Thursday 8 December 2016

A web of lies that fell apart under scrutiny

Edel Kennedy

Published 30/01/2010 | 05:00

AN intruder, a struggle with a masked man, and the untimely death of the woman he had been married to for 17 years.

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That was the sequence of events that Eamonn Lillis presented to gardai after a frantic 999 call on the morning of December 15, 2008.

From the very beginning there was only ever one real suspect -- and that was the dutiful husband.

"You were in films -- this wouldn't hack it on 'Postman Pat'," the 52-year-old was told by gardai when he stuck rigidly to his story that both he and his wife had disturbed an intruder in their Howth home.

But he said he loved his wife and he even supplied them with the name of a man he suspected of being the intruder.

Lillis continued to stick to his burglar story, only to admit on the opening day of his trial that it had been entirely fabricated -- but with the consent of his wife before she died.

On the first day of evidence, the packed courtroom saw, for the first time in such a case, pictures of the bloodstained decking area where emergency personnel found Ms Cawley, as well as photographs of the bloodstained clothes, sink, blood on the kitchen door and blood on the wall by a window.

The unusual step was also taken to play the tape of the emergency call Mr Lillis made at 10.04 that morning.

The next day, the statements which Mr Lillis had given gardai after his wife's death were read out in court. He had given a thorough account of his morning and a detailed description of the man he said he saw, whom he claimed had caused the scratches on his face.

Gardai later told how Mr Lillis initially denied an affair with his masseuse Jean Treacy, but later admitted to it. He also claimed his jeans and jumper -- which were found in the attic and not in the kitchen where he said he left them -- may have been moved by the 'intruder'.

The jury then heard Mr Lillis and his mistress exchanged more than 200 text messages and almost 90 calls in the fortnight before his wife's death.

Forensic scientist Dr Stephen Doak gave evidence of blood stains in the home while Dr Hilary Clarke told of large blood stains on Mr Lillis's hidden clothing, as well as a watch which had been wiped clean of blood.

On day seven of evidence, Jean Treacy, who began having an affair with Mr Lillis around eight weeks before his wife's death, told how she had arranged to meet him that Monday morning but he did not reply to her texts.

She said she met him three times in 2009 and he told her he and his wife had fought after she accused him of being "useless" when he forgot to take out the rubbish.

Scratches

The next day, Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said the scratches on the victim's face were consistent with it being in contact with the ground while blows were delivered to the back of her head. He based this on the belief that she was found face down.

He said it would have been unlikely that she would have died if she had received prompt medical attention.

However, he said he couldn't categorically say that the head injuries she had sustained didn't come from a fall, as claimed by Mr Lillis.

Giving evidence via video-line, the couple's 17-year-old daughter said she could forgive her father for the row that led to her mother's death but not for the lies he told afterwards.

On the ninth day, Mr Lillis took the stand and admitted he was a major participant in the fight that led to his wife's fatal injuries. He said he did not realise the extent of her injuries but called 999 when he could not find a pulse.

The following day he was asked about a note found written in his bedroom. It stated: "She will get that wedding dress. She will marry Keith next June."

It went on to say: "She will never share your bed. You are running out of time!!!"

He agreed some of the details mirrored aspects of his life, but he claimed that it was an idea for a script.

He couldn't explain where her heads injuries came from other than to assume they were sustained when she fell both times, and when she banged her head against the edge of the window.

"You lied to the firemen, ambulance staff, gardai, your family, including your daughter, and friends, and continued to lie and concealed the reason for the lie, and you hid your clothes," accused Mary Ellen Ring for the prosecution.

"All because you had taken up a brick and hit her not once, not twice, but three times, causing three lacerations, two to the back of the head and consistent with a brick and not a window edge.

"These caused the death of Celine Cawley while you were trying to cover up your actions upstairs," she concluded.

"That's not true," replied Mr Lillis.

But the jury decided that it was.

Irish Independent

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