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Tag: Celine Cawley (Page 4 of 4)

The Mistress Speaks

The sense of anticipation in the courtroom was palpable.  There was a wall of gardai surrounding a corner at the back of the courtroom, a pretty girl behind them drinking from a water bottle through a straw.

She had dark hair, with a couple of honey coloured streaks, hanging loose to her shoulders she looked young for her 32 years.  Wearing a white blouse with black trousers she was professional, groomed and seemed quietly confident. 

The word rippled around the courtroom almost instantly.  This was it.  She was here.  Everyone had been waiting a long time to get a look at Jean Treacy, the woman who had been having a passionate affair with Eamonn Lillis when his wife, Celine Cawley was brutally killed.  Finally, today, they would get their wish.

Speaking in a quiet, lilting accent with sharper South Dublin overtones, she leaned forward into the microphone and told the court about the affair.  She had met Mr Lillis through his wife, she said, who had been a regular visit to the Howth Haven Salon where she was working at the time.  Celine had come to her for deep tissue back massage, she said, but hadn’t liked too much pain so they hadn’t been that deep.  After a while Mr Lillis started visiting her too for the same deep tissue massage his wife had.

Ms Treacy said she had started working in the salon in August 2006.  She had previously worked in marketing but had retrained as a beauty therapist.  Mr Lillis and Ms Cawley were regular clients over a period of about two years.  She usually saw Mr Lillis on a Friday afternoon.

At the start of November 2008 she had been talking to Mr Lillis about his dogs.  She told him she would love to see pictures of them and he replied that he had some on his iPod out in the car.  When she finished work at 6p.m. that evening she went out with him to the carpark.  She sat into the front seat of his car with the door open and he showed her the photographs.  She noticed his hands.  “They were just particularly nice for a man’s hands.”

The following week he had come to his appointment as normal but something was different.  The massage started as normal with her working on his back and shoulders.  He needed work on the front of his shoulder as well so she turned him over to begin work.  Ms Treacy told the court that normally a client would close their eyes when they turned over onto their back but Mr Lillis kept his open.

“He was staring at me to the point I was almost uncomfortable.”  She asked what he was thinking.  He said nothing.  But he kept staring at her and smiling.  He asked her what she was thinking but she just shook her head and kept going.  The staring continued so she asked again what was he thinking, he responded by asking her the same question back.  She told the court she put his fingers on her wrist to feel her racing pulse and said “that’s what I was thinking” and walked out of the room.

As the relationship developed they started texting and calling one another daily.  They would try to snatch a few minutes together almost every day.  As both of them were in relationships, secrecy was vital.  When they were due to meet they would send an empty text to see if the other was free to talk.  They would usually meet in carparks although she had been to his house, Rowan Hill three times.  They would generally meet on a Monday when she had a day off from the salon.

She knew he was not happy in his marriage but she said she would not have known if he hadn’t told her.  “They looked very good together.”  Four or five weeks before Ms Cawley’s death Mr Lillis told her that one morning he had told Celine that he wasn’t happy.  “Celine had said well make a list of anything you’re unhappy with and we will work on it.”  The lovers referred to this list as his “resolution list”.

Ms Treacy told the court that, despite the strength of her feelings, she had never wanted the marriage to fail and had not loved Mr Lillis.  “I realise now it was more an infatuation than anything.  That came and went.”

They had been supposed to meet on December 15th.  At around a quarter to ten she sent a blank text to Mr Lillis’s phone.  She heard nothing back.  A while later she sent another text asking him to bring the ML Jeep.  “Not from a seedy, sordid point of view”, she hastened to add.  It was more comfortable to sit in and as the windows were tinted it meant no constant looking over the shoulder.

She didn’t get any reply to that text or the ones she sent in the course of the day.  That evening, after learning of Ms Cawley’s death through a call from her boss at the salon, she texted Mr Lillis again offering her support.  He texted back saying it had been a “horrifying day, a day from hell”  She replied saying she would do anything she could to help.  He texted back “It gives me great strength to know that you are thinking of me”.

The following day she texted him suggesting they didn’t see each other for a while.  He replied that was probably a good idea but a few days later he left her a message saying that he would probably be back in the house that week and would probably see her for his massage.  He would probably need one.  At that stage she was no longer working at the salon and her boss rang him to cancel the appointment.

