Friday 22 September 2017

Celine couldn't imagine bitter end on the perfect day romance began

Edel Kennedy

SHE could never have known this was the day she was going to meet the man who would ultimately take her life.

The day the picture was taken, in 1990, Celine Cawley was undoubtedly on a high.

She had convinced Jack Charlton, one of the most famous and popular people in the country at the time, to come to the annual weekend of advertising awards in Kinsale, Co Cork.

Just months after the Irish soccer team's historic performance at the World Cup in Italy, it was a major coup for Celine -- and a display of her abilities -- that she managed to convince Charlton to travel to Cork and train the Irish ad-agency blokes for a match billed as 'Ireland Versus the Rest of the World'.

But that September day was also the day when the then 28-year-old met her husband, the father of her only daughter and the man who would later take her life.

That summer day in the pretty Cork town, she first met Lillis at Acton's Hotel, the festival's hub, and shared banter with him as she helped organise the game.

Eamonn Lillis had told the court, during his wife's murder trial, how he wanted to take part in the game and had heard Celine was organising it. So he sought her out, and because they "got on so well" they later arranged to meet for drinks in Dublin.

Celine was sure that she had met the man she was going to marry.

In fact, she told the friend she stayed with that weekend that she already knew she was going to spend the rest of her life with Lillis.

"I always remember her coming back saying to me 'I've met the man I'm going to marry.' I remember that very clearly," said Gerry Poulson from his home in England.

"When I heard the dreadful news (of Celine's death), I mean I didn't believe it. He was such a mild-mannered man. It just didn't fit the character," said Poulson.

By the time she met Lillis, Celine had turned her back on her modelling career and was on the cusp of a career as a producer at GPA films. Lillis, then aged 34, was a freelance art director.

Just 10 months later, the couple married in Dublin and set up home together. They were both "old enough not to need a long engagement", Lillis later explained to the court. Celine gave birth to their only daughter in 1993 and they shared many happy years together.

But something happened. Something sparked a row that fateful morning in December 2008.

Whether it was really over mealworms -- as Lillis claimed -- or the rubbish, as his mistress claimed, we'll never know.

But Celine paid for that fight with her life.

Irish Independent

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