'Celine hit me in the face with a brick'
Violent fight with wife had nothing to do with affair, Lillis tells court
Published 23/01/2010 | 05:00
MURDER accused Eamonn Lillis claimed yesterday his wife struck him in the face with a brick during a violent row at the family home.
Taking the witness stand for the first time, the television ad producer told how his wife, Celine Cawley, thrust the brick towards him, hitting him in the forehead.
His affair with beauty therapist Jean Treacy (32) had nothing to do with their argument and Ms Cawley was never aware of their eight-week liaison, Mr Lillis revealed.
Instead, the 52-year-old claimed the nasty argument on the morning of her death at their home in Howth, Co Dublin, was sparked because he failed to feed mealworms to robins in the garden.
Mr Lillis told the Central Criminal Court he was a "major participant" in the row which led to his wife's fatal injuries.
Yesterday, the packed courtroom heard the accused's version of events on that fateful day for the first time.
He told how he felt "completely and utterly trapped" by the lies he initially told about a phantom burglar on the day his wife died. Mr Lillis said he was in a "total panic" at the time.
Prosecuting counsel Mary Ellen Ring said she had "lost track" of the lies as she recounted nine untruths the accused had told.
Mr Lillis has denied murdering his 46-year-old wife at their home on December 15, 2008.
The row sparked off at around 9.25am after Mr Lillis returned from buying a newspaper and walking the dogs.
Mr Lillis said his wife asked whether he had fed the mealworms to the robins as she had asked. He said his wife claimed he did not bother doing anything and this was "typical".
Mr Lillis said his wife came out of the kitchen after him to continue the argument, and he told her to "feck off". He said his wife said he should be out generating business for the company, which he felt was unfair and he became angry.
He said that he had turned away, and when he looked around his wife appeared to have fallen, she was rubbing the back of her head with her hand and had picked up a brick in her hand.
The accused said he asked his wife if she was okay.
"She said 'what do you care?'. She was very angry," he said. The row continued. "She thrust the brick at me," he said.
He said the row then got "extremely vocal and nasty".
Mr Lillis said: "I went up to her and thrust the brick at her and said 'why don't you shove this where the sun don't shine'. I jabbed her in the shoulder with my finger." He said she took a swing at him. "I don't think she meant to hit me but she caught me on the side of my face," he said.
He made a grab at the brick but missed it and his fingernail tore off. He pushed her again quite hard up against the living room window and she let out an "almighty scream". She may have banged her head at this point.
He claimed she had her arm raised to fend him off and the brick hit his forehead.
They both lost their balance and fell, and as he went to get up "she grabbed my hand and bit my finger". Mr Lillis said his wife would not let go and was twisting her head from side to side while biting his right little finger.
He then hit her on the forehead to stop her moving. He then picked up the brick near her head and threw it a foot or two away.
Mr Lillis said he noticed her head was bleeding and she seemed quiet and dazed.
The physical row ended, he placed her head in his lap. She didn't speak for the first minute or so, but then sat up and asked what were they going to do now, Mr Lillis said.
They then discussed making it appear there had been a burglary and he left the patio.
After he returned downstairs, he spotted her lying on the ground.
"She was lying mostly on her back, legs and arms facing sideways. I called her name," he said. "I knelt down beside her, shook her chin and she didn't wake up," he said, wiping away a tear.
After running inside to call an ambulance, he told emergency personnel there had been a burglary as that was what he had said to his wife they were going to say. He did not think her injuries were too serious.
On the phantom attacker, Mr Lillis said he had boxed himself into a corner and continued to maintain the lie. He said he had never been in a fight in his life before.
Under cross-examination, Mary Ellen Ring, prosecuting, said the only person able to say exactly what happened after 10.04am on December 15 was Mr Lillis.
"That is true," he agreed.
Ms Ring put it to the accused that the only person who hurt Ms Cawley on that date was Mr Lillis. "I was there," he said.
Mr Lillis said the three lacerations to her head and other injuries to her body were caused by the "struggle" and "physical tussle" between the pair during the row.
"I accept I was a major participant in it," he said.
He said he'd concocted untruths to protect his daughter. "I was taking valium and sleeping pills . . . I was irrational," he said.
The cross-examination of Mr Lillis will resume on Monday.