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Wife killer Eamonn Lillis keeps a low profile during his first few days as a free man

NewsBy Neil Fetherston
Lillis at Southampton airport.
Lillis at Southampton airport.

Wife killer Eamonn Lillis has been keeping a low profile during his first few day as a free man.

He has been speeding time at his sister’s house in Southampton but has not been seen at the address since he arrived there on Saturday evening.

Earlier that day he had walked free from prison and instantly went on a spending spree using cash he inherited from the woman he killed.  

Lillis left Wheatfield Prison in Dublin at 9.40am in a grey hoodie with a nest egg of more than €1.3million in his back pocket. 

The 57-year-old was collected from jail by taxi, having served 1,888 days as Prisoner 55511, and was brought to Dublin Airport to get a flight to Southampton.

After arriving in the airport, the cold-hearted killer refused to answer questions posed by reporters about the death of his wife, saying only: “I have served my time.”

Despite bludgeoning his wife Celine Cawley to death, Lillis was allowed to inherit a share of the couple’s assets – including €358,505 from the liquidation of his wife’s TV production company Toytown.

However, the Sunday World revealed that the former TV executive wasted no time in splashing the cash he pocketed as a result of battering his wife to death at the family home in Howth, Dublin, in September 2008. 

 

 “I have served my time.”

Once he was through the departures gate, Lillis made his way down to duty-free – but not before stopping to gather himself and take another wide scan for any nearby journalists.

He stopped at an aluminium table and took out his folded and somewhat crumpled A4-sized boarding pass and a black mobile phone.

Typing digits into the ancient-looking device, Lillis made what looked like his first call as a free man. He spoke for about five minutes on his phone, all the while scanning the terminal building. The millionaire then headed for the cosmetics aisles. 

He bought three boxes of ladies’ cosmetics in a hasty purchase and made his way for the alcohol and chocolates. The whiskeys caught his eye, but aware of lurking media, he refrained from purchasing any alcohol.

Lillis is driven away from the airport in Southhampton by his sister.

Word had obviously got out that the convicted killer was in the building, as shop staff began to whisper and point towards him.

Next stop was the pharmacy, where he perused the dental section and again left without making a purchase. Then came the newsagents, where dozens of papers carrying his name and photo stared up at him. 

In what looked like a very deliberate gesture, Lillis ignored the newsprint and went for the paperbacks. He picked John Connolly’s latest saga.

Lillis had stayed in prison for an extra day in a bid to cover his tracks before leaving the country. Despite unsuccessfully applying for early release last month, he then turned down the option to leave Wheatfield Prison a day early on Friday.

It was the start of cat-and-mouse game with the media as he sought to fly out from Dublin in the first few hours of his freedom.

Having left Wheatfield prison yesterday morning at 9.40am, Lillis took a taxi out to the airport. He did his best to lose the waiting media by taking a meandering one-hour long route from the Clondalkin prison to the airport.

Everything was prepared. He had checked in online and was able to go straight to security.

Once he had scanned his boarding pass for Southampton, he came through security checkpoint number two and his eyes scanned nervously around while he waited in line.

Lillis had left Wheatfield in a grey cotton zip-up jacket carrying a black canvas shopping bag, but by the time he made it to the metal detector he was dressed in all black and was holding a grey school bag containing his life’s possessions.

During his high-profile trial, Lillis had consistently denied deliberating killing his wife.

He claimed they had an intense fight and at one point they both fell to the ground as she bit into his finger. Lillis claimed the injuries to her head must have happened when he pushed her forehead away in a bid to release his finger from her teeth.

During the trial, the Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said moderate force would have caused the three wounds found on Ms Cawley’s head, which would have resulted in blood loss and asphyxia.

Her obesity and enlarged heart were contributory factors in her death, he added.

Lillis had left Wheatfield in a grey cotton zip-up jacket carrying a black canvas shopping bag, but by the time he made it to the metal detector he was dressed in all black and was holding a grey school bag containing his life’s possessions.

He said she might not have died if medical help had been summoned more quickly.

Bloodstained clothes later found in the attic suggest that Lillis changed before calling an ambulance.

While Celine was still conscious, he came up with a story that she had been attacked by a burglar in a bid to explain her injuries to their daughter Georgia.

Lillis later suggested local man Stephen Larkin, who had done some gardening work for them, as a possible suspect.

“He tried to blame the killing on someone else, it didn’t matter who, it just happened to be me,” said Larkin in an interview.

“He never answered for that, for trying to blame me. He would’ve left me to die in prison if the Gardai had come after me when he sent them after me. I don’t think that would have bothered him at all,” he said.

After his conviction for manslaughter, Judge Barry White said Lillis’s decision to call an ambulance was “the only decent act” he committed on the day of his wife’s death.

He said that before the emergency call was made, Lillis took time to hide clothes in the attic and make up a story about a burglary.

Judge White remarked that this story was repeated in the days following the death and he said Lillis even went so far as to point the finger of suspicion at an innocent man.

In the wake of his conviction, the focus turned to ensuring the financial future of the couple’s teenage daughter.

Celine’s family failed in their bid to stop Lillis keeping his share of the family home in Howth.

However, a French judge ruled that he was no longer entitled to any portion of the €800,000 from the sale of a house the couple had owned together in France. 

The house where he killed his wife was sold for around €1million and he got his share in October 2012.

Lillis also got a €400,000 pension fund from the business, €131,500 from the sale of an investment property in Sutton and €22,000 in investment bonds.

As well as his considerable wealth, Lillis has also had the comfort of support from a loyal network friends and relations who visited him throughout his time in prison.

He took advantage of courses on offer to prisoners, working on his Spanish and French language skills. He also did yoga classes as well as producing poetry and paintings.

He enjoyed sought-after prison jobs in the kitchens, library and worked for a while as a cleaner.

It is also believed he struck a close friendship with another wife killer, Brian Kearney, who is serving time for the murder of his wife Siobhan in 2006.

One person who did cut him loose was his ex-lover Jean Treacy. The young masseuse had been involved in a passionate affair with Lillis for less than two months before the killing.

During the trial, Tracey, who was 30 years old at the time of the affair, told how they met almost every day and she said at the time she thought she had loved him, but later realised it was an infatuation.

In a bid for ‘closure’, the former lovers met once after the killing, where Lillis told her his version of events. When he sent her a Tiffany pendant, she went to the Gardaí and told them what he had told her.

Lillis denied that the affair had anything to do with the row that led to his wife’s death.

JOYCE FEGAN & EUGENE MASTERSON

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