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Saturday 20 September 2014

€425,000 windfall for wife-killer Eamonn Lillis

Proceeds from sale of house bring his fortune to €1.3m

Published 23/12/2012 | 05:00

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THE convicted killer, Eamonn Lillis, has received a Christmas windfall of €425,000, bringing the fortune he has netted since his wife's death to more than €1.3m.

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The money is his share of profits from the sale of the family home on Rowan Hill in Howth where he bludgeoned his wife, Celine Cawley, to death four years ago this month.

The house was sold in October but Lillis got a cheque for his share of the profits this month from the administrators of Celine's estate, her brother, Chris, and sister, Susanna.

The Howth property, which was worth more than €1.5m during the boom, was the last of the couple's assets to be liquidated. Lillis, 55, will emerge from Wheatfield prison, where he is serving six years and 11 months for his wife's manslaughter, a wealthy man.

In addition to the proceeds of the family home, he also banked €358,505 after the television production company founded by his wife was liquidated; a €400,000 pension from the business; €131,500 from the sale of an investment apartment they owned in Sutton; and about €22,000 of investment bonds.

Cash in their joint bank accounts – about €24,000 at the time Celine was killed – was cleared from their accounts after her death.

The enrichment of Lillis since his wife's death is largely due to Celine's success as a businesswoman. Celine set up and ran the television production company Toytown, which made huge profits during the boom.

On a December morning in 2008, detectives found Lillis standing over his wife's body on the patio of their home in Howth. She had died from blows to the head with a brick.

Lillis initially spun an elaborate tale that she was killed by an intruder. His story didn't stack up and he was discovered to be having an affair with a masseuse.

After his conviction for Celine's manslaughter, Celine's brother and sister, and her daughter, Georgia, took a High Court action challenging his right to any share of the joint assets because he had killed her.

The Cawley family lost the case but exposed a loophole in legislation that was highlighted by the High Court judge.

Justice Mary Laffoy said regulation was required to clarify what should happen to co-owned property in the event of one co-owner killing the other.

Lillis vigorously fought the case, claiming his only concern was to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, and to provide for her on his release from prison.

He claimed Georgia had given him permission to return to the Rowan Hill property after his release, which she denied, telling the court: "I would rather stick pins in my eyes than have him return within six miles of Rowan Hill."

The finding of the Irish court contrasted with a French court ruling earlier this year over the sale of Celine's villa in Biarritz. The French judge ordered that Lillis was "unfit" to inherit the €800,000 property he co-owned with his wife, because he had killed her.

He was also ordered to pay €1,000 compensation to Georgia and €2,000 to Chris and Susanna, for the "inconvenience" of putting them through a court case.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has said he is keeping the gap in the law "under review".

Lillis has been passing his time in Wheatfield prison attending painting and writing classes.

He won a prize in a special category for prisoners at Listowel Writer's Week last year, for a short story he wrote about a man on the run.

His prize is a Cross pen, which he will receive on his release from prison.

Sunday Independent

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