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Lies about a burglar didn't convince gardai, who told Lillis: 'You were in films -- this wouldn't hack it on Postman Pat'

The suggestions had been flying towards Eamonn Lillis thick and fast. He was merely a lapdog, the second-class citizen in his marriage to Celine Cawley, who was opinionated, strong, a dominant person, slightly on the bullying side.

These were the submissions of gardai who questioned Lillis following his arrest in connection with his wife's death.

They said he had been described as a lesser partner in their business, and it was reputed that he earned a salary of €100,000 while his wife took home €500,000.

Facing the questions at Clontarf Garda Station, Lillis had declined to comment.

Yesterday, as the crowds swarmed into every available space in court 19, the accused man relived the details of his interviews with detectives.

His face expressionless, he pored over the notes in front of him, occasionally rubbing his eyes under his wire-rimmed glasses. At the rear of the room, the anguished faces of Celine's father, brother and sister winced. The descriptions of their daughter and sister hardly painted her in the softest light, so it must have made for painful listening. They could only sit in silence through yet another long day of evidence.

They heard how 52-year-old Lillis had explained that the three scratches on his face had been caused accidentally as he held his dying wife's hand on the patio.

He said: "When I held her hand up to my face I was kissing her hand. When I saw her eyes open, I dropped her hand." It was at that point, he insisted, that his his wife's short, strong nails had grazed his face.

And he vehemently insisted: "I never laid a hand on Celine."

Lillis had also initially insisted to gardai that Celine had been attacked by an intruder. This fictitious intruder had also assaulted him when he attempted to intervene, and he said he had blacked out for some time.

A neighbour had told gardai she heard a woman scream twice that morning, at around 9.30am.

The 999 call from Lillis had been made more than half an hour later, at 10.02am.

Elements of his explanations raised the suspicions of the seasoned investigating detectives.

They dismissed it as a cock-and-bull story, reminding him that intruders tend to flee instead of fighting when confronted.

Det Garda Paul Donoghue was even moved to comment: "This is a very interesting burglar. You were in the film business. That description wouldn't even hack it on Postman Pat."

He may have invented a story about a burglary for gardai, but Lillis also displayed a fondness for writing fact-based tales.

Gardai searching the house after Celine's death had uncovered two pieces of paper bearing an interesting story.

Yesterday, Det Sgt Fionnuala Olahan recited the contents in court:

"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."

By the time they showed Lillis his own note, detectives had learned that he had been carrying on a 10-week affair with his massage therapist Jean Treacy.

The 31-year-old was engaged to be married the following June. However, when first confronted with the note, the accused described it as a short story, adding "I used to be a copy writer" and that he had also written a chapter about a dog.

Pressed, he admitted that the paper contained notes on a doomed love affair and that they had been written from experience.

Detectives told Lillis they were piecing together his motive for murder.

They had heard he was involved in a sexless marriage with Celine Cawley and that they slept in separate rooms.

The accused insisted otherwise, explaining the separate bedrooms were a consequence of Celine's snoring and that the arrangement began when their daughter was a baby, "rather than having the two of us f****d".

Det Garda Donoghue put it to him: "We have been told your marriage was sexless.

"You met a 31-year-old girl who wanted to have sex with you every day in exciting places; in the car in the Pavilion in Swords, in the same house you shared with your wife when she was away."

The accused had replied: "No comment."

He did, however, admit to being caught up in a mid-life attraction, the only explanation he offered for his extra-marital affair.

Detective Garda Patrick Flood put it to him simply, saying: "I'm appealing to you, as a father, as a man, as a human being. S*** happens. People f**k up. We just want to hear the truth. People are in pain. Stop it."

Lillis's reply was succinct: "I have told you the truth."


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