In-depth analysis of stained clothing

THE sixth day of the Eamonn Lillis murder trial was dominated by evidence from several forensic scientists who had examined clothing and other items taken from the family home in Howth where his wife, Celine Cawley, had been fatally attacked on December 15, 2008.

Anyone turning up at the Criminal Courts of Justice hoping for an Irish version of CSI: Miami complete with a colourful lead character like Lieutenant Horatio “H” Caine would have been sorely disappointed.

The job of forensic scientists charged with examining material from a crime scene can be a dull, painstaking, repetitive, yet important exercise – much like the evidence that followed.

One of the main witnesses, Dr Hilary Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Laboratory provided detailed information on DNA profiling tests carried out on clothing worn by Lillis on the day of his wife’s death as well as other clothes and items later discovered in the attic of his house by gardaí.

They revealed that blood found on some clothes worn by the accused belonged to Ms Cawley. The chance that the blood was not that of the victim was “one in a thousand million” said the forensic scientist, clearly avoiding use of the word “billion” lest there be uncertainty about how much that figure constitutes.

Dr Clarke said she had “a high expectation” of finding a large amount of contact blood stains on a grey seater worn by Lillis if he had been providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on his wife. “These were not present,” she told the court.

However, defence lawyers recalled a Garda witness, who was the first to respond to a 999 call from Lillis and who gave evidence of helping him to provide CPR to his wife. Sergeant Brian Clune said he did not have any blood stains on his uniform after they had both tried to resuscitate Ms Cawley for around two minutes together.

Sight of clothing worn by Lillis stained with the blood of his wife proved too painful for some of the dead woman’s relatives including Ms Cawley’s sister-in-law, Sorcha who left the courtroom unable to watch that portion of the proceedings.

The victim’s elderly father, Jim, wept silently as the brick, which is believed to be the weapon used to kill his daughter, was produced in court.

The object, which was blood-soaked in photographs shown earlier in the trial, was no longer covered in bright, crimson material. Dr Hickey explained that the blood had been absorbed by the brick and she had been unable to get a DNA profile from it as the blood had probably been broken down by “inhibitors”.

In the afternoon, evidence turned to the recollection of several people living and working in the Howth area including the dead woman’s brother, Chris Cawley – the head of one of Dublin’s best-known advertising agencies, Cawley Nea.

Paula Lynskey, a family friend and TV producer like both Ms Cawley and her husband, was in Mr Cawley’s home as people gathered in the aftermath of Celine’s death.

She recounted how Lillis, who had arrived in the house from Howth Garda Station, had described how he had come upon his wife being attacked by an intruder.

Ms Lynskey said she found it “a bit strange” that Lillis had marks on his face from grappling with the intruder given he claimed his attacker had been wearing gloves.

Also there in the house was Siobhan O’Farrell, a sister-in-law of Mr Cawley, who said she was shocked at the injuries on the face of the accused. Ms O’Farrell, who hugged Mr Cawley and her sister, Sorcha after giving evidence, described Celine as “a very private” person. Asked if Ms Cawley was the dominant partner in her marriage, Ms O’Farrell replied: “She would have been.”

Emma O’Byrne who worked for the couple’s TV production company, Toytown Films, agreed that Ms Cawley was responsible for hiring and firing in what was effectively her firm.

“She was the main decision maker,” observed Ms O’Byrne. “She was the boss.”

In contrast, she claimed Lillis had taken “a back seat” in the company and was not involved in its day-to-day operations. She agreed with defence barrister, Brendan Grehan that the accused would have more responsibility for looking after the domestic household.

A neighbour, Pauline Fraser, described how she had been woken by the sound of screaming at 9.30am on the morning that Ms Cawley died.

She initially thought it might have been the sound of teenagers or a neighbour’s young children. However, Ms Fraser said the two high-pitched shrieks, which were 30 seconds apart, gave the impression of “someone in trouble”.

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