That was the last time she heard from him until the new year.  About 24 hours after he had been released from remand on January 6th she got a call from him on her phone.  She didn’t answer.  He left her a message asking her to call him on the house phone.  There were a few more calls but she didn’t answer any of them.

The following morning he arrived at her house.  Ms Treacy told the court that he had not knocked on the door, simply done a u-turn in the drive.

In the middle of March, after a few drinks too many, she called his phone.  It had been a stressful couple of months for her and she told defence counsel Brendan Grehan that she felt she was owed an explanation.  “It’s not that I exactly wanted to ask him straight out.”   She said “I found myself in this nightmare and I couldn’t understand how I had got it so wrong.”

She arranged to meet Mr Lillis but when she saw him again she suddenly didn’t want to know.  He insisted on telling her, saying he felt he owed her an explanation. 

Mr Lillis told her that morning Celine had asked him to put out the rubbish but he had forgotten.  “She went mad”.  Ms Treacy said Mr Lillis told her Celine then “started hurling abuse” and said “he was a terrible husband and just useless.”  Mr Lillis said told her things degenerated.  They both said “disgusting” things.

For some reason Celine had gone outside.  The ground was wet and she ended up falling.  “He made an analogy to a beach ball” saying it was “unbelievable how she just bounced back up again.”

The row continued and they grappled.  Mr Lillis told Ms Treacy that at one point he had his wife up against some glass and they both fell and fought on the ground.  “All of a sudden she started biting his finger.  She wouldn’t let go.  He just felt she would bite it off.”

Ms Treacy said that Mr Lillis had demonstrated how he used his other hand to push his wife’s forehead away to make her let go.  He told her he used a gentle steady force, not a jerky shove.  Then “all of a sudden a pool of blood appeared behind her head and Celine slipped out of consciousness.”

He told her that Celine had faded in an out of consciousness.  He had asked her was she ok and she had said she was.  At one point before she finally lost consciousness they discussed what they were going to tell their daughter to explain their physical injuries and the story of the robbery was born.

She had asked him about the brick, which had been mentioned in the press as the murder weapon.  He told her he supposed it had been behind Celine’s head while he was pushing her away.  She asked why he hadn’t come clean and admitted he had panicked and lied but Mr Lillis told her his solicitor had told him not to.

He told her he wasn’t overcome with grief but did miss his wife.  “He said he often found himself with the light on in her room and lying on her bed and he would find himself going to talk to her and realise she wasn’t there.”

Ms Treacy didn’t tell the gardai about what Mr Lillis had told her initially.  She told the court she had hoped if she broke off all contact he would get the message and go away but on May 26th she arrived at the salon in Inchicore where she now worked to find he had left a letter for her.   There were several pages of a letter and a package tied in white ribbon.  The paper was printed with the lyrics from the Beyonce song Halo.  Inside was a diamond Tiffany pendant.

She took the pendant straight to the gardai and told them her story.  As she was giving her evidence Jean Treacy hardly looked at her former lover.  She glanced down at him once but he did not meet her glance.  As she spoke he gazed intently down at his notes.  For the first time this trial he was wearing contact lenses.  From time to time he rubbed his eyes as if they were hurting.

Finally a side note.  In the television news tonight or in tomorrow’s papers you won’t see a photograph of Jean Treacy.  After she had given evidence the gardai whisked her off to the underground carpark below the new courts complex.  It’s this underground carpark that means that the convicted will no longer walk the “walk of shame” in front of the waiting snappers. 

Jean Treacy was raced out of the building in a garda van and driven off at speed.  When one photographer started to follow the van he encountered a road block.  By shielding her with a dozen officers and removing her in such a cloak and dagger manner I doubt very much gardai have ensured her privacy.

If she had run the gauntlet past the snappers on her way in to court, as her former lover must do every day of his trial, she would have had her face on the front of a few papers.  She has now become a story in her own right.  All the photographers in town will be looking for her and when one finds her they all will.  Whatever you think of the right or wrong of her getting publicity in this case, she’s a part of the story.  That’s just the way the press works.  It’s not up to the gardai to spare her blushes surely.

A Family Tragedy

Celine Cawley’s brother Christopher looked shaken and uncomfortable as he took the stand against the man his sister had been married to for seventeen years.  Eamonn Lillis did not look at his brother-in-law as he told the court about an incident in the days after Celine’s death.

