'Celine not ruthless nor domineering'
Family upset at 'hurtful' trial claims
Published 07/02/2010 | 05:00
THE family of Celine Cawley has countered the characterisation of the television producer as a ruthless domineering businesswoman that emerged during the trial.
As Eamonn Lillis begins a seven-year sentence for killing his wife this weekend, Juliette Hussey, Celine's first cousin, yesterday spoke of the "real" Celine as a warm, kind and generous woman who was both deeply loved and enormously loving in return.
"Celine was incredibly hard working and very able. She was just really good at what she did. If a woman is good at something -- particularly in business -- there seem to be people taking swipes," said Ms Hussey.
The portrayal of Celine during the trial as "domineering" and of being ruthless in business is understood to have been particularly hurtful to the Cawley family. During the four-week trial, the court heard taped interviews with Lillis in which detectives accused him of being his wife's lap dog and taunted him with claims that she earned more money than him.
This image was added to by the evidence of Jean Treacy, Lillis's former mistress, who described overhearing Celine demanding that Lillis return home with the Mercedes "now!". Ms Treacy told the court that the tone from Celine was "particularly bad".
Asked if Celine was done a disservice in the way she was portrayed during the trial, Ms Hussey said: "I think in this idea of the ruthless businesswoman, yes. The fact of the lovely person she was, that we all knew, there was not an opportunity at the trial for that to come out. Susanna's victim impact statement very clearly described the person we knew. That is what we will always remember, the people who were close to her."
However, she added that the hardest thing about the trial was "that Celine's loved ones were there at all".
Ms Hussey and Celine were friends since childhood and holidayed together in France, where Celine had a holiday home near Biarritz, for the past 16 years. Yesterday Ms Hussey recalled memories of Celine as a fun-loving child and as a generous and warm friend in adulthood.
"Celine kept in touch with everyone. If anyone wanted to know what anyone else was doing they called Celine. She was great, particularly for family occasions and at Christmas. She was particularly generous not to just her own daughter but to my children and her nieces and nephews," she said.
"She just made life fun. When we went to France, there was such excitement at spending time with her. She was incredibly good, incredibly kind and generous to the children.
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"She always anticipated what they wanted to do as well. She was the one who would suggest going to the water park, going go-karting, things she knew would give them great enjoyment."
A Sunday Independent poll has found that a majority of respondents felt that Mr Justice Barry White's jail sentence for wife-killer Eamonn Lillis was too short.
The poll found that 68 per cent said that the sentence -- six years and 11 months -- was inadequate.
Comments given by respondents in the poll of 500 people showed public disquiet over the perceived leniency of the sentence.
"He lied, he tried to cover it up and he has not shown any remorse to Celine's family," said one male respondent.
"Somebody's life is worth more than seven years, it should have been double that," said another.
Despite a clear majority expressing the view that the sentence was light, almost one in three felt the judge's verdict was proportional.
In total, 32 per cent of those polled felt it was adequate. "Yes it was adequate because the prosecution were not able to prove it was murder," said one female.