A flash of passion as Lillis denies hitting wife with brick

'That's not true' says emotional husband as he is accused of assaulting Celine Cawley 'not once, not twice, but three times'

Aoife Finneran

It was a work of fiction, an idea that had blossomed in the mind of murder accused Eamonn Lillis at 4am on a November morning.

On a page on his bedside locker, he had written nine sentences before returning to sleep, intending to nurture the idea into a more substantial and viable work project.

As he returned to the witness box in the Central Criminal Court yesterday, Lillis explained at length his reasons for writing the note.

At the time of his wife Celine Cawley's death, the 52-year-old accused had been carrying on an affair with his local massage therapist Jean Treacy.

The woman was in a relationship with a man named Keith and was due to marry him the following summer.

When the gardai had carried out a search of Lillis's lavish Howth home in the aftermath of his wife's death, they came upon the note which contained the following sentences:

"She will get that wedding dress.

"She will marry Keith next June.

"She will send out the invites in January.

"You will never be with her properly.

"The only way to be with her is to live here.

"Think of the positives in the relationship.

"You will never take her to France.

"She will never share your bed.

"You are running out of time."

Cross-examining the accused, prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring put it to him that the contents of the note bore remarkable similarities to his own situation.

Lillis suggested otherwise, insisting that it was the basis for a fictional story that was merely "inspired by real life events".

Pressed, he continued: "The whole idea was something I was working on myself. I provided my solicitor with complete back-up notes and journals."


And he added: "It doesn't refer to our situation at all. It's not about me; it's about three different characters."

They were softly-spoken words, uttered so quietly that the jury foreman was forced to ask the witness to speak up.

Lillis shifted in his seat, moving towards the microphone and looking ill-at-ease as he struggled to project his voice.

It was his second day in the witness box, and the accused was working his way through a continuous line of questions from Ms Ring.

Dressed in a black suit, the jacket slightly rumpled from a morning sitting on the unforgiving court benches, he maintained his usual composure as he recalled the events leading to his wife's death on December 15, 2008.

He did not look towards the rear of the court, where dozens of curious members of the public had gathered for a ringside view of proceedings. Nor did he glance towards the seat containing his in-laws. Celine's father Jim had once again been accompanied into court by his surviving daughter Susanna and son Chris, their relatives gathering protectively around them as they endured yet another day of evidence.

They observed quietly as Lillis insisted there was "never any possibility" that he had planned a new life with his then-lover Ms Treacy, who had been his mistress for just over two months.

Again, Ms Ring returned to the note, recalling the phrase in which Lillis had said: "The only way to be with her is to live here."

"It's not about either of us," he insisted. "The idea was sparked by the situation I was in."

Fixing him with a gaze, Ms Ring suggested: "You felt trapped on the 15th of December, and not because of the lies you were telling."


She put it to him that he had hit his wife with a brick "not once, not twice, but three times, leaving her with three injuries to her head."

He replied: "That's not true," a spark of emotion in his voice.

It wasn't the only time yesterday that Lillis displayed a flash of passion. Earlier, he had been forced to stand firm on his declaration that his wife had been 5ft 8ins tall.

The figure contradicted the findings of deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis, who had told the court he measured the body of Ms Cawley at 5ft 10ins.

Referring back to her notes, Ms Ring pointed out the discrepancy, prompting a swift retort from the witness who insisted; "I was married to her and she was 5ft8ins."

During Dr Curtis's evidence, we had also heard of the 18 minor abrasions and bruises on Ms Cawley's face, as well as the three major head wounds inflicted by "blunt force".

Her husband was invited to submit his reasons for the injuries.

There was a bruise above the lip that could have been caused when he pushed her arm up over her head during their struggle.

One blow to the head could have been caused when they grappled together and smashed up against a window.

As for some of the minor injuries, he was less certain, shaking his head slightly as he explained: "I'm not sure how that happened."

The six men and six women of the jury will today hear closing arguments from the prosecution and defence teams.