Mr Cawley told the court that Mr Lillis and his daughter had stayed with them while the gardai conducted their forensic investigation of the house on the Windgate Road in Howth where Celine Cawley had been killed.

He said that on December 18th, three days after the tragedy he had a conversation with his brother-in-law about a story that had appeared in the Evening Herald.  The story had concerned the discovery of a bloody brick at the crime scene and the announcement that this brick had been the murder weapon.

Mr Cawley said Mr Lillis had seemed surprised by the story.  He had thought it odd, “because everyone knows that the brick was found for didn’t I hold the brick in my own hand.”

This afternoon’s evidence largely came from the members of the extended Cawley family.  Christopher Cawley’s house had become the gathering place for family and friends in the hours after the news of Celine’s death had been broken.  Paula Linsky, Christopher Cawley’s sister-in-law, told the court that she had been leaving the house to collect her children from school just as Mr Lillis arrived there after speaking to gardai. 

She told the court that she had heard an outpouring of grief as she left the house that day as Mr Lillis’s daughter greeted her father.  “I just heard very upset people.”

The death had caused shockwaves through this extremely middle class world.  A neighbour, Pauline Fraser, told the court that she heard two screams on the morning of the 15th at around 9.30.  The sound was so unusual at that hour of the day that it stuck in her memory. 

She told the court that she had slept late after spending most of the previous night at the hospital but had been woken by a shriek.  Then thirty seconds later came another scream.  She had thought it was teenagers outside the local newsagents or possibly a neighbour’s children and only reconsidered when her husband called to tell her that the tranquillity of their leafy road had been irreparably broken.  The scream had been high pitched, definitely a woman.

The court also heard forensic evidence that Ms Cawley’s DNA had been found on the heavily bloodstained clothes found in a suitcase in the attic at Rowan Hill.  Dr Hillary Clarke told the court that she would have expected the clothes Mr Lillis had handed over to gardai to have been far more heavily bloodstained if he had been carrying out CPR on his wife. 

She said that both the top Mr Lillis had handed over and the t-shirt he wore underneath had Ms Cawley’s blood on the inside.  The most likely explanation for a stain inside one of the sleeve’s of the jumper was that the arm that had been put in it had been wet with blood.

She said that runner boots found in Mr Lillis’s bedroom had both airborne and contact blood stains and had almost certainly been nearby when Celine Cawley’s blood had been spilt.

She said that lighter blood stains on a pair of heavily bloodstained jeans found in the suitcase had probably come from someone cleaning up blood, as had similar stains on a pair of white socks found in the same place although she agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan that these stains could have been made by the wet blood that had pooled inside one of the rubber gloves found in the suitcase.

A Breitling watch found on the bedside table in Mr Lillis’s room had, she said been wiped clean of Ms Cawley’s blood, although some remained in the crevice around the watch space and the links of the strap yielded both blood and tissue both of which were a match for Ms Cawley’s DNA.

The trial continues tomorrow.

Text Messages and Blood Spatters

Over the course of their ten week affair Eamonn Lillis and Jean Treacy sent each other over 300 messages.  The messages stopped abruptly when Mr Lillis’s wife, Celine Cawley was died violently at the couple’s home.

Today Mr Lillis’s trial heard details of the texts that passed between the lovers over a couple of days in the middle of December 2008, the days surrounding the death of Ms Cawley.

The court heard last week that Jean Treacy was a massage therapist at the Howth Haven Salon who was having a passionate affair with Mr Lillis.

Today the court heard that the first text found between the two was sent on November 2nd.  They continued, getting more frequent until December 16th when Ms Treacy texted Mr Lillis to suggest they stopped seeing each other for a while.

On Sunday December 14th, the day before Ms Cawley died, Eamonn Lillis texted Jean Treacy at 12.17 that afternoon.  “In car with [his daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons] Will contact you in 30.x”  Sure enough half an hour later he texted again.  “Hi my love.  Thanks for the text on the way home from the stables.  C is getting car to see horse.  I really miss you my baby.  Call or text asap.  I love you.”

