the privacy of the Cawley family from now on.

In the silence that followed defence counsel Brendan Grehan formally asked for leave to appeal and received the formal refusal. Lillis must first apply for leave to appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeal before being granted one.

Lillis was led away by the waiting prison officers.  He will not be seen again until his release, if the press are as dogged as Judge White fears.  Celine’s father James Cawley went over to Inspector Dave Dowling and the two men embraced.  Mr Cawley was heard to say quietly “Thank God it’s all over now”.

Celine’s sister Suzanna went over to Lillis’s sister Carmel and handed her a small folded note.  The two women shook hands and hugged, slightly awkwardly in the crowded court.  Celine’s brother Chris had left after the sentence was delivered, following his wife’s sudden departure from the court.

Outside, the usual press scrum was a muted affair.  The journalists stood to one side as the Cawley family stood for the waiting photographers.  Then they moved in for Chris Cawley and Celine’s brother-in-law Andrew Coonan to speak.

After thanking their friends and neighbours and the gardai who conducted the investigation Chris Cawley broke down as he remembered his sister as a dynamic, kind, successful, fun loving, caring person.  “She had a beautiful energy that lit up so many lives.”


In Memory of a Sister Lost

Eamonn Lillis sat staring ahead, his finger crooked under his nose, rocking gently backwards and forwards as the sentence hearing got underway.  As he had done throughout his trial he showed no emotion as the facts of the case were read out.  He didn’t flinch as his lies were once again catalogued for judge, Mr Justice Barry White. 

When the victim impact statement written by his sister-in-law was read to the court he sat impassively.  Susanna Coonan said that the “good humoured, roguish, fun and compassionate” sister she had known had been “entirely deleted” from her mind and replaced by the image of her sister’s shaven head and the scared woman “slipping in blood and frost and fighting for her life on the patio of the house of her dreams.”

She said that one of the hardest things was the realisation that she would probably never know the truth about Celine’s final moments.  “Was she in pain? was she conscious?  Did she think about [her daughter]? Did she know she was dying?”  She said that she had been with both her mother and sister when they had died from cancer and due to the care of the nursing staff their deaths were a “triumph over illness”.  “For Celine and those of us who mourn her deeply, we were utterly deprived of any dignity, spirituality or peace”. 

Ms Coonan said that Celine’s daughter and her 80-year-old father deserved to know the truth about her death.  She said Lillis’s remorse was hard to credit.  He had 13 months to “at least apologise to {his daughter} and my father.  No such apology was forthcoming.”

In the first positive picture of Celine Cawley in her husband’s trial her sister described the devoted aunt and godmother, the “big kid” who got as much of a kick out of the remote control tractors and fluffy puppies as the children did.  She spoke of the “stamp” Celine left on people’s lives.  That on the second day of the trial her old maths teacher had been in court and never a day had gone by without old school friends and devoted colleagues attending proceedings.

Even prosecuting counsel Mary Ellen Ring seemed to have a catch in her throat as she read Ms Coonan’s closing words. “Our lives are enriched from knowing you”, then a quote from the Take That song “Rule the World”  “All the stars are coming out tonight.  They’re lighting up the sky tonight for you.”

Lillis was supported, as he had been throughout the trial by two old college friends.  Gerry Kennedy told Mr Justice White that he would consider Eamonn Lillis one of his closest friends.  He said he was a “gentle man, kind, considerate and a very, very good listener.” He said Lillis was “almost the last person in the world” he would have expected to be involved in such awful events.

Siobhan Cassidy had also gone to college with the convicted man.  She told the judge she knew him as someone who had a great interest in English literature, the human spirit, film and poetry.  She said he was mild mannered and courteous and she had never known him to be confrontational.  “Quite the opposite.”  She told the court this had been her opinion for the past 34 years and still was.

