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'Celine's killer was a treacherous liar'

LIFE for the family of Celine Cawley will never be the same again because of the "treacherous lies" her husband, Eamonn Lillis, told after he killed her, a court heard yesterday.

In an emotional victim impact statement read out in the Central Criminal Court, Celine's sister, Susanna Cawley, finally lifted the veil on the suffering the family has endured since her body was discovered at the Howth home she shared with her killer-husband Lillis.

The family has grieved and suffered in private since their world was turned upside down on that December morning in 2008, politely turning down repeated requests for media interviews.

Susanna yesterday told how her good-humoured, roguish, fun, compassionate and caring sister Celine was now "entirely deleted" from her mind.

In her place was a battered, shaven-headed body with 18 facial injuries, a woman "slipping in blood as she fights for her life on the patio of the house of her dreams".

Breaking their silence for the first time since the start of the trial, Susanna revealed the depth of the Cawley family's anguish and their "terrifying realisation" that they would never really know what happened to their beloved Celine.

Their suffering was compounded by the lies her killer told after her death.

"The treacherous lies are overwhelming. The worst had to be the one told by Eamonn about the intruder," she said.

When Lillis was questioned by gardai, he invented a masked burglar he claimed had attacked his wife.

Lillis, who was having an affair with masseuse Jean Treacy at the time, later retracted the statement, claiming it had been made to prevent his teenage daughter finding out about a violent row he had with his wife.

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The advertising executive last night spent his first night in Cloverhill Prison in Dublin ahead of his sentencing, which was deferred until this morning.

He was convicted of manslaughter last week after the jury found that the State failed to prove he intended to murder Celine at their home in Howth, Dublin, in December 2008, just 10 days before Christmas.

A victim impact statement from the couple's teenage daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was also handed over for Judge Barry White to read in private.

Two character witnesses for Lillis, who had known him since their college days in UCD in the 1970s, told the court their friend had always been "a gentleman" and they believed he would never have hurt anyone.

In a submission to the court, defence barrister Brendan Grehan said his client had asked him to say that his wife Celine was "his partner in every sense of the word". He loved her very much and will love her for the rest of his life.

And, contrary to reports, "she was neither a bully nor a tyrant", he said. She was a loving wife and mother, as well as a strong and successful businesswoman.

Not having her in his life is something "he will regret for as long as he lives".


Grey-faced and with hair that stuck up in tufts at the back, Lillis listened to these submissions on his behalf with a bleak expression.

His daughter is the only part of his wife that he has left and he is fearful for the consequences of his actions for her future, Mr Grehan continued.

"He is extremely sorry and regretful for what happened on that fateful day and for his subsequent behaviour," the defence barrister said.

But it was in deathly silence that the packed courtroom sat and listened to the horrifying insight into the nightmare endured by the Cawley family since Celine's death.

Not knowing was the "real haunting part of it", Susanna had written, adding that what you imagine is often worse than the reality.

She said she had been with her other sister, Barbara, who died of cancer some years ago, and also with her mother when they passed away in a hospice.

"Their death was a triumph over illness," she said. But for Celine, and those who mourn her, they were "utterly deprived of dignity, spirituality or peace".

"Even her funeral was a media circus," Susanna added.

At their customary seats at the back of the court room, the Cawley family bowed their heads in grief and wept at the renewal of painful memories.

Lillis's sisters, Elaine and Carmel, were also emotional, the toll the past few weeks have taken on them etched on their faces.

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