Sunday 19 February 2017

Published 24/01/2010 | 05:00

  • Go To

They would text regularly, almost obsessively. The first of the day, to touch base, would be sent at around 9.30am, usually as she was driving to work, to the beauty parlour where, two years earlier, she had first encountered her married lover-to-be, Eamonn Lillis -- an introduction facilitated by his wife, Celine Cawley.

Contact was made by mobile phone, two of them specifically bought by him to conceal their secret from the eyes of others, from those of his wife; the bills of his old phone were sent to the office of a television commercial production company which she had set up and managed.

Then they would text throughout the day, or sometimes they would call each other, but only if their agreed signal -- a blank text -- gave them the all clear, that neither of their respective partners were present.

After their almost daily clandestine meetings in the carpark of a shopping centre or of a country estate, and elsewhere in north Dublin, they would text again that night. Sometimes, in those texts, they would even arrange another rendezvous for the following day.

In one such text, they had agreed to meet in town the next day, the day Celine Cawley was killed.

The late-night texts were sent at around bedtime -- Lillis in the upstairs bedroom of his comfortable home on upmarket Howth Head, his wife, presumably, in her own bedroom downstairs; his lover, wherever it was that she then lived, her partner, her intended husband, by her side or not that far away.

In such final communications of the night, Lillis, now 52, and Ms Treacy, now 32, would say good night "my love" or "my angel", and, electronically, they would declare their love again, usually sealed with a kiss.

The affair began eight weeks before Celine Cawley met her violent death on the frosty morning of December 15, 2008.

Her husband stands accused of her murder. It is alleged that Celine Cawley died as a result of the infliction of three blows with a blunt instrument -- a grey patio brick. One to the front of her head and a further two to the left and to the right of the back of her head.

The Deputy State Pathologist has said the principal cause of death was "blunt-force trauma" to the head, resulting in what he called "haemorrhage and postural asphyxia"; he has also said that her obesity and the enlargement of her heart were contributory factors to her death.

Lillis denies the murder charge. There was, he has admitted, a "terrible" fight, a "disgusting" row at their home, Rowan Hill, that morning. It was sparked, he said, by his forgetting, as she had asked, to leave out mealworms for the robins which flitted about their back garden.

At the time of the eruption of the row, according to Lillis, he was on his way to the patio, gloves on, to gather up the droppings of their three dogs; his wife, rubber gloves on, was at the kitchen sink washing icetrays from the fridge. A short time earlier, he has said, he had -- in reverse order -- walked the dogs, bought a newspaper and dropped their only child to school.

He has also said that his wife of 18 years knew nothing of his affair with Jean Treacy.

At the Central Criminal Court last week, Ms Treacy, and to a lesser extent Lillis's 17-year-old daughter, presented an alternative version of events to that as outlined in court by the Deputy State Pathologist. A version of events, as outlined to them by Lillis, which led to the death of Celine Cawley.

Then on Friday Lillis himself took the stand. He elaborated on this version, rather than the Deputy State Pathologist's, which had been put to the accused man by a garda detective during the investigation phase.

The trial is continuing. It is expected to end this week. A jury of six men and six women will decide.

In just a fortnight before the death of Celine Cawley, Eamonn Lillis and Jean Treacy had exchanged 200 text messages and almost 90 phone calls. That is around 20 contacts a day.

In those heady days, the first weeks of the affair, Lillis and Treacy would have met regularly for sex or just to talk, preferably in his Mercedes SUV with the blacked-out windows -- a vehicle commonly used by his wife who felt more comfortable in it on account of her bad back.

They were talking one day when Celine Cawley rang. The tone from his wife was "particularly bad", Jean Treacy said. She was wondering where her husband was, she needed the SUV because of her back, she was to take their daughter horse riding, he had to get home. Now.

Ms Treacy preferred the Mercedes with the darkened windows, not for "seedy" reasons, as she said in court, but because she did not want to have to look over her shoulder all of the time.

The ML, as she called it in the shorthand language of text, therefore afforded the couple a degree of privacy when they met at their chosen locations, usually within striking distance of the Lillis home, and of the homes of his extended family and friends, and of where she worked. Such locations were open to the public, where a parked car, even a Mercedes ML with blacked-out windows, would not look too conspicuous. The possibility that they might be caught, that their illicit affair might be discovered, was evidently never far from her mind.

