Wife killer to get €350,000 windfall
Lillis found guilty of manslaughter
Published 30/01/2010 | 05:00
CONVICTED wife killer Eamonn Lillis is set to net a €350,000 windfall from the business he ran with his wife Celine Cawley.
Lillis (52) was found guilty yesterday of the manslaughter of his wife at the couple's Howth, Dublin, home in December 2008.
The Irish Independent has learned Lillis put the couple's successful television advertising company, Toytown Films, into voluntary liquidation shortly after Celine's death in December 2008.
The couple each had a half share in the business. Celine's share passed to her sister, lawyer Susanna Cawley, after she died.
Company documents seen by the Irish Independent reveal that once the company's debts are settled, it is expected to have a surplus of €718,000, which can then be distributed to the shareholders.
Yesterday, in dramatic scenes at the Central Criminal Court, Lillis left Court 19 and went home, moments before the Cawley family left the building in tears.
After three days of deliberations, the jury of six men and six women finally agreed on a verdict in the trial that has gripped the nation over the past three weeks.
They told presiding judge Mr Justice Barry White that they had reached their decision after the State "failed to prove intent" on the part of the TV advertising producer to murder his wife.
Yesterday afternoon, the jury returned for a third day of deliberations. But before beginning, they were instructed by Mr Justice White that he would now accept a majority verdict.
He told the six men and six women that he would need at least 10 of them to agree in order to accept a majority.
The jury also sought to see the bloodied brick that had been found at the scene of the 46-year-old's death.
Earlier in the week, they sought a number of physical pieces of evidence, including the bloodstained clothes that Lillis had been wearing at the time of his wife's death. They also sought to re-hear the version of events he gave on that fateful morning when he took to the witness stand in the Central Criminal Court.
At 4.20pm yesterday, the jury returned again to the courtroom and sought clarification from Mr Justice White on the exact definition of murder and manslaughter, as well as acquittal. "It's where a person kills another unlawfully," Mr Justice White said by definition of murder. "Killing shall not be murder unless the person intended to kill or cause serious injury.
"If the State failed to prove the intention to kill or cause serious injury, the appropriate verdict is one of manslaughter, not murder."
However he also advised them that they could reach the conclusion of manslaughter if they believed Lillis had been provoked or had been acting in self-defence.
He could also have been found guilty of manslaughter by way of criminal negligence for failing to call the emergency services immediately. "Gross negligence can amount to actions or indeed failure to act, that can lead to the death of a person," said Mr Justice White, adding that they were also entitled to acquit him.
The judge also pointed to evidence given during the trial by Deputy State Pathologist Michael Curtis that Ms Cawley might have survived if she had got prompt medical attention.
At 6.25pm on day 15 of the murder trial, the jury returned for the final time after deliberating for nine hours and 28 minutes. They didn't look at the father of one when they returned to court 19.
The foreman confirmed they had reached a majority verdict, with 10 of the members agreeing that he was guilty of manslaughter.
Earlier, Mr Justice White took the unusual step of telling them he would only accept a manslaughter verdict if they agreed on the reason for manslaughter. "I couldn't have a situation where three people are opting for one, four for another, one for another, and the rest for the remaining reason," he told them.
Lillis was free to return home after the verdict, after Brendan Grehan, defending, asked Mr Justice White if the wife killer could be remanded on continuing bail and permitted to have some time to settle his affairs before being taken into custody.
Mr Grehan sought a week's delay, which the court granted.
He had been remanded last January on his own bond of €150,000 and an independent surety of €50,000. He also surrendered his passport.
The convicted killer will have to sign on twice daily, between 9am and 12am and between 6pm and 9pm at Howth garda station.
Lillis will be before the court again next Thursday for a sentencing hearing, where he may be told how many years he will serve for killing his wife. However, he may also be brought into custody and a later date set for sentencing.
He left the court shortly after 7pm and refused to make any comment to the waiting media.
The family of Ms Cawley also declined to comment before the sentencing.