That night Ms Treacy texted him just before 11p.m. “Transporter 3 good.  Love Jason Statham.You staying at home tomorrow? K going into office for part of morning.  Could meet you somewhere.  Miss you so much. x”

The reply did not survive but a couple of minutes she texted again.  “No pressure though, OK Baby? x”

A couple of minutes later she sent a third text.  “Well as usual I’ll have to play it by ear.  Will contact you as soon as possible in morning.  Good night my angel. Love you infinitely. x”

The text morning she sent an empty text at 9.44.  Then at almost 10.30 she sent to two words “Everything OK?”  This would have been almost half an hour after Mr Lillis called the emergency services saying that he and his wife had been attacked and he couldn’t find a pulse on his wife.

At 11.14 she texted again.  “Getting a bit worried now Babe.”

The next day she texted him just before 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  She had obviously heard what had happened.  The message was simple.  “[His daughter] that’s what you really need to focus on.  I’m not abandoning you.  You just need to concentrate on you & [daughter] and what’s happening to you.  To do this I don’t think we should have any contact until things have calmed down (for both our sakes).  I know you will understand.  Everyone is looking for a story.   This is not an easy decision for me to make.  Will be thinking of you and be with you every step of the way. Bye. x”

That night she texted again.  At ten past 11 she sent;  “I wanted you to know I still feel the exact same about you OK.  I’ll keep the appointment times in case you need them.  See you at the funeral.  Best of luck with everything always. x”

We also heard that Celine Cawley’s blood was found spattered about five feet up the wall between the double doors into the utility room and the window into the living room near where Ms Cawley’s body was found at the back of the house of the Windgate Road in Howth.  The spatter was too far away from the main pool of blood where Ms Cawley was found to have been made by the same incident but would have happened at around the same time.

Forensic scientist Dr Stephen Doakes agreed with defence counsel Brendan Grehan that the spatter could have been caused by someone hitting their head on the sharp edge by the window.  There was no blood on the window so whatever happened would have happened over towards the double doors into the house.

There were also drops of blood on the steps that lead to these double doors.  Dr Doakes said the drops would have come from a narrow object that was heavily bloodstained and dripping blood.  Something like a finger or a brick but not a head wound.

The trial will continue tomorrow.

Literary Aspirations

Eamonn Lillis denied that a note found in his bedroom was written about his mistress Jean Treacy.  It was the basis of a short story he said, a doomed love affair.   He wrote, he explained, he used to be a copy writer.  The gardai may also have seen the chapter about a dog lying around.

He said the notes were not a resolution list written about the way he was feeling, they were fictional although based on experience.

The note read

She will get that wedding dress

She will marry Keith next June

She will send out the invites in January

You will never be with her properly.

The only way you can be with her is to live here.

Think of the positives in the relationship.

You will never take her to France.

She will never share your bed.

You are running out of time!!!

Eamonn Lillis denied that he was his wife’s lap dog, that he was a second class citizen or that she was a dominating character.  He said his solicitor had told him not to discuss this.

The trial continues on Monday.

Is the Grass Always Greener?

Eamonn Lillis was quite definite when he told gardai he had not had an affair.  After his arrest, six days after his wife’s death on December 15th 2008, he was woken in his brother-in-laws house and arrested on suspicion of murdering his wife, Celine Cawley.

In a series of interviews that Sunday he refused to comment when he was asked about his relationship with his wife.  He agreed they had slept in different bedrooms as a rule but this was down to her heavy snoring and thrashing about in the bed.

He was quite definite that he had not been having an affair in the ten weeks leading up to his wife’s death.  He had known Jean Treacy only as the woman who gave him his weekly massage, he told them.  Celine went to her as well.

The gardai told him they had been speaking to Jean and she told a different story.  A story in which an advance was made over a massage and a kiss was snatched in the salon where she worked.  They suggested regular weekly meetings on a Monday when she wasn’t working, three visits to his home.

At first Mr Lillis was determined in his denial but as the details stacked up he admitted the affair.  A mid life crisis, he called it.  He had been infatuated but wasn’t a jealous man.  He said he had known she was due to marry the following year and it didn’t bother him.

He told them he had worked out a “resolution list” with his mistress and then discussed the list with his wife over a bottle of wine.  The list covered things he was unhappy about in his life, the man he wanted to be, what he wanted to change.  The talk was very therapeutic, he said, it helped the marriage.

He denied that Celine had found out about his affair on the day that she died although he agreed he was due to meet Jean in their regular Monday meeting.  He couldn’t do that to his wife, he said.  He didn’t have it in him.