The admitted "intensity" of the affair flared brightly at the beginning, faded in the midst of tragic circumstances, and eventually petered out when the forces of the State set about their work. But not before Lillis and Ms Treacy would meet again, a series of three such encounters initiated by her in alcohol, the second of which, when she disclosed the details in court, shed the first real light on Lillis's version of events.

Ms Treacy was "jittery" about her intended plan to marry her partner, a man called Keith, the following June. The wedding invitations, we may presume, were to go out in January.

In October 2008, her relationship with Eamonn Lillis took off in a moment of eyes meeting, a look held, a hand on flesh and a quickening pulse. In her jitteriness then, what people may commonly refer to as cold feet, something happened to change the dynamic of her professional relationship with Lillis.

He himself was, according to the evidence, also troubled in his relationship; he was on the verge of telling his wife of almost 20 years that he was "not happy" in their marriage. He told her as much four or five weeks before she was killed, three or four weeks into his affair.

It was, the court has also been told -- although the witness who told the gardai this was not produced -- a "sexless marriage", an arrangement which it was claimed had suited them both, he and Celine.

But Lillis, in his evidence, sought to portray a different interpretation. On the morning of her killing he arose at 6.45am, he said he made tea for his wife and daughter, as he routinely did.

When he fetched the tea to Celine, in her downstairs bedroom, he said he climbed into bed beside her for a half hour or 40 minutes. They had, he said, a "kiss and cuddle".

They had slept separately, he said, out of habit formed since the birth of their daughter. Celine also snored and kicked out in her sleep. In their line of business, he said, it was important that they got a good night's sleep.

The atmosphere in the air of court 19, and just outside, could almost have been grabbed by the fistful on Wednesday morning, the day the mistress appeared.

The previous day, the prosecution had gone through some of the medical evidence. There was much talk of bloodstains and DNA, all necessary to establish as precisely as possible what had happened in Rowan Hill that morning.

Then there was a parade of witnesses: a work colleague, who said that Lillis was seldom in the office. He was usually at home in Howth, taking care of his and Celine's daughter, she said.

There were the other witnesses too: a deputy school principal who, by coincidence, had gone to college with Lillis at UCD; and others, the dead woman's brother, and other relations, declaring what they had seen and heard in the immediate aftermath of the killing.

And then another witness was sworn in, a next-door neighbour, who had heard a scream at around 9.35am on December 15, 2008, and then, 30 seconds later, another scream -- the crying out of a woman not far from death.

Jean Treacy sat in the rear left corner of the courtroom, in the company of the investigating officers, a bottle of mineral water in her hand.

She was turned out immaculately, as you might expect of a beauty therapist, in a black suit and white top; her hair was long and glossy-dark, highlighted with strands of caramel. Occasionally her right ear peeped through; she had high, defined cheekbones, which gave her eyes the appearance of narrowness; she has an engaging, almost coquettish smile, particularly so when she rested her head from side to side, as she frequently did.

Her speaking voice was clear, confident and feminine, perhaps lower middle class. She was curvaceous; fit, but not especially thin.

She began by giving a little of her background: five years in marketing, where, or what type, the court was not told. She studied beauty therapy at night at the Galligan School of Beauty, five courses over two years, before she found work, on August 1, 2006, at Howth Haven, where she would first meet Eamonn Lillis a short time later.

For the first month she worked three days a week and then, from September 1, on a full-time basis: her job involved facials, tans, nails, massages, manicures and pedicures.

It was through Howth Haven that she first came to meet Celine Cawley, who required a lighter form of deep-tissue massage; Eamonn Lillis required deep tissue massage. Both were weekly clients, Lillis every Friday.

He would have been her client for perhaps three months when, one day, they spoke about his dogs. He talked about the dogs quite a bit. On this day, as he spoke, she said that she would love to see them. She, too, was a lover of dogs.

Under cross-examination she admitted that for some time she had been attracted to Lillis, that she had quite fancied him. She had told a work colleague about this -- around August, shortly after she first encountered him. She said that she was attracted to him in a particular way. "You used an expression . . . I'm not going to repeat it," defence counsel Brendan Grehan said.

That day, the day she said she would like to see his dogs, he invited her to his car, parked outside, to view photographs of them on his iPod. She accepted the invitation, sitting into the passenger seat, but leaving the car door open, she stressed. "The rapport between us was different that day," she said. While in the car she noticed that he had particularly nice hands, "for a man".