Speaking on behalf of his client, defence counsel Brendan Grehan told the court Lillis had loved his wife and would do so for the rest of his life.  He still spoke of her in the present tense.  He said Lillis was extremely sorry for the extreme hurt caused in particular for the lies told to the Cawley family.  Mr Grehan said Lillis was keen to point out that his wife had been neither a bully nor a tyrant and was a loving wife and mother and a strong business woman.

Mr Justice White will consider the victim impact statements from both Ms Coonan and Mr Lillis’s daughter as well as the evidence of the case and submissions from both sides before he delivers his verdict in the morning.

Failure to Prove Intent

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.

And Still We Wait…

You can’t rush a jury.  It doesn’t matter what your deadline is or what you’ve got planned for the weekend, those twelve men and women will take as long as they’re going to take and not a second more or less.

The jury in the Eamonn Lillis trial spent today in their second day of deliberation.  Every time they came out of their room every eye in court scanned their faces trying to read a sign, any sign of an impending decision.  They had seemed very definite when they asked for those bits of evidence yesterday, or they definitely looked as if they had a verdict when they came in just then.  And every time the expectation builds it’s disappointed.  The jury will take as long as they take.  How long? How long is a piece of string.

First thing this morning we listened back to part of Lillis’s evidence as they had requested.  The jury sat with their eyes closed concentrating on every syllable as Mr Lillis’s voice echoed round the silent courtroom.  The facility to play back evidence has been around since the new electronic recording replaced the traditional stenographers but now all the courts have this facility.

Then at almost ten past 12 they headed off to their room to resume their deliberations, armed with the recording of the 999 call and the suitcase full of bloody clothes.  That’s when the waiting started in earnest.

An hour later they were back in the court to be sent off to their lunch.  Time was they’d be bussed half way across Dublin for a hotel lunch, now the lunch on offer is prepared in-house and they have their own dining area. 

With any jury wait the process starts to get tedious once it goes into the second day.  We don’t have the jury’s distraction of actually deliberating so it’s a question of desultory conversation and sharing the papers.  As the afternoon wore on the laughter had a slightly hysterical edge but there was no end in sight.

At 4.40 they came back to ask for a smoke break.  Judge Barry White gave them the option of going home as he was planning on sending them home at 5.30.  The foreman replied firmly that no, thank you, they’d like to get back.  The heads on the press bench were all turned, scanning the faces again.

Once they’re sworn in they have to troop out for a nicotine fix as one although at least they don’t have to share a floor in a hotel any more.  As soon as they had left the speculation went into overdrive.  “Oh they definitely look like they’re close.”  “I’d go further, they look like they’ve got a decision.”  “They’re probably going out for a smoke instead of sleeping on it, they’ll come back with a verdict.”

The jury returned at 5 and immediately went back to their room.  Everyone waited expectantly but nothing happened.  And nothing continued to happen as the half hour ticked away.

So they’ve been sent to their beds for the second night.  Tomorrow morning we’ll all be there again, peering at their faces and trying to read their minds.  We won’t be successful, they’ll come back and surprise us when we’re not expecting them.  That’s the way it always happens.  It always does with juries.

The Waiting Begins

The jury started their deliberations at 2.29 this afternoon.  It’s only a matter of time now until Eamonn Lillis hears his fate and the Cawley family hear what will happen to the man accused of killing Celine Cawley.

Jury waits are always tedious.  There’s never anything to do.  Well that’s not strictly true. When the jury goes out is the moment when most of the press benches are galvanised into action and start seriously working on their final verdict copy.  If you’re writing for a daily there are usually two or three versions of the story, one for each outcome.  It’s not quite so labour intensive if you work for a Sunday paper (unless the verdict comes on a Saturday afternoon of course) but the final wrap is a massive task nonetheless.

So the cables snake over to the plug sockets on the now empty barristers bench, the sweet papers accumulate on the press benches and the quiet of the almost empty courtroom is filled with the rustling of notebook pages.  For everyone else it’s a matter of waiting.  It’s the first time there’s been a big wait in the new Criminal Courts of Justice and there’s been much discussion about whether the benches in the Four Courts were more or less arse numbing than the hard edged, pale wooden planks that cut off the circulation in the backs of your legs if you’re unfortunate to get yourself into the wrong position.