He refused to comment when gardai suggested that his wife’s death had been a terrible accident, that he had just snapped under intolerable strain.  He couldn’t do something like that to Celine he said.  He wanted to speak to his solicitor.

He also told gardai that he had changed his clothes after picking up an Irish Times in a local newsagents.  He had been going to take the dogs for a walk so had changed into combats and walking boots.  He had put the jeans he was wearing in the wash room and changed his dark top and black boots with white trim.

The jury was shown the contents of a black bin liner, found in a small suitcase under some cameras and lenses.  The suitcase had been submerged under boxes of children’s toys, dolls and children’s books.  In the bin liner were a pair of jeans and a black V neck sweater, a pair of white socks and a pair of boxers.  All the clothing was bloodstained.  As was a dish cloth, a pair of men’s outdoor gloves, a pair of rubber gloves and several wads of kitchen roll.  The bag also contained an empty sauce bottle and a yoghurt pot.

The jury were also shown a bloodstained grey polo shirt found in the upstairs bedroom used by Mr Lillis and a pair of black boots with white trim with blood stains on the soles.

We now have a very good idea of the layout of the house in Howth where this story played out.  This morning the prosecution played a video tour of the house filmed by gardai.  The camera swung slowly round the property showing a home in the run up to Christmas.  Gold tinsel was draped over every picture and the Christmas tree made another appearance.

Breakfast things were abandoned on the counter in the kitchen and beds were dishevelled.  The house had an empty, deserted look, made more acute by the inscrutable eye that looked on it in the aftermath of a forensic investigation.

The camera lingered over the soft toys in a bedroom, clutter on a bathroom shelf, an ornamental cow with daisy spots across it’s back in the garden.  All the trapping of lives lived before events that would change them forever.  A Marie Celeste moment before tragedy struck at the start of an ordinary week just before Christmas.

A Phantom Intruder

Eamonn Lillis told gardai and emergency services that he and his wife had been attacked by a masked man, the morning that she died.  Yesterday we heard that he admitted this intruder was a lie and that he was the only one present when his wife, Celine Cawley, suffered the injuries that lead to her death.

Today we heard the details of this lie in statements he had made to gardai in the hours and days following her death.  Over several statements he described a man around 5’11” like himself but wiry and strong.  He described the mythical burglar as wearing a dark grey bomber-type jacket, with darker sleeves, blue jeans and nylon looking gloves.  On his back was a rucksack and he was wearing a black balaclava or ski mask with a contrasting white line on it.

Mr Lillis said this man had been crouched over his wife when he returned home from taking their three dogs for a walk.  He said the intruder was holding a brick and crouched over a prone Celine on the decking outside the kitchen.  Painting himself as the hero of the piece, Mr Lillis said he had gone out to her roaring and fought with the attacker but slipped on the icy deck, allowing the masked intruder to make his escape.

Mr Lillis told gardai that they should make whatever investigations were necessary to catch the phantom and said that he just wanted the guy caught.  He repeated this wish when he rang gardai asking when he could return to his house, only to be told that garda forensics were still examining the scene.

Mr Lillis had also suggested that he knew who the mysterious intruder was.  He told gardai that his family had been burgled before and had suspicions then as to who the culprit was.  They had put a high fence around the large detached house after that.  Although the house was still visible from the public laneway that ran beside the house in Howth.

He told gardai his wife would have confronted any intruder. She was a fighter, he said, a tough nut.

The jury were also shown photographs of the injuries Mr Lillis had to his face and hands when the emergency services arrived.  His face was scratched and bruised and the nail on his wedding ring finger torn off.  The little finger on his right hand was bruised and bloody, as if, suggested defence counsel Brendan Grehan, it had been bitten.

The jury, judge and counsel saw the photographs but not the rest of us.  The lovely large screens that had been showing us the location photographs in an unexpectedly inclusive gesture yesterday, were black today and so any viewing had to be through craning necks and wriggling in seats.

It was a quiet enough day of evidence today.  This happens all the time in trials.  The stand out witnesses that make the story to be told after the verdict can end up all in one day with the remainder of the trial being repetitive procedural witnesses like most of today.  We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow.

Concessions and Lies

Eamonn Lillis told gardai and the emergency services that both he and his wife, Celine Cawley, had been attacked by a masked attacker in their Howth home.  He said that this balaclava’d and gloved man had hit his wife over the head with a brick and then turned on him.