The following Friday Lillis turned up by appointment, as always. She would normally perform back, neck and shoulder massage on him, but that day he complained of a tightness on his front shoulder. She had him turn over and she began to perform massage on the area concerned.

People, she said, would normally close their eyes in such a scenario. But Lillis did not. He was permanently staring up at her, she said, to the point that she began to feel "uncomfortable".

She asked what he was thinking. He said "nothing" -- but continued to stare. She asked again: "What are you thinking . . . honestly?" Then she put his hand on her pulse -- her "racing" pulse -- and said that that was what she was thinking about. After that, she said, she walked out of the treatment room.

"The next Friday," she said, "the atmosphere was different between us." The court was previously told that that was the day they first kissed. They exchanged telephone numbers. "He may have asked me for it. I can't remember."

The affair then took off. They met outside Howth Haven on a regular basis, "almost every day", she said. It was fair to say, she added, that she had sexual relations with him. And, yes, she was aware that he was married to Celine Cawley.

Later on they would discuss his marriage. "Externally", she said, if she were just an onlooker, she would not know that everything was not 100 per cent in the marriage. "They looked very good together," she said.

At a certain point he told her that he was unhappy in his marriage. He said he had told Celine this and that she had said they would "work on it". Lillis proceeded to draw up what he and his mistress called a "resolution list" -- a list of marriage-related issues which both Lillis and Celine Cawley would work on.

Asked if she had wanted his marriage to end, Ms Treacy said: "No, I didn't. Never."

Asked if she was in love with him, she said: "At the time I thought I was, but it was more infatuation that anything. It came and went."

Coincidentally, when investigating officers had asked Lillis in interviews about the nature of his relationship with Ms Treacy, it emerged, in the opening week of the trial, that the officers had used that very word -- they had asked him if he was "infatuated" with her.

In her direct evidence, Ms Treacy went on to outline a sequence of events at Rowan Hill on December 15, 2008 -- a version as told to her by Lillis himself when they met in mid-February the following year, the second of the three times they met after the killing.

In that version, Ms Treacy disclosed how Lillis had told her that he "gently" placed the heel of his hand on his wife's forehead in an attempt to release his finger from her clenched mouth.

On cross-examination it emerged that Ms Treacy had not used the word "gently" in her subsequent garda statement, a statement she had made almost three months after the conversation with Lillis had taken place.

Lillis had also provided his daughter with an outline of his sequence of events. She also disclosed some of this to court last week, via a video-link service provided to minors to reduce the ordeal for them of providing evidence in open court.

During the course of her account she disclosed that her father had asked for her forgiveness. She could forgive him for what had happened, she said, but could not forgive him for his "lying" afterwards. "I was brought up never to tell lies," she said.

The prosecution counsel began her cross-examination of Lillis by quoting the words of his daughter. She then went on to detail seven, maybe eight -- "I've lost count", she said -- "lies" which she said Lillis had told in the aftermath of the killing.

Lillis was called to the witness box shortly after 12.25pm on Friday.

He said that he was from Terenure in south Dublin. He spoke at times quite rapidly, but also in a quiet voice, so softly spoken that he was asked, several times, to speak into the microphone.

On two occasions the jury foreman had to apologetically intervene -- some of the jurors behind him could not hear what Lillis was saying.

To his own counsel, Lillis filled in a little of the background to his life. He was born on March 3, 1957. He had attended University College Dublin for four years. He worked in advertising and design, as an art director. He designed advertisements.

In 1990, he travelled to Kinsale in Cork to attend a conference of people working in his field. Celine Cawley worked in a similar area. A football game had been organised -- the Irish agencies against foreign agencies. He wanted to play for Ireland against the rest of the world.

Celine Cawley, he was told, was involved in the organisation; the then Ireland football manager Jack Charlton would attend. He met Celine. They got on really well. Other than advertising, they had shared another thing in common, a love of dogs. They both had German Shepherds.

They began dating properly back in Dublin, and in a relatively short period of time, they married, and soon after their daughter was born. They were both working in advertising at the time, Celine in an agency which subsequently went bust, Lillis as a "freelance". When the company she was working for went out of business, she set up her own production company.

Initially she had asked Lillis to join -- he had "good contacts", he would be a "good asset" -- but he resisted. He preferred to work alone, to do what he was doing. Eventually, though, he joined her company, a business which would become very successful.

