Monday 16 December 2019

Maeve Sheehan: Judge tells Lillis to pay Georgia €1,000 in compensation

MAEVE SHEEHAN

A French judge has ordered convicted wife-killer Eamonn Lillis to pay compensation to his daughter, Georgia, after throwing out his claim that he was entitled to the holiday villa he co-owned with his late wife.

The judge found that Lillis was "unfit" to inherit the €800,000 property in Biarritz that he co-owned with his late wife, Celine Cawley, because he killed her.

In a further rebuke to Lillis, the judge ordered him to pay €1,000 compensation to Georgia, 18, for putting through the "inconvenience" of court proceedings, and €2,000 in compensation to her aunt and uncle, Chris and Susanna Cawley, who initiated the legal action in France to stop Lillis from profiting from the villa.

Lillis, who is halfway through a six-year sentence for his wife's manslaughter, will also have to foot the bill for the total costs and expenses from the case. The villa in France will now go to Celine Cawley's estate, to which Georgia is the sole heir.

Lillis had claimed that he is entitled to a share of the villa in Hossegor, in south-west France, which he jointly owned with his late wife.

The couple bought the property in 2004 but four years later, he killed her with a brick in a frenzied attack on the patio of their home in Howth, Co Dublin.

Lillis, who was having an affair when he killed her, was sentenced to six years for manslaughter.

During the trial, Celine emerged as the main earner in the family. She founded and ran of a television production company, Toytown, and her success allowed the family to acquire a property portfolio that included the family home in Howth, an investment property in Sutton and the villa in Biarritz.

Lillis's dogged bid to hold on to the properties since he killed her has been of huge source of concern to the Cawley family. Georgia, in particular, was outraged by her father's claim over the family properties and said that she would rather stick pins in her eyes than have her father return to the family home.

The Cawley family believed Lillis had forfeited his claim on the properties because he killed Celine and took legal action in Dublin, where the couple owned two properties and in France, where they owned the holiday home.

The French court judgement is in stark contrast to the findings of the Irish High Court which last December allowed Lillis to keep his share of the properties he owned with Celine in Ireland. Unlike France, Ireland has no laws in place to prevent spouse killers from inheriting their share of family properties, prompting Ms Justice Laffoy to call for legislation on the issue. As a result, Lillis inherited half of the family home in Howth worth €750,000 along with an investment property in Sutton worth €220,000.

Both properties are currently in the process of being sold and Lillis will get half of the proceeds. The other half will ultimately go to Georgia.

Lillis stands to make close to €500,000 when the Irish properties are sold. He also won a windfall of €350,000 when Toytown, the television production company Celine founded and ran, was wound up after she was killed, and is due to pocket €30,000 from bonds and investments.

A source close to the Cawley family said they were delighted with the French judgement. "The contrast (with Ireland) is overwhelming," he said. "There is no Irish law to allow what happened in France to happen here.

"The family were told by Ms Justice Laffoy's judgement that there was no law on this matter in Ireland. In that context, Lillis retained 50 per cent of the assets in Ireland and put the family through an incredibly complex and difficult situation, and forced Georgia into a position where she had to be joined to the legal action."

There was also a dramatic contrast in the cost of legal fees in the French and Irish cases. The Cawley's legal costs in France came to around €20,000 -- which Lillis was ordered to pay. The costs of the family's Irish court action run to six figures -- which will be paid out of Celine Cawley's estate.

Lillis fought the Cawley family tooth and nail, claiming that he wanted the properties to ensure he could care for his daughter, Georgia, whom he said visited him in prison. But Georgia joined her aunt and uncle in the legal action to contradict his claims. In an angry affidavit, she said she had only visited him once to get answers about her mother's killing but got none and said she would rather stick pins in her eyes than see her father return to the family home.

Sunday Independent

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