This morning, after prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring had finished her opening speech, Mr Lillis’s counsel, Brendan Grehan stood up to make a number of concessions.  It’s normal enough to hear that the defence aren’t going to argue over the conditions of their client’s arrest or the way the scene what preserved and the evidence gathered, the technicalities of the investigation of a serious crime.  In total Mr Grehan made eight concessions that there had been no hiccups in how the gardai did their job.  Then he came to the ninth admission.

Mr Lillis, he said, admitted lying to gardai and emergency services about the circumstances in which his wife had suffered the injuries that led to her death.  There had been no burglary, no intruder, no one apart from him in the house when she was injured.

According to the prosecution’s opening speech, the post mortem evidence will show that Celine Cawley died from a combination of factors, three blows to the head with a blunt object and more mundane complications after a fall when the now obese former model had been unable to breath after falling unconscious on her front.

We were also told, in the prosecution’s opening argument, that Mr Lillis had been having an affair in the months before his wife’s death.  Gardai had discovered a significant amount of phone traffic from phones belonging to Mr Lillis to phones belonging to a woman called Jean Treacy.

Ms Treacy is sure to be a major witness, as we have been told that she will also tell the court about the account Mr Lillis gave her about his wife’s death…a fight that turned physical, an icy deck and a fatal slip.  But so far all we’ve heard is the outline of the prosecution case, the evidence will come later.

The new courthouse, which will be officially opened by the President of Ireland at the weekend, is hosting it’s first murder trial.  As proceedings got underway today there were some noticeable teething troubles.  Soon after the jury had taken their seats there was a loud alarm and a disembodied voice began to announce an evacuation but was quickly cut of in mid sentence.  But despite the technical gripes there are certain new high tech whizz bangs that certainly add to the experience of the initial rather dry evidence.

The first couple of witnesses in a criminal trial are almost always maps and photographs.  Before the trial goes any further the jury are provided with maps of the area in question and photographs of places or objects that are going to be referred to by subsequent witnesses.  Normally if you’re sitting in the body of the court this evidence is rather dull.  They don’t hand out maps to the whole courtroom and it’s the same with the photos so unless you’ve got extremely good eyesight there’s a lot of talking about things you can’t see.

Now though, the maps and photographs appear on large screens behind the judge.  We can all see the high hedge that surrounds the house on Windgate Road in Howth.  The trappings of a privileged life of the occupants are visible to all; the large garden, stables, hot tub.  We can also all see the bright red stain that covers part of the decking outside the kitchen,

Crime scene photos are always uncomfortable windows on a tragedy, the flotsam and jetsam of normal lives mixed in with the detritus left by the emergency services.  On the kitchen table a portable oxygen mask sits beside a black woman’s handbag and the Irish Times.  The sad remnants of a Christmas cut short are visible in each picture, tinsel draped over pictures, a Christmas tree standing forlornly in the corner of the living room. 

In an upstairs bedroom the gloved hand of one of the garda forensics team holds a grey top.  A bedside table home to a scatter of change, a Lotto ticket and a watch that we are later shown has traces of blood and tissue on it.

In her opening speech, Mary Ellen Ring told us that Mr Lillis had called the emergency services shortly after 10 o’clock on the morning of December 15th 2008.  After lunch we heard a recording of that call.  Mr Lillis’s voice rang across the courtroom, sounding strangely high pitched and almost hysterical.  We listened as he was led through the CPR procedure by the emergency phone operator from Dublin Fire Brigade.  He could be heard breathing raggedly and deeply as he listened to the instructions, his voice rising even higher as his actions failed to get a response.

We also head from members of the fire brigade and gardai who responded to Mr Lillis’s frantic call.  Garda Colum Murray described arriving first on the scene and being greeted by a Mr Lillis who was “very unsteady on his feet” and “not making much sense”.  Mr Lillis also had visible injuries, scratches to his right cheek and two bruises on his left cheek and forehead that looked as if they had been made by a heavy object.

Barbara Cahill, from Kilbarrack Fire Station also arrived at the scene that morning.  She told the court how she had needed to salt the slippery decking after one of her colleagues slipped and fell on the icy surface.

The trial will continue tomorrow and the story will develop.

