Wife-killer Lillis brazenly walks through reporters after being released

Lillis leaving prison
Lillis leaving prison

There was no remorse as Eamonn Lillis yesterday took his first short steps to freedom from the prison door to a taxi waiting outside yesterday.

The wife-killer could have left on Friday, Joyce Fegan reports for, as the prison authorities granted him a temporary release so he could leave a day early to avoid the media scrum. But when told of the throngs of reporters and photographers waiting for him on the other side of the prison walls, he baulked.

He was so in dread of the media that he forfeited his liberty to spend one more night behind bars.

Yesterday, Lillis finally faced the music. At 9.40am, he emerged from Wheatfield Prison in Ballyfermot where he served 1,888 days as Prisoner 55511 for the manslaughter of his wife, the television production executive and former James Bond girl Celine Cawley at their home in Howth.

Lillis had clearly braced himself for the onslaught of attention. He made no attempt to hide his face and walked steadily down the path.

He wore a grey hoodie, black jeans and running shoes. He carried a black canvas shopping bag containing the few belongings that he accumulated over five years in prison. He seemed to have lost weight.

He glanced briefly towards the gate where the media had gathered, and walked straight to a red Avensis taxi waiting for him outside.

The waiting media were not about to give up on the quarry they had been staking out for days. And for an hour and 20 minutes, Lillis tried in vain to give the chasing press pack the slip.

His taxi criss-crossed the city, from Wheatfield Prison down the Naas Road, onto the M50 where he took the Dun Laoghaire exit, onto the N11 and through Ballsbridge.

Then to the Port Tunnel in the direction of Dublin Airport, which the taxi circled a number of times before finally dropping him off at Terminal 1 at around 11.30am.

To his dismay, a pack of reporters and photographers were there to greet him.

He walked through the main doors of the airport with the members of the press scuttling along beside him, throwing out questions.

Lillis was clearly angry.

"I have served my time," he said sternly as he strode towards the departure gates.

He had done everything possible to get through the security gates to the safety of other side, where reporters could not follow him. He had bought his ticket while he was still in prison. He had checked in online and printed off his boarding pass.

The boarding pass was for a flight to Southampton, the city in the south of England where one of his two sisters lives.

He scanned the pass and walked through security checkpoint number two. His eyes scanned the landscape nervously, looking left to right.

Somewhere along the way, he had ditched the canvas shopping bag. By the time he reached the metal detector, he was holding a grey back pack that apparently contained the meagre possessions he took with him from prison.

But Lillis, who is a millionaire, wasted little time in making acquisitions. He gathered up his bag, and head down, hurried through the perimeter, stopped and quickly scanned the aisles for journalists.

He stopped at an aluminium table, and took out his crumpled A4-sized boarding pass and an old-fashioned black mobile phone from his new bag. He punched in some digits and then put the cumbersome device to his ear.

He was on the phone for five minutes, all the while keeping a wary eye out for the press. Then he headed straight for the duty-free shops.

First stop was the cosmetics aisles, where he browsed through big brand label creams, make-up and perfumes.

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.

By now, word had spread that the convicted killer was in the building. Shop staff whispered and pointed. But he was not deterred.

His next stop was the pharmacy, where he perused the dental section and again left without making a purchase.

He then walked into the newsagents, where dozens of newspapers carrying his name and photo stared back up at him.

In what looked like a very deliberate decision, Lillis ignored the newspapers and instead went for the paperbacks.

He picked up John Connolly's latest thriller, and stopped to scan the blurb at the back of the book, which read: "Badly wounded in a near-fatal shooting and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover."

He left it down and exited the shop.

Over the next while, he looped back and forth through the terminal in an effort to shake off anyone on his trail.

Short in stature and neat in frame, for a newly-released institutionalised man he moved sleekly through the Loop Mall, like any regular passenger on the London 'red-eye' flights.

At one stage, two journalists approached him. He looked them straight in the eye before threatening to call the airport police.

The police promptly arrived. One journalist was warned that he could be detained and he was threatened with having his phone seized.

"That individual is a private citizen and hasn't committed any offence on airport property," said an airport police officer.

Lillis then made his way towards the private airport lounges, speaking with security staff as he tried to seek some sanctuary before quitting the country.

Later, Lillis cut a lonely figure, taking a row of seats for himself as he waited to board his flight. The convicted killer looked 10 years younger than his 57 years, the only thing breaking his slick all-black disguise of the suave single man were the white cotton prison socks beaming out from between his jeans and runners. Reading 'Empire' film magazine, he sat at gate 209 for at least 30 minutes under the watchful eye of the airport police in the background

The father-of-one stood up as soon as the voice over the intercom announced the flight was ready for take off.

He settled into his window seat on the plane and, just as he was the model prisoner, he too was the model passenger.

No celebratory tea, coffee or beer was ordered and not even a pack of pretzels was taken.

As the flight took off from the east coast of Ireland, with Howth fading into the background, he didn't look back until the seatbelt sign had been switched off.

There were four retrospective glances in total across his former landscape, but as the plane made its way into Southampton he put down his film magazine and gazed out the window, surveying his temporary new home.

After landing, as the doors opened he gently rubbed his hands together.

Additional reporting by Maeve Sheehan, Ronald Quinlan and Claire Mc Cormack for