The format at this stage of a trial is always the same.  The jury retires after the Judge’s charge and the prosecution and defence teams have the opportunity to tell the judge what they think he missed out or failed to emphasise.  Then the jury get called back and the charge is updated.  This process took rather a long time today.  It was almost half past three when they were called back.

Mr Justice Barry White clarified a couple of legal and factual points as he had been asked to do and told the jury again that it was up to them alone to determine the facts in this case.  He told them that they should not feel he was trying to impose his will on them or that he was subtly hinting at a preferred verdict.  He neither carried the sword for the prosecution nor the shield for the defence, he told them.

So the jury resumed their deliberations and the waiting began again.  In the Four Courts there is a constant creaking and knocking, as you would expect in an old building.  You spend half the wait on tenterhooks every time you think you hear a knock on the door that leads to the jury room.

Things are different in the new court house.  The floors are carpeted, the building new and creak free. Then there’s the jury wrangler, he’s not called that but you get the general idea.  He’s there to look after the jury and so this afternoon, a little after four he appeared with a folded piece of paper.

The jury had a question.

Well actually they had a shopping list of items of evidence to help them in their deliberations.  They wanted a tape of the 999 call Mr Lillis made and a tape recorder to play it, the statements Jean Treacy and Mr Lillis’s daughter gave to gardai, the Rip Curl bag gardai found in the attic at Rowan Hill, filled with Mr Lillis’s bloodstained clothes and the bloodstained clothes found in Mr Lillis’s bedroom.  They also wanted the transcript of Mr Lillis’s evidence in court and the report given by Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis.

It’s never a simple list with juries.  Half the things they requested were off limits, others logistically complicated.  The jury had asked for the original garda statements given by Jean Treacy and the daughter.  They weren’t evidence so the request was denied, although they have the option of listening back to the evidence they gave in court.  They also asked for the transcript of Mr Lillis’s evidence – something only the judge has access to.

So they were sent home for the night.  Before we reconvene tomorrow morning the courts services will decide whether or not there is portable access to the 999 call or the recordings of the evidence given in court by Ms Treacy, Mr Lillis, his daughter and Dr Curtis.  If the jury can’t listen back in their room we’ve a long day ahead of us while they listen back in the courtroom.

So the wait will continue tomorrow.  Mr Lillis will have longer to wait to hear his fate.

The Closing Stages

Eamonn Lillis will know his fate by the end of the week.  Today the jury in his trial for the murder of his wife Celine Cawley heard closing speeches from both prosecution and defence counsel and Judge, Mr Justice Barry White has started his charge.

They’re expected to start deliberating sometime tomorrow.  They’ll have a lot to consider. 

Prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring SC told the jury that Eamonn Lillis was an opportunistic killer who had seized on the chance to end an unhappy marriage when the row erupted with his wife on the morning of December 15th 2008.  She told the jury that the only verdict they should come back with was guilty of murder.

The defence are looking for an acquittal.  Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC pointed out that the prosecution case simply didn’t hold up and told the jury that they needed to think about why a so-called opportunistic killer would only use moderate force when dealing the fatal blows, leaving Celine to suffocate to death.

The jury also have the option of manslaughter.  Or rather the options.  Judge White told them this afternoon that to come back with this verdict they would have to all agree on one of the possibilities. 

The first was that Eamonn Lillis had acted in self defence when attacked by his wife with a brick.  This would normally mean an acquittal but if the jury consider that he used excessive force the verdict is manslaughter.

The second option is that they think Eamonn Lillis is guilty of criminal negligence, in leaving his injured wife to die on the decking without calling the emergency services in time.  This also carries a manslaughter verdict.

Then there’s the option of provocation.  If the jury think that Eamonn Lillis was pushed to such an extent he snapped and wasn’t in control of his actions.  Again this is manslaughter.