At the beginning of their marriage they had a house in Howth village, which they sold. They moved to another house a little up the hill, which they also subsequently sold. Almost a decade ago they bought Rowan Hill.

After his shower, on December 15, 2008, the day Celine was killed, Lillis came downstairs. Celine was in the kitchen, she had made breakfast. Afterwards he drove their daughter to school. The school run took about five minutes. When she had been dropped off, he went to the Summit shop in Howth, where he bought a copy of the Irish Times. This was a regular, though not strict routine. Then he went home.

He read the sports pages, tidied the kitchen a little, cleaned the living room and fed the cats. He did not see Celine, but heard the pump going, so he assumed that she was in the shower. He went upstairs to the toilet.

He decided to take the dogs for a walk. He put leads on two of them, and, he said, headed down Windgate Road. He had on his mind, as he walked, the collection of holly to decorate the home for Christmas.

The walk lasted about 20 minutes -- the older of the dogs could not walk for much longer. He got home at around 9.20am. The advertising business was quiet; they had no work since October.

In the driveway he noticed that the dog bowl was empty, so he filled it with drinking water. His wife had left the rubbish at the front door, so he moved it to a side garden.

When he came in, Celine was at the kitchen sink, washing icetrays. She had on a grey top and a knee-length tracksuit or leggings. She was wearing rubber gloves.

They had a chat. She asked him to make tea. He said he would in a minute, but first he wanted to clear "dog poo" from the patio. To do so, he had put on his gloves, black ones, which would later be covered in blood.

She asked if he had put mealworms in a box on the patio for the birds. He said he had not. She said she had asked him to do that three days ago. He said he had forgotten. According to Lillis, she said that that was "bloody typical of him", he was always forgetting things.

An argument ensued. Under cross-examination he elaborated on what had been said during the row. She was "argumentative", she was "very sarcastic", she said that he did not bother to do things that he had been asked to do, that that was typical of him. He told her to "feck off", she said that that was "typical of my attitude".

No, he said at this stage, when asked, his wife knew nothing of his affair with Jean Treacy.

They had had arguments before, but not like this. She asked why he was not out trying to generate new work for the company; in case he had forgotten, the country was in recession. He thought that was "extremely unfair, throwing that in my face".

She had said he did not care for her; and then, she added -- according to Lillis -- that he did not care for their daughter. He became very angry at this.

He had also said some things to her: he accused her of only being interested in her own image, of being a "superwoman"; that she did not appreciate the work he did around the house. She had replied: "I don't do bins."

These verbal exchanges occurred both in the kitchen, and outside, on the patio, to where she had followed him.

He said that he had turned away when Celine had followed him out. Out of the corner of his eye, he said, he saw her getting up off the ground. She was picking up a brick. He presumed she had fallen on it. She was rubbing the back of her head.

He asked what had happened, if she was okay. He said she replied: "What do you care?"

Then he said things turned nasty. They began screaming at each other. "I went up to her, shoved the brick at her and said why don't you shove this where the sun don't shine," he said.

He jabbed her on the shoulder with his fingers. She took a swipe at him. "I don't think she meant to hit me but she caught me on the side of my face."

He got extremely angry and pushed her back, towards a set of sliding doors. He said he tried to grab the brick from her but his glove fell off. His fingernail got torn away as he tried to grab the brick.

"I was extremely angry. I pushed her again, quite hard, against the corner of the living room window," he said. "She let an almighty scream" -- the first scream which had been head by their neighbour at 9.35am.

Lillis said his wife might have screamed because she had banged her head. But he did not see this.

"She pushed around me. I grabbed her by the shoulder. I was trying to get the brick off her. She caught me with the brick again," he said. "I grabbed her right wrist and pushed her hand over her right shoulder. The brick was still in her hand.

"We did a half turn and ended up on the decking. I lost my balance so she lost her balance because I was pushing her," he said. They had landed close to a border between the decking at the patio.

"She was lying on the ground, on the flat of her back. I was on my knees, half across

her," he said. His other glove had now come off and was underneath her.

"I went to get up. She grabbed my hand and bit my finger. She wouldn't let go," he said. It was very painful. He said she was twisting her head from side to side while biting the little finger on his right hand.

