Wednesday 13 December 2017

Lillis spends first day of freedom hiding indoors

Freed wife-killer stays with sister in leafy suburb of Southampton

Eamon Lillis leaving Wheatfield Prison. Photo: Colin Keegan
Eamon Lillis leaving Wheatfield Prison. Photo: Colin Keegan
The street in Southampton, England, on which Eamonn Lillis will be staying with his sister, whose house is the first on the right
Eamonn Lillis leaving Southampton airport Photo: Gerard Farrell/DZ Pictures
Joyce Fegan speaks to Eamon Lillis's sister on the doorstep of her home. Photo: Gerard Farrell
Eamonn Lillis and his sister leaving Southampton Airport. Photo: Gerard Farrell
Eamonn Lillis leaving Wheatfield Prison. Photo: Colin Keegan
Eamonn Lillis's sister's home in Fareham, Hampshire, England. Photo: Gerard Farrell
Eamonn Lillis leaving Wheatfield Prison. Photo: colin Keegan

Joyce Fegan in Hampshire

Eamonn Lillis's first full day of freedom was one of clear blue skies and bright sunshine - but he spent it indoors in a leafy Southampton suburb.

The 57-year-old convicted killer fled to his sister Carmel Lillis's home in southern England on Saturday, immediately after his release from Wheatfield Prison, where he served five years and two months for the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley (46) in December 2008.

At the weekend, he swapped prison bars in Clondalkin for cherry blossom trees in the English county of Hampshire. But despite the beauty of his post-prison surrounds, with its rolling green fields and old world charm, there was no great dash to freedom.

Lillis chose to remain behind closed doors.

"This is a very wealthy neighbourhood and very English, the shops around here would be closed because it's a Sunday, not many would be out," said one local.

Indeed, every home in Lillis's new estate has two cars in the driveway.

Estate is perhaps the wrong word as it is more a maze of interlocking lane-ways and passages with immaculately kept homes and perfectly manicured gardens dotted throughout.

There is no graffiti in sight, not a blade of grass is out of place and every second electricity poll carries a neighbourhood watch sign.

As the sun came up on the south coast of England yesterday morning, all was quiet in the area.

It was at this time that the millionaire father-of-one was predicted to come out and inhale his first few real breaths of freedom.

But Lillis didn't budge. He was met by waiting media in the tiny airport of Southampton on Saturday evening. He was collected by Ms Lillis and they drove out of the carpark together.

In his words, he had served his time, and now after hours of media and public pursuit, he was finally free.

Life was continuing as normal in his sister's family home the next morning.

A young man left the house by foot to get the papers, bedroom windows opened one by one and Sunday's chores were being carried out inside.

When the Irish Independent called to the house, Lillis's sister answered the door with a warm smile as she held her marigold gloves in her hand. The bright and airy hallway behind her was sparkling clean.

There was no major reaction when asked if the Irish Independent could speak to her brother inside, just a polite shake of the head and her continued warm smile, as she gently closed the door.

Lillis has left everyone guessing: when he refused to leave prison as sanctioned on Friday; and again when he took the media on a wild goose chase around south Co Dublin on Saturday morning.

He walked free from Wheatfield Prison at 9.40am and straight to a waiting taxi.

In an attempt to shake off the waiting media, his taxi criss-crossed the city over the course of an hour and 20 minutes before finally arriving at the airport.

He kept the media guessing again yesterday when he chose closed doors over a stroll in the morning sunshine. One might have thought Lillis opted to stay cooped up indoors in order to avoid the media glare.

Perhaps after five years and two months of incarceration, Lillis now just prefers life behind closed doors.

It is highly unusual for a convicted killer to walk out of a jail in any form of financial credit, let alone €1.3m in the black. But Lillis has.

His money comes from his share of the sale of the palatial Howth family home, €358,505 from the liquidation of his wife's television production company, €131,500 from the sale of an investment apartment they owned in Sutton and about €22,000 in investment bonds.

Eamonn and Celine's daughter Georgia and Celine's brother and sister fought and lost a High Court case to prevent him from getting half of the couple's joint assets since his imprisonment. After he was convicted in 2010, he was given a week to get his house in order. He told his daughter that everything was in place as he departed for Wheatfield.

However, all he left behind for his then teenage daughter was a note about the days for bin collections and €600.

Once in prison, he also made no effort to express remorse for the brutal slaying of Celine in letters to her family.

He has not communicated with Georgia since the High Court battle when he wrote trying to turn her against her mother's family. Neither has he made any attempt to contact her before or after his release from prison.

Yes, he is a free man; yes, he has done his time, but six-plus years on, as Lillis approaches 60 and goes about rebuilding a new life, there remains a young woman who lost her mother, her family and her childhood.

There were no winners here.

Irish Independent

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