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Lillis fears for privacy in court battle

CONVICTED killer Eamon Lillis has complained about his privacy being invaded, as a legal battle looms over the assets of his dead wife, Celine Cawley.

Lillis was jailed last year for the manslaughter of Ms Cawley, whom he killed with a brick on the patio of their luxury home in Howth, Co Dublin, before Christmas in 2008.

A brief court hearing last month heard that Lillis was "fearful of an invasion of his privacy" in fighting the court action over his wife's assets.

The action was taken by Ms Cawley's siblings who have asked the High Court to stop Lillis from claiming his share of the properties jointly owned by the couple. They include the family home in Howth, a second home in Sutton, and a holiday home in France. Her family want the properties to go to the couple's only daughter, who recently turned 18.

The court heard on December 17 last that Lillis had missed a court deadline to respond to claims made by Ms Cawley's family. The lawyers blamed the snowy weather for disrupting prison visits but also cited the fears for his privacy. The hearing is likely to force Lillis to reveal private details of his relationship with the couple's only daughter, as he claims she is his motivation for holding on to the properties.

The case was adjourned to February to give Lillis more time, despite the Cawley family's desire to see the case resolved quickly. Like other claims made by Lillis, the concerns for his privacy are expected to be robustly challenged by his dead wife's family.

Ms Cawley, 46, was a wealthy woman at the time of her death. A former model and Bond Girl, she had established a successful production firm, Toytown Films, where her husband was employed as a producer. She left an estate of more than €1m to her daughter. Lillis is legally barred under the Succession Act from benefitting from his dead wife's estate because he killed her. But he is entitled to half of the assets they held jointly, including the three properties and a share of the cash in their joint bank accounts.

Susanna and Chris Cawley, sister and brother of Ms Cawley, applied to the High Court to stop him from inheriting the joint assets.

Lillis, 53, who was jailed for almost six years and 11 months, has claimed that he was not motivated by money in seeking to hold onto his share of the assets, but by a desire to rebuild a relationship with the couple's only daughter, who recently turned 18. He claimed he was "plagued with guilt" and struggled to adapt to life in prison.

"There was never any question that the events leading to my wife's death were motivated by financial reasons," he said in court filings.

His sister-in-law, Susanna Cawley, who along with her brother is executor of Celine's will, claimed that Lillis had invested €400,000, which he had not disclosed to the courts and had failed to provide for his daughter. She claimed that after his wife's death, Lillis had access to their joint bank accounts and claimed that more than €66,000 was dissipated. Lillis is also thought to have received €345,000 when Toytown Films, the company founded by Celine Cawley, was wound down after her death.

Ms Cawley's siblings have accused him of failing to put in place any financial, domestic or other arrangements for his daughter, resulting in utilities being disconnected in their former family home.

Sunday Independent