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'Don't let vicious killers like Lillis inherit victim's assets', say family


Celine Cawley was killed in a row at home

Celine Cawley was killed in a row at home

Killer Eamonn Lillis

Killer Eamonn Lillis


Celine Cawley was killed in a row at home

The family of slain businesswoman Celine Cawley will today speak out against a gap in the law that allows killers to inherit the assets of their victims.

They will call for urgent legislation, saying other families should not have to go through the ordeal they suffered.

Ms Cawley (46), a former model and Bond girl who ran a successful film production company, was bludgeoned to death by her husband, Eamonn Lillis, 10 years ago next month.


Her family says the intervening years have been taken up with costly "complex and emotionally draining" court cases.

They arose after Lillis (61), despite being convicted of manslaughter, maintained he was entitled to assets he jointly held with his wife - including the family home in Howth, Co Dublin, and a home in France.

The killer ultimately won the right to a 50pc share of Irish assets following a High Court ruling here. However, a French court found he had no right to a share in the home in France.

As a result of the Irish ruling, Lillis held on to around €500,000 in assets.

Ms Cawley's siblings, Chris and Susanna, want the loophole in the Irish law closed.

In a speech to be delivered today at a Women's Aid event at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, the Cawleys will detail the legal battles they felt compelled to pursue to ensure Celine's daughter, Georgia, was properly provided for.

In the speech, Chris and Susanna say the absence of relevant laws in Ireland supported not just Lillis's sense of entitlement to the assets but his actual entitlement to them.

"The effect of this was that although her killer was convicted and serving a jail sentence, he had an automatic right personally to inherit all their joint assets," they say.

"Additionally, he made no financial provisions for their daughter. We decided to fight for the principle of social justice and the common good."

They say that in Ireland High Court proceedings lasted four years and seven months, with legal costs coming to €187,000.

In comparison, the French proceedings took one year and seven months with legal costs of just €16,000.

"It seems that in France the common good and principles of social justice are upheld. It seems to us this is not the case in Ireland," they will say.


Lillis was sentenced to six years and 11 months in 2010 but with remission was freed in 2015.

He hit his wife over the head with a brick in a row at their home.

He told gardai he found an intruder attacking his wife and even gave detectives the name of a local man as a suspect.

Detectives were suspicious and found clothing covered in Ms Cawley's blood in a suitcase.