"I hit her on her forehead to stop her moving," he said. "I screamed at her. It was extremely painful." He said the row ended when she let go of his finger. He said he then picked up the brick that was near her head and threw it a foot or two away.

He presumed the brick had soaked up blood from the ground, which was why it was bloodstained.

"I think it was the sheer shock at what had happened that stopped the row," he said. "I was stunned. I didn't know what to think."

He then noticed that her head was bleeding and there was blood on the ground. He got on to his knees. Celine seemed quiet and dazed. "She went to sit up," he said. "I got her to rest her head on my lap for a minute."

He was then asked to explain the three wounds, lacerations, to her head and the scratch on her face.

The first laceration, he assumed, had occurred the first time she fell, when she might have hit her head on the brick; when she got up she picked up a brick and was holding the back of her head.

The second laceration may have been caused when she banged her head off the window edge, because she had let an almighty scream.

The third laceration may have been caused, either when they fell down off the deck on to the patio, or when he tried to stop her head moving when his finger was in her mouth.

When the fight had ended, Lillis said, Celine sat up. She pulled off her rubber gloves and threw them to the ground. He said he asked her if she was okay. He also asked what they were going to tell their daughter. She said she was okay, but told him to go away.

He said to her they should tell their daughter that they were surprised by a robber. He suggested this, he said, as their house had been burgled before. She said "yeah, yeah" and waved her hand at him, he said.

He returned to the kitchen and, he said, brought out some wet kitchen paper and a towel. He said he gave these to his wife to hold against the back of her head for a few minutes. He said he asked again if she was okay. "Yeah, yeah. F-off and leave me alone. Go away. Go away."

He felt they needed some space at that stage. He picked up the gloves and paper towels and went into the kitchen. "I didn't see a huge amount of blood on her head. Her hair was thick and black. Her reaction didn't give me the impression that she was seriously hurt," he said.

He said he wrapped his finger in tissue and threw the gloves and paper towels into a plastic refuse bag which he found on the kitchen counter. He went into the living room to stage the robbery. "I copied what had been robbed from our house before," he said. "I grabbed camera gear."

He said he then went upstairs. He cleaned his finger in the bathroom. He took off his watch in the bedroom. "I noticed blood on my jeans," he said. He took them off along with his shoes and socks. He threw them on the floor and changed. He said he returned to the bathroom to put another tissue on his finger.

"I sat on the edge of the bath trying to gather myself," he said. "I didn't know what to think. I was incredibly upset and my finger was in incredible pain too." Back in the bedroom he put on another watch and saw the bloody tissue and clothes on the floor. "I figured they were never going to wash out and shoved them into the plastic bag," he said. He put them into a suitcase that was outside his bedroom door.

He noticed that the attic door across the landing was opened. It was opened because that was where they had kept the Christmas decorations. He put the case in there.

His daughter would not get off school for several hours yet, at 3.45pm.

"I knew when I came downstairs Celine would say: 'Well, if we're going to make it look like a robbery, what have you done about it?' That's the last thing I needed," he said.

In all, these events lasted 10 to 12 minutes. He said he then went back downstairs to the kitchen.

He looked out the door and saw Celine lying on the ground. "I went out to her and called her name." He said that she was lying mostly on her back, with her legs and arms facing sideways.

She did answer, he said. He knelt down beside her. He shook her chin but she did not wake up. He said he kept calling her name. "I didn't know whether she was breathing," he said. He said he tried to check her pulse but did not know whether he had felt her pulse, or his own pulse. He dialled 999.

Even then, he thought, surely she would be okay. There was no reason he could think of that she would go from being okay to being seriously injured. He said he carried out CPR as instructed until the gardai arrived.

When the emergency services turned up, he told them there had been a burglar. He had already told the operator this. He did not want people to know that their injuries were from a row they had had.

"I saw them picking her up and bringing her to the ambulance. I presumed she was okay. I presumed that if someone was dead they were not moved," he said.

When asked why he had continued this story to gardai, he said: "I presumed Celine would say the same thing as well so I kept with the story." He said that when he found out his wife had died, he went into shock and did not know what to do. "I just got paralysed," he said. "I'm sorry."

He was asked why he had persisted with the story of the burglar even after he was arrested. Having said it before, he said: "I'd boxed myself into a corner." All of that week, he said, he had been surrounded by Celine's family and friends: "I felt trapped. I didn't see any way out."

Read More

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News