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Goodness Gracious Me... how Sophia Loren got a starring role in the Lillis murder trial

A murder trial isn't normally the setting in which one would expect to find Italian screen siren Sophia Loren.

But, thanks to a flash of wit from Judge Barry White, the spectre of the veteran actress appeared in the trial of murder accused Eamonn Lillis.

Here was a man who had caused the pulse of a young masseuse to race as she administered a deep tissue massage. And we've already heard 32-year-old Jean Treacy's account of how she placed his hand on her wrist so that he could feel her racing pulse, signalling the depth of her attraction to him.



RIPPLE

Yet, when trial Judge Barry White came to this portion of the evidence during his charge to the jury yesterday, he beamed across at the jury as he remarked: "Some of you of a certain generation may remember the words of a song by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren -- Goodness Gracious Me."

A ripple of laughter erupted around the courtroom, as onlookers recalled the novelty song in which Ms Loren plays a woman who complains to her doctor that a certain man is causing her pulse to race. A huge hit in 1960, the comedy recording features Loren imitating the beating of her heart in the chorus line.

If murder accused Lillis was familiar with the song, he didn't show it.

Face firmly focused on his notes, he didn't react as the bubbles of laughter broke the tension and tedium of the day.

Much like the family of Celine Cawley, he may have been hoping for a swift end to this trial ordeal. Yet the actions of the jury members yesterday suggested they would all be disappointed.

The clock on the bench read 2.29pm as they filed out through a wooden door and began to deliberate on the fate of 52-year-old Lillis. Just over an hour later, they were back with a rather lengthy list of requests.

First was a recording of the 999 call the accused had made at 10.02am on December 15, 2008.

The jury also wanted to see the items he had stashed in a Ripcurl bag in the attic, including his bloodstained clothes, as well as some items of clothing from his wardrobe.

They also wished to hear again the evidence of the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, the evidence of the accused during his time in the witness box and the statements given to gardai by his former lover Jean Treacy and his teenage daughter.

If this list was any indication, the six men and six women on the panel had quite an amount of deliberation ahead.

And, as they were sent home at 4.30pm yesterday, there would be yet another day of waiting before a verdict on Lillis is reached.



SHIELD

Earlier, their deliberations were interrupted as they were recalled by Judge White, who recharged them on a number of issues.

Clutching notepads, pens, coffee cups and bottles of water, they had returned to their seats, expectant expressions on their faces as the judge addressed them.

"I don't carry a sword for the prosecution or a shield for the defence," he explained, telling them he hoped they did not feel he was directing them towards a particular verdict, as he was not.

Again, he reiterated that they had the choice to acquit Lillis, convict him of manslaughter or convict him of murder.

However, he cautioned: "You cannot return a verdict of manslaughter in this case if you have a split in your numbers. You must all be agreed on the reason."

There was also a word of advice, as he told them: "When you retire, be prepared to talk, be prepared to listen, be prepared to have a view and be prepared to have that view altered by the arguments of others."

And with several aspects of the evidence to be reviewed today, there will be no shortage of discussion topics for the jury.

For Lillis, this means another long day of waiting.

Now beginning to show the strain of those long days in the courtroom, he occasionally rubs his eyes under the wire-rimmed glasses.



tedious

For the most part, however, he concentrates on his notes, his gold pen flickering in the light as it runs over his papers.

His in-laws appear equally fatigued.

Celine Cawley's father Jim was accompanied by his daughter Susanna, son Chris and a supportive collection of friends and relatives as they settled down yesterday for another tedious day in the courtroom.


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