Judge White has been running through the evidence of the trial this afternoon.  He pointed out that Mr Lillis lied about the masked burglar, even voluntarily embellishing his lie and clinging to it even when given several opportunities to come clean.  He said Mr Lillis had also lied to gardai about what clothes he was wearing even when his own bloodstained clothes were found in a suitcase in the attic.  It will be up to the jury whether they accept his comments.

Judge White also asked the jury whether they considered Mr Lillis’s affair with Jean Treacy to be a fling or something deeper.  He pointed to the note found in Mr Lillis’s bedroom that talked about running out of time.  He also highlighted mobile phone traffic between Mr Lillis and Ms Treacy which shows a marked increase of communication between November 2008 and December.  He asked the jury whether they considered this indicative of a fling or something deeper.

Judge White will finish his charge in the morning and the jury will consider their verdict.  We’ll all be waiting to see what they make of the case.

Based on a True Story

On his second day in the witness box Eamonn Lillis was talking fiction.  He was being cross examined on the note gardai found in his bedroom, the note that sounded suspiciously like the story of his affair with Jean Treacy and the words of a man angst ridden at his place in a love triangle.

This was not the case, Mr Lillis was adamant.  It was a treatment for a film script he had been working on.  He had been working on a script for ages, he had notes and journals to prove it. His idea was based on a true story but it was fiction and the note was fiction too, even if it did use real names.

Mr Lillis proceeded to weave a rather chaotic account of his idea.  It had been sparked by a project they had been filming for Irish Permanent, he said.  The film crew had been in place filming a bank robbery and a passer by thought they were filming a reconstruction for Crime Line.  That was the spark, he said.  He had thought, wouldn’t it be a good story to have a film crew filming a robbery but they really were robbing the place.

What about the note, prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring wanted to know.  That was based on the situation he found himself in but it was just fiction as well, he told her.  He had woken one night at about three or four in the morning and the idea had come to him.  It would have made a good simple script.  He had left the note where he could find it to bring into the office and work on it there.  It was about two characters who were running out of time…it bore no relation to persons living or dead, or at least to what had happened later.

Mr Lillis denies murdering his wife, Celine Cawley at their home in Howth on December 15th 2008.  Today he denied hitting her three times with a brick.  Ms Ring pointed out that two of the head wounds Celine had when she died were horizontal, as if made with a brick, rather than vertical as would be expected if she had hit her head of the living room window in a struggle as Mr Lillis had said.  Mr Lillis replied emphatically “That’s not true.”

Today was the final day of evidence.  Tomorrow will start with the closing speeches of prosecution and defence and then it will be up to Judge Barry White to summarise the evidence for the jury and charge them to begin their deliberations.  The courtroom was packed today, as it has been every day of the trial.  Dozens of members of the public squashed into the limited standing room in Court 19.  One watcher had even brought his guide dog, which narrowly avoided being trampled as it lay patiently through the proceedings.

It’s been a while since there was a trial like this. And it will be a while until there’s another one.  I sincerely hope the ghoulish curiosity of some of the more lascivious rubber neckers is sufficiently sated.

A Brief Pause

It’s been a busy couple of weeks but the Eamonn Lillis trial is entering it’s final stages.  The defence have started going into evidence and once they’re done it’s all done bar the shouting – that is, the speeches by both sides and the judge’s summing up and charge of the jury.  Then it’s all down to the six men and six women who have the ultimate task of passing judgement on whether or not Eamonn Lillis killed his wife.

It’s been the first big trial in the new court complex on Parkgate street.  I’ve posted my view on the courts on this blog before and I’ve also written about the media facilities in the Evening Herald.   But it’s not just the press that are unhappy.

It was one thing giving out about the courts in November when I first wrote about them.  Back then the paint was still wet and they weren’t properly open.  But over the past few weeks they’ve had a proper test run and have dealt with the public crush that accompanies a trial like the Eamonn Lillis one.  They haven’t done well.