The First Trial of the Year

The snows are finally melting and the Christmas decorations are down.  The new court term got underway today under leaden grey skies, in an ocean of slush.  From today on there will be no more Four Courts for criminal trials.  All the criminal courts are now officially moved to the grandly named Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate Street in Dublin, right next to the Phoenix Park.

For the press the new court term got off to a good start with a trial listed that will get editors pulses racing for the next couple of weeks.  The trial won’t start until tomorrow but this morning the jury was sworn for Eamonn Lillis.

Mr Lillis is accused of the murder of his wife Celine Cawley, Bond girl, model and the woman behind Toytown Films, one of Irelands largest advertising production houses. As the jury panel were warned of the Cawley family’s connections in advertising and as solicitors, the pens scratched away furiously, getting every detail of the brief proceedings.

Mr Lillis stood stiffly while the single charge was read out to him.  Dressed in a black coat, with a white shirt and sombre black tie, he tilted his chin up as he listened to the arraignment before answering quietly but firmly “Not guilty”.

The jury selection process was a departure from what we were all used to in the Four Courts.  Instead of the jury panel taking every available seat in the court room they were hidden from sight, in a special holding area.  Judge Paul Carney spoke to them via a TV link, explaining how the selection process would proceed and highlighting some of the basic facts of the case so that the jurors could excuse themselves if they knew anyone involved.

The names of twenty or so of the panel were read out and after a short pause they appeared clustered at the back of the jury box.  They were then called one by one to take their oath, giving the prosecution and defence an opportunity to object to anyone they chose.  Seven can be refused by either side, with no reason given.  After that reasons must be given but the number of refusals is unlimited…we seldom get to the reasons though.

The registrar read through the list of names and the selection started. Every now and then either side would raise an objection to a juror who would then melt back into the background, dismissed. As the judge says, there is no way of knowing why a juror is refused.  It could  be because they were wearing a tie, or because they weren’t.  Today, by accident or design, it seemed that the prosecution had a downer on young men of a more casual persuasion.  Anyone with long hair or a band t-shirt was swiftly dispatched and obvious students refused.

The defence on the other hand refused women.  A succession of middle aged women in comfortable clothes were sent packing while women in suits or obvious students took their seats.  Eventually six men and six women were left.  It’ll be up to them to decide guilt or innocence at the end of this trial.

Tomorrow the trial proper will start and we’ll discover which man or woman has been selected or volunteered as foreman.  Today it’s all down to the inconsequential minutiae, like the tuning up of an orchestra.  The new year has really begun.

A Busy Year…

It’s the last day of the year and the end of the decade to boot.  Time to take stock and look back over the last twelve months with mixed feelings…whatever else 2009 has been it’s seldom been boring.  There have been opportunities and set backs but on the whole I think we’re going out with a bang.  It may have been used as a curse in the past but I’d rather live in Interesting Times than dull ones!

In terms of the courts it’s been a very interesting year.  In terms of both trials, and legislation that will affect both how I do my job and what happens in the trials I cover, there’s been a lot fitted into the past 12 months.  I’ll try at touch the main points but feel free to comment if I’ve missed anything.  I’ve linked back to my posts on the subject where they exist.  With the longer trials the name of both the victim and the accused should be prominent in the tag cloud to the right.

The year started off quietly enough.  In January Brian McBarron pleaded guilty to the murder of his girlfriend, nurse Sara Neligan, daughter of the prominent former consultant surgeon, Mr Maurice Neligan.  Sara had planned to leave him so he stabbed her.  He told gardai “she belonged to me.”

The same month serial child rapist Philip Sullivan had his life sentence overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

In February, a familiar face, Kathleen Mulhall, mother of the infamous Scissor Sisters, pleaded guilty to concealing evidence about her daughters gruesome murder of their mother’s Kenyan boyfriend, Farah Swelah Noor.  She was sentenced in May to five years in prison.

March began with the passing into law of the Legal Services Ombudsman Act 2009 setting up the office of Legal Services Ombudsman to oversee complaints by and about members of the legal profession.  The office will also be responsible for making the public aware of what complaint procedures are available against solicitors and barristers.

In the Central Criminal Court a run of high profile murder trials began in March with that of Gerald Barry, the brutal killer and rapist who would be sentenced to life for the murder of Swiss student Manuela Riedo.

The Barry trial was swiftly followed by that of wife killer David Bourke.  Bourke had murdered his wife, Jean Gilbert, when she left him for an old flame.

