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Why gardai kept lover hidden for Lillis murder trial

Gardai today attempted to explain the reasoning behind shielding murder accused Eamonn Lillis’ former mistress in court.

As the jury considered their verdict in the murder trial, the Garda Commissioner has announced he is looking into the issue of special privileges for some court witnesses.

Today, one investigation source said the decision to shield Jean Treacy (32) from the media was taken at mid-rank level to “protect her dignity”.

Ms Treacy was escorted in and out of a courts kitchen away from the glare of cameras because officers were sympathetic to her appeal to be shielded.

Officers even gave the beauty therapist advice on how to obscure her face in the event of a photographer seeing her, the source indicated.

The revelations have emerged as Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy arranges to meet the National Newspapers of Ireland to discuss the shielding of Ms Treacy from the media at the murder trial.

The Herald understands no consent from a superior officer was given, or needed for the special treatment Ms Treacy received on the day.

"She asked was there a way she could avoid being photographed, the decision was made for the sake of her dignity," a source said.

"The feeling was -- why should she be singled out for ridicule? That essentially was the feeling."

Ms Treacy had told gardai about her affair with Lillis when she gave a statement following Ms Cawley's death. Later, she told officers what Lillis said to her about the row he had with his wife on the morning she died.

Before she took the stand, Ms Treacy was flanked by gardai at the back of the courtroom. Afterwards, officers blocked the road to prevent photographers following her.

Since giving evidence, Ms Treacy has appealed to the media through her solicitors to stop attempting to contact her.

"(She) does not consent to being approached directly or indirectly, in person or by telephone, or to have her photograph taken," her solicitors' letter stated. "Our client has given her evidence in open court and beyond that we do not believe there can be any legitimate public interest in details of her private, home or professional life being reported on."

In her evidence, Ms Treacy told the Central Criminal Court she began a physical affair with Lillis eight weeks before his wife's death. She and Lillis met almost every day. She realised now it was an infatuation, she said.

She met Lillis through his wife, who was a customer at the clinic where she worked. She had been giving Lillis a regular Friday massage for two years before their affair began.

Meanwhile Garda Commissioner Murphy has refused to comment on the specifics of the case, saying he is precluded from doing so until the end of the trial.

He has confirmed, however that he has had a request from the NNI to meet and says he will be meeting them when the trial is over.

It is understood the discussions will cover the Jean Treacy shielding but also the more general issue of the relationship between the media and gardai.

The NNI represents Irish national newspapers and the Irish editions of British national newspapers.

While speaking at the Garda Training College at Templemore in Tipperary, Commissioner Murphy undertook to make a public statement after the discussions are complete.