The biggest problems are the new courtrooms.  Nobody seems to like them.  The gardai don’t have room to put all the evidence they must bring with them every day of a trial and when the court is full there’s nowhere for the 20 or so witnesses they need in an average day to sit.

The journalists don’t like the fact the press bench is positioned so that surreptitious glances around the court are next to impossible and that there are no plug sockets in easy reach for power hungry laptops.

The courts are too hot and the layout makes easy movement around problematic.  But the biggest problem, especially with a high profile trial, is the lack of a public gallery.  I’ve written before about The Crowd, the gaggle of elderly tricoteuses who attend any kind of public blood letting with rapacious glee.  With the Lillis trial they’ve descended on the court in their dozens.

Every morning they mass around the doors into the courtroom so that when the accused arrives he must push through the leering mob who giggle like sixties teenagers in the presence of a Beatle.  In the past the bulk of these rubber neckers have been banished to the public gallery where they can view the proceedings without getting under foot.

The new courts have no public gallery, although an overflow facility is available in the jury assembly room on the ground floor, when it’s not being used, is provided.  Of course no one wants to watch proceedings on a TV screen so no one takes up the option.  Consequently they mass six deep at the back of the court.  The family of the deceased, who are having to listen to traumatic evidence on a daily basis, also have to put up with shopping bags rested on their heads and hands resting heavily on the backs of their seats.

Every morning the mob gathers and the press must wait with them.  When the doors are eventually opened there is an undignified scramble to get through like the first day of the sales.  The courts security don’t appear to recognise that the press are any different from the day trippers and apart from the wonderful intervention of Courts Service PRO Gerry Curran on Friday when we were allowed to take our seats before the crush descended, the morning stampede adds considerable stress to the working day.  I can only imagine what it’s like for the accused, his family and that of Celine Cawley.

It’s certainly not dignified for anyone, reducing them to a similar position as zoo animals, and it’s considerably worse in the new courts.  It’ll be very interesting to see how things are managed in future trials and whether, in fact, this is a problem that can be solved at all.

The new courts are going to take a lot of getting used to.

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

There was an excited hush in the courtroom this morning as Eamonn Lillis made his way to the stand.  The accused is not obliged to take the stand in his defence and the jury are not allowed to pass any judgement on whether he does or not but as a journalist it’s always a good day when they take the short walk from their habitual seat (which isn’t a dock) to the witness stand.

Since there have been so many different accounts of Celine Cawley’s final moments during the two weeks of her husband’s trial everyone was eager to hear the account that came out of the horse’s mouth.

He told the court that he  had met Celine in 1990 at the advertising awards festival held every year in Kinsale.  At the time he was working as an advertising artistic director, she in a film production company.  She had arranged for Jack Charlton to come and manage the Irish football team in the friendly game the festival was holding – Ireland against the rest of the world.  He had signed up to play.  They met and clicked.  Both of them had German shepherds and, as he would with Jean Treacy 18 years later, he fell for a woman who shared his love of dogs.

Back in Dublin they continued to meet and after a relatively brief romance they were married the following year.  Their daughter was born a year into their marriage and they would become wealthy from the production company Celine had started Toytown Films.

He told the court that the day Celine died had started ordinarily enough.  He had woken at about 6.45 that morning, got up and done his customary morning exercises.  He went downstairs, let the dogs out and put the kettle on.

He brought cups of tea to his daughter and to Celine and got in beside his wife, in the downstairs bedroom she used, for “a kiss and a cuddle”.  He explained that it was normal for them to sleep apart.  “We were both tricky people to sleep with. Celine snored, so do I”.  The practise had started when their daughter was a baby to ensure that at least one of them had a decent night’s sleep.

That morning they watched television together for about 40 minutes than he went back upstairs for a shower and to get dressed.  He told the court that when he came back down Celine was in the kitchen making lunch for their daughter and putting the breakfast together.  He had breakfast then dropped his daughter to school.

