Monday 29 May 2017

Doctors could have saved Celine's life, court hears

Ciaran Byrne

CELINE Cawley died after suffering three blows to the head -- two of which were dealt as she lay unconscious and face down on the ground, the Eamonn Lillis murder trial heard yesterday.

Deputy state pathologist Michael Curtis said the first blow knocked her down, and the following two blows were inflicted as she lay motionless.

Scratches on her face were consistent with it being in contact with the ground as the blows were delivered to the back of her head, Dr Curtis said.

He said Ms Cawley's life could have been saved if medical assistance had been given in time.

Mr Lillis (52) denies murdering Ms Cawley, his wife, at their Dublin home in December 2008.

Mary Ellen Ring, prosecuting, asked Dr Curtis what he made of an explanation that Ms Cawley slipped, bounced back up and slipped again, with a brick coming between her head and the ground.

"In my opinion, that account does not in any way explain satisfactorily the injuries," he told the Central Criminal Court yesterday.

The court heard Ms Cawley (46) suffered from an enlarged heart and was obese, which complicated her breathing and blood loss while she lay on the ground. Dr Curtis added that her injuries were consistent with her first being struck a blow to the head, falling face down unconscious, and then receiving further blows.

Ms Cawley died in hospital after Mr Lillis said he found an intruder attacking her on their patio. Last week, he admitted that there was no intruder.

Dr Curtis gave the principal cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head with haemorrhage and postural asphyxia, and said contributory factors were obesity and enlargement of the heart. Dr Curtis said he was told the 5ft 10 tall woman had been found face down.

"Such a posture, particularly in an obese woman, would have splinted her diaphragm, dangerously impairing her ability to breathe," he said.

Dr Curtis said she bled profusely from her skull, so her heart would have been seriously deprived of blood flow and oxygen. Her enlarged heart would have increased the demand for both blood and oxygen, he said.

Dr Curtis said Ms Cawley's head was blood-soaked when he conducted a post-mortem examination.

Her scalp wounds included an extensive area of abrasion incorporating a laceration on the right side of her head. At the back of the head there were injuries on the left and right sides. She had numerous scrapes on her face as well as some faint bruising on an arm and thigh.

Dr Curtis said there was no fracture to the skull or facial bones and no brain damage or other internal head injuries.

Bleeding

"In the absence of brain injury and inter-cranial bleeding, it's probable her life may have been saved if she'd received prompt medical treatment," he said.

Under cross-examination by Brendan Grehan, defending, he said that only moderate force would have been needed to cause the injuries to her scalp. It might have taken a few minutes for her to die, he said.

He agreed a person who wasn't obese and didn't have an enlarged heart would have been less likely to die with similar injuries.

Mr Grehan asked if he thought the head wounds might be consistent with a fall. "I think the one on the right frontal temporal region and the one on the left at the back are at sites not typical of injuries due to a fall."

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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