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Wife-killer gets €350,000 from wind-up of firm

CONVICTED killer Eamonn Lillis has received a windfall of more than €350,000 after the production company founded by his late wife was wound up two months ago.

Lillis, 53, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing Celine Cawley in December 2008, was joint shareholder in Toytown Films and pocketed €353,508 when the business was liquidated in February. The business had been placed into voluntary liquidation three months after Lillis killed his wife with a brick on the patio of their home in Howth in 2008.

Documents filed in the Companies Office show that, when the liquidation concluded on February 11, the company had a balance of €754,511. Once creditors were paid off, the remaining €707,016 was split between its two shareholders. Lillis received €353,508 while the remainder went to Ms Cawley's estate.

During Lillis' trial Ms Cawley was credited as the driving force in the business, while Eamon Lillis was described as taking a back seat. Toytown was behind some of the most successful television advertising campaigns of the past decade with clients such as Guinness, Carlsberg and the National Lottery

Lillis' huge payout comes as his dead wife's family prepares for a legal battle tomorrow to stop him from benefitting from the properties he jointly owned with his wife.

Ms Cawley's sister Susanna and brother Christopher, who are joint administrators of the estate, will argue that the properties should go to the couple's only child who recently turned 18. Ms Cawley, a former Bond girl, left a legacy of more than €1m which will be inherited by their daughter.

Lillis is legally prevented from inheriting any of his wife's assets, as he was convicted of killing her. However, he claims he is entitled to half of the properties they held in joint ownership. They include the family home in Howth, worth an estimated €1.5m, an apartment in Sutton, and a holiday home in France.

The legal challenge is listed for the High Court's chancery division tomorrow. If it proceeds, the court is expected to hear details of his €353,000 windfall.

The court is also expected to hear claims that he has separately invested hundreds of thousands of euro and that he failed to provide for his daughter.

According to reports of affidavits lodged by Susanna Cawley, her family will claim that Lillis had access to almost €1m but made no financial or domestic provision for his daughter. He was alleged to have invested €400,000, while up to €66,000 lodged in a joint bank account had been "dissipated" after Celine's death.

Lillis claimed in defence that his only concern was to rebuild his relationship with his daughter, Georgia, on his release from prison.

He said he was "plagued with guilt" and described prison as a "very difficult and alien world".

"There was never any question that the events leading to my wife's death were motivated by financial reasons," he reportedly responded in his affidavit. Lillis initially denied killing his wife, inventing an elaborate tale that she was killed by an intruder.

Detectives soon discovered that he was lying and that he was having an affair with a masseuse, Jean Treacy.

Ms Cawley's horrified family accused Lillis of telling "treacherous lies" in a victim impact statement read following the trial.

Lillis, who was jailed last year, will be eligible for release in four years, aged 57.

He is currently an inmate at Wheatfield prison where he is allowed to study Spanish and work as a prison cleaner. He has complained that he fears his privacy will be invaded as a result of the legal action taken by Ms Cawley's siblings. The hearing is likely to force Lillis to reveal private details of his relationship with the couple's only daughter, as he claims that she is his motivation for wanting to hold on to the family properties.

Sunday Independent