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Eamonn Lillis's fate now lies in hands of jury

"What a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive." It was by paraphrasing Sir Walter Scott that defence counsel Brendan Grehan hammered home his point as he delivered his closing address in the trial of murder accused Eamonn Lillis.

Turning to face the six men and six women of the jury, he described how his client had started his deceit with a lie to gardai that had snowballed beyond his control. Having created a story for gardai, he had gone to stay at his brother-in-law's home and found himself unable to reverse the untruths.

"The more evidence that is piled in front of him, the more preposterous the lie becomes," said Mr Grehan.

Despite this, Mr Grehan suggested that gardai would have immediately become suspicious of Eamonn Lillis and would have focused their attentions on him as they investigated the death of Celine Cawley.

At the time, the accused had been carrying on an eight-week affair with his local massage therapist Jean Treacy. Yesterday, Mr Grehan suggested that he might have reacted in the way that he did "because of what was going on with Ms Treacy".

Twelve pairs of eyes stared back at him as he insisted: "This is a court of law, not a court of morality. You are not being asked to judge Mr Lillis on his moral fibre."

The affair, he said, should not be given undue relevance. And he suggested that "the truth is perhaps a lot more prosaic than the prosecution would like you to believe".

Then, with a sweeping gesture of his arms, he pointed out even a man in a fulfilled marriage might have strayed if they met "a beautiful young woman who in effect has the capacity to cause you to roll back the years in terms of where your life is at".

Shrugging his shoulders, he added: "Who wouldn't be flattered if a young woman placed your hand on her pulse and you had caused it to race?"

Strain

From Eamonn Lillis there was no reaction. For the first time in his 11-day trial, the 52-year-old had begun to show the signs of strain. His face, capped by neatly cropped, grey hair, appeared grey and tired, and he shifted several times on the uncomfortable wooden bench.

Evidence having concluded in the trial, he had dispensed with his notes, instead observing quietly as prosecution and defence counsels addressed the jury.

At times, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the expressionless face jumping to life as he rolled his tongue around the inside of his mouth or pursed his lips.

Across the room, the family of Celine Cawley was finding the going equally tough. It had been a long and tedious day in the crowded chamber, the vast numbers of curious onlookers jostling for space behind the bench reserved for the family.

The smartly dressed figure of Jim Cawley hunched forward in his seat, eyes closed as he listened to a review of the evidence. Judging by his expression, certain details weren't any easier to hear the second time around.

Pain flickered across his face as prosecution counsel Mary Ellen Ring recalled the evidence of the Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis. He had told the court that the three wounds to Celine Cawley's head were consistent with having been caused by the application of blunt force.

"This is murder," said Ms Ring, "not an unfortunate accident." She said that while Eamonn Lillis hadn't planned murder, "he was a man who was presented with an opportunity and acted on it".

Mr Grehan suggested otherwise, pointing out that the wounds to Celine Cawley's head had been inflicted with "moderate force". With another shrug of the shoulders, he suggested: "If you're going to kill somebody, you're going to do it properly."

Today, it will be up to the jury to assess the evidence and decide what exactly happened at Rowan Hill on Howth on December 15, 2008.

However, Mr Grehan told the jury they had already heard the most logical explanation from Detective Garda Paul Donoghue. During his questioning of the accused at Clontarf garda station, he had put it to him that: "It is quite obvious that you lost the head and flipped that morning. Everyone we've spoken to said you were a nice, gentle, caring soul.

"It's within all of us. A build-up of resentment can cause us to explode."

Scribbled

The jury members listened intently as Judge Barry White brought them through their options. Notes were scribbled on notebooks as he told them they could convict the accused of murder, or acquit him if they believed he played no role in his wife's death.

They could also convict him of manslaughter, by reason of using excessive force due to self-defence or provocation. And furthermore, they must consider recklessness on the part of the accused.

They are due to begin their deliberations this afternoon.

afinneran@herald.ie