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.