The tranquillity of the morning continued until he returned from taking the dogs for a walk he said.  Celine was in the kitchen cleaning out the ice trays from the fridge.  She was wearing rubber gloves.  She asked him whether he wanted a cup of tea but he said no, he would go and clear the garden of dog poo first.  He told the court he got an old pair of gloves and headed outside.

Celine asked him whether he had remembered to put out meal worms for the robin.  He hadn’t.  She angrily replied that was just “bloody typical” and things degenerated from there.  They started to “hurl abuse at each other”.  Mr Lillis said he had walked out onto the decking to continue what he was going to do and Celine followed him to continue the row.

He told prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring that his wife could be very sarcastic.  “It wasn’t the food for the robin it was the fact she had asked me to do something and I hadn’t done it.”

Mr Lillis said once his wife followed him outside the row got worse.  She started asking him why he hadn’t been out chasing work for the production company.  He said he told her there was no work out there.  It was the middle of a recession.

He said that Celine told him he didn’t care about her or their daughter.  He told her she was only interested in her own image as superwoman.  “She didn’t appreciate stuff she already had.”  She also didn’t appreciate all the things he did around the house.

He said he didn’t see her fall.  He had his back to her.  But he saw her get up and when she did she was rubbing the back of her head.  As she stood up she picked up a brick from the ground.

Mr Lillis said he went over to see if she was ok but she thrust the brick at him.  He was still angry and grabbed it out of her hand.

He said he turned away again and she came after him saying again that it was “just typical” of him to walk out on a row.  He went back to her and shoved the brick at her telling her to “shove it where the sun doesn’t shine”. He said he was jabbing her on the shoulder with his finger as they argued.

He said Celine then grabbed the brick out of his hand and hit him with it.  He thought it had marked him on the chin.  He tried to grab the brick again and she pulled her arm away.  He said this was when he pulled the nail off his wedding ring finger.

In anger he shoved her back against the living room window.  She cried out but he couldn’t tell whether this was because she had hurt herself or was screaming at him.  This would have been the screams that neighbour heard at 9.35.

The struggle continued until he slipped on the decking.  He fell to his knees, forcing Celine off balance.  She fell onto her back, banging her head off the deck.  the brick was no longer in her hand.

He said he went to get up and she bit the little finger on his right hand and wouldn’t let go.  Mr Lillis said his wife was shaking her head back and forward as she bit so he pushed her forehead away then pushed her head to the ground until she let go.  Mr Lillis said the row stopped.  They were both shocked by what had happened.  He said he suggested they tell their daughter they had both been injured in a robbery.  She said ok.

He said Celine seemed quiet and dazed but sat up.  He saw blood on her head but not much.  He commented that his wife had very thick hair.  He got her to lay her head on his lap.  “I was just looking after her the way I always had.”  She stayed there for a second then sat up again.

He went in to the kitchen and came out with kitchen towels and a tea towel which he gave her to mop up the blood, then he gathered everything up, the gloves he had dropped, the wet rubber gloves she had been wearing, and the kitchen towels and took them inside.

He went straight into the living room and took some camera equipment, the same kind of stuff that had been taken when they were burgled around 18 months before.  Then he brought the camera stuff and the bin bag upstairs and got changed.

He decided his outer clothes were too bloodstained to be washed so he put them in the rubbish bag but put his shoes and t-shirt back in the wardrobe.  He said he then put the plastic bag and the camera stuff into a small suitcase and put it in the attic, which was open as they had been taking down Christmas cards.

When he came back down he went to find Celine and saw her collapsed on the decking.  He said he lied to the emergency services because it was what they had agreed and he didn’t want Celine to wake up and give a different account.

Once he had told a lie, he said, he felt he couldn’t take it back.  He felt “boxed in” by family and friends and trapped into his lie.

Mr Lillis will be back on the stand on Monday.

A Difference of Opinion

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.

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