In April we entered the strange world of Ronnie Dunbar, the man on trial for the murder of Sligo teenager Melissa Mahon.  Melissa herself was a waif like figure throughout the trial as we heard about her infatuation with Dunbar, also known as McManus.  We heard how her short unhappy life spiralled out of control in a few months in 2006.  Dunbar was eventually found guilty of her manslaughter and later sentenced to a life term.

After that run of trials things got a lot quieter in the courts.  During the summer break I was working on my first novel and a world away from murder.  During July though a rash of legal legislation was written into law that will definitely have an impact on the day job.

First up was the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act which controversially allows for covert surveillance to be used in prosecutions.  This kind of evidence will undoubtedly become a major part of any gangland trials that come to court from now on.

A couple of weeks later the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act introduced new laws governing the owning and use of guns.  Aimed at tackling violent crimes it also introduced new laws on knives and gave gardai greater search powers.

Hot on it’s heels came two highly discussed Acts.  The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act allowed for gangland trials to take place without a jury in the Special Criminal Court (previously used only for paramilitary trials).  The three Criminal Justice Acts will all have an effect on how gangland trials are conducted…it’ll be interesting.

Passing into law the same day as the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act was the long awaited Defamation Act. I’m not going to go into a full analysis of the new Act, which replaces the 1961 Act but there are a few points of difference.  Slander and libel are no more, they’ve been replaced by the cover all term of defamation – which’ll make life easier for anyone studying law as part of a journalism course in the future.  The act also allows a judge to direct a jury on the amount of damages they can award and allows the defendant to make submissions to mitigate damages.

But where the Defamation Act really hit the headlines was the controversial clause that makes blasphemy a criminal offence for the first time in Ireland.  We’ll just have to wait and see if that clause has any practical implications but many people felt that simply writing in what is essentially a religious law in the 21st Century was a dangerous step backwards.

The biggest development of year, court reporting wise was probably the completion of the place where I will be working from now on.  The Criminal Courts of Justice are now finished and they’ve been given a test run and we’ll all be moving in once the new term starts in a little more than a week.

New Criminal Courts of Justice photo by Michael Stamp all rights reserved.

To go with the new courts a new piece of legislation, the Courts and Court Officers Act was brought in in November, to make changes to bail for those on trial and also to make provisions for those in custody in the same circumstances.  A final bit of t-crossing and i-dotting before the big move.

So that’s a round up of the trials and legislation that shaped my year.  2010 is getting off to a lively start with the trial of Eamonn Lillis, accused of the murder of his wife, former Bond girl Celine Cawley.  It’ll be the first big trial in the new courts so it looks like there will be more interesting times ahead.

I’ll be back tomorrow looking forward instead of back.  Until then, a very happy new year to all my readers.  I hope 2010 brings you everything you’re looking for.

A Brief Visit to Hear a Prohibition

I’ve been off work for the past week and a half…engaged with other things than court matters (a wedding anniversary among other things) but I was back in court this morning briefly.  The Central Criminal Court isn’t fully back from it’s break until next Monday but there are various bits of court business to take care of in the mean time.

Today, and the reason for my attendance was Eamonn Lillis.  If the name doesn’t ring an immediate bell and you’re in Ireland I’ll refresh your mind about the case.  Lillis’s wife, Celine Cawley – a former model who had once appeared briefly in a James Bond Film – was found brutally murdered in December last year.

It was a case always guaranteed to get the press pulses racing…apart from the Bond connection the deceased had run a film production company together.  Newspaper reports at the time went into detail of the crime and her background almost gleefully speculating that she had met her death at the hands of a random assailant.

But days later, her husband was arrested and will now stand trial in January.  It will be a big trial and get a lot of attention.  These cases always do.  Already today, his defence team expressed their concern about the media attention the case was receiving. There were only four of us in court – when the trial begins there will be considerably more.

Lillis came into court looking serious in a neat dark suit.  During the short proceedings he sat alert in the bench opposite the jury box, where he will watch his trial in several months time. Before the defence could make their point the prosecution stood up to apply for a court order.

The order was simple, Eamonn Lillis was forbidden from any contact with one of the prosecution witnesses in the case.  The matter was over in a matter of minutes.  The order granted to the prosecution, no comment made on the media attention.

It’s all in waiting until next year when it will become the main event.  These are just the points that get us there.

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