THE sister of manslaughter victim Celine Cawley has spoken of her torment at how she will never know how she died at the hands of her husband, Eamon Lillis.
“The endless lies and scenarios are all that are in my mind, as is the terrifying realisation that I will probably never really know what happened on December 15, 2008,” said Ms Cawley’s sister Susanna in a victim impact statement. “Was she in pain? Was she conscious? Was she frightened? Did she think of [daughter’s name]? Did she know she was dying?”
Lillis, known as Prisoner No 55511, spent last night at the remand facilities in Cloverhill Prison in Clondalkin. The 52-year-old TV advertising director returns to the Central Criminal Court this morning to find out the term of imprisonment he will face.
Trial judge Mr Justice Barry White postponed handing down a sentence to Lillis yesterday in order to read overnight a number of victim impact statements and character references supplied respectively by relatives of Ms Cawley and friends of the guilty man.
Lillis, who had denied murdering his wife at their family home at Rowan Hill, Windgate Road, Howth, on December 15, 2008, was found guilty of her manslaughter by a 10-2 majority verdict last Friday at the end of a 14-day trial.
In the victim impact statement, Celine Cawley’s sister described the deceased woman as “good-humoured, roguish, fun, compassionate and caring”.
She condemned her brother-in-law for making up a story about a mystery intruder being responsible for Celine’s death and his “lack of remorse” despite having 13 months in which to repent. “No such apology was forthcoming.”
Ms Cawley described how such “treacherous” lies were “overwhelming”, especially for her 80-year-old father, James. The pain which lingered over the unanswered questions over how Celine died continued to haunt her family, she added.
A statement submitted by the couple’s only child, a 17-year-old daughter, was not read out in court.
Pleading for leniency, Lillis’s barrister, Brendan Grehan, said his client, who has no previous convictions, was “extremely sorry and regretful” for Celine’s death and his subsequent behaviour towards her family. In particular, he was fearful for the consequences such actions would have on his daughter, who was now “the only part of Celine left in his life”.
Two college friends also spoke of Lillis’s gentle nature and his loving role as a godfather to their children.
However, counsel for the DPP, Mary Ellen Ring, said the court would have to take into account aggravating factors that Lillis had lied repeatedly to gardaí about his own role in his wife’s death. She also reminded the judge, Lillis had tried to implicate an innocent third party in her violent death and had not gone to his wife’s assistance while she lay seriously injured.
Criticism was also voiced by both prosecution and defence legal teams about the widespread media publicity surrounding the case. One garda witness claimed Lillis had been “plagued” and “chased up the road” by photographers while signing on at his local Garda station while out on bail.
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