| 5.3°C Dublin

Murder quiz husband told gardai Celine was a fighter

A MAN accused of murdering his wife told gardai in the aftermath of her brutal death that she was "a fighter, a tough nut" and was "no wallflower", his trial was told yesterday.

The jury at the Central Criminal Court heard yesterday how, in his formal statement to gardai, Eamonn Lillis (52) said he had returned home after walking the dogs on the morning of December 15, 2008 to find a masked intruder crouched over his wife, Celine Cawley, outside on the back patio.

The court also heard how Mr Lillis had multiple scratch marks on his forehead and to the left of his face.

Earlier, the court heard how Mr Lillis had agreed to a forensic examination of the family home at Rowan Hill, Windgate, Road, Howth, Co Dublin, saying: "Whatever it takes, I just want him caught."

Mr Lillis had told Det Sgt Enda Mulryan that after he got up at 6.30am he did some sit-ups and brought cups of tea to his wife and daughter.

He had explained that he had slept in a separate room upstairs the night before as Celine had a bad cold.

After driving his daughter to school, Mr Lillis had picked up a morning paper and, back at home, decided to take the dogs for a walk.

He returned at about 9am and as he entered the kitchen, "that was when I saw him on top of Celine", he said.

Mr Lillis charged through the door, roaring: "You f****** boll**ks." The attacker, swinging a brick in his right hand, turned on him and Mr Lillis tried to fend off the blows with his hands.

The masked man did not say a word throughout the event, Mr Lillis claimed in his statement. He described the man as being about 5ft 11in, of average build -- strong and wiry -- and aged about "20-ish, 30-ish."


He said the intruder was wearing a balaclava, jeans, a dark jacket and a rucksack on his back.

Mr Lillis followed him down the garden but then returned to his wife who was lying on her side on the patio and was not moving.

He said he went numb for a minute and then rang 999.

Mr Lillis had suggested to gardai that Celine had been attacked by a burglar and had named someone whom he claimed might have been responsible, saying the house had been robbed before.

"Celine is a fighter, a tough nut. She'd have confronted someone. She was no wall-flower," Mr Lillis said.

In an additional statement the next day, Mr Lillis claimed he had "blacked out" for a period after being attacked but did not know for how long.

Dr Haroon Khan, who examined Mr Lillis's injuries at Howth garda station, told the court Mr Lillis had multiple scratch marks on his forehead and to the left of his face and that the nail on his left ring finger had been lifted away from the nail bed.

Dr Kahn said these injuries were consistent with being in a struggle with another person.

Emergency consultant Dr Peadar Gilligan told the court that, on her arrival at Beaumont Hospital, Ms Cawley had a lot of bleeding from the scalp, with a wound to the back of the head.

Despite comprehensive medical efforts, her heart showed no signs of activity and she was pronounced dead at the hospital at 10.56am.

The case continues.

Irish Independent