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Eamon Lillis: I told my wife she was only interested in her own image as superwoman

It must have been the ugliest of marital rows. As murder accused Eamonn Lillis described the horrendous argument that had ultimately led to his wife's death, his soft voice trembled with emotion. According to his account, both he and his wife Celine had hurled devastatingly harsh and hurtful words at one another, a situation that would end in tragedy.

For almost two weeks, the court had been building a picture of the marriage of the murder accused and his wife. Yesterday, Lillis finally began painting his own portrait of the relationship as he stepped into the witness box. Clad in a smart black suit with black suede loafers, the softly spoken man sat forward in his seat and spoke in rapid, slightly clipped tones as he angled towards the microphone. Even that wasn't enough, with the jury foreman interrupting twice to ask him to speak up.

He said he had forgotten to leave out mealworm for the robins, prompting Celine to describe this as "bloody typical". As the row escalated, he thrust a brick at her and told her "why don't you stick this where the sun don't shine".



BITING

The insults continued, with the accused explaining: "She was asking me why I hadn't been out trying to generate new business, to bring in new jobs. She said I didn't care for [our daughter]; I was very angry". Lillis had furiously responded, telling the court: "I accused her of only being interested in her own image as superwoman". He said Celine "accused me of being a bad father to (their daughter) and that really annoyed me". Tension and anger increasing, the row had turned physical, and Lillis said he recalled pushing his wife up against a window.

"She may have banged her head off it because she let out an almighty scream. I don't know if she was screaming in pain or screaming at me."

Onlookers shuffled uncomfortably in the crowded courtroom. It was a testimony that made for unpleasant listening, providing a deeply personal insight into an ugly marital row. He then brought us, in extensive detail, through the tussling, grappling, pushing, shoving and biting of the altercation.

It was all too much for Jim Cawley. In his seat at the back of the courtroom, Celine's elderly father crumpled, powerless to stem the flow of tears. His shoulders heaving with emotion, he struggled for breath as the painful words continued to wash over him.

Lillis said they agreed they would explain their injuries to their daughter by telling her a story about an intruder, so he immediately went to set the scene to make it look as if a burglar had been there. Upstairs, he said he sat for a moment on the edge of the bath, "trying to get my head together".

"I needed time away from her. She needed time away from me. We were just extremely angry," he explained. "We'd had arguments of a similar nature over the years, but nothing as bad as this." Asked why he had left his wife outside, he said he had "no idea that Celine was as seriously injured as she was".

It wasn't until more than 10 minutes later that he returned to the patio and saw his wife lying unconscious. Even after he dialled 999, administered CPR and saw Celine being rushed off in an ambulance, he always believed her injuries weren't serious and that she would be "okay".



PANIC

Later, in cross-examination, Lillis was asked to explain his lies about the incident.

"I felt completely and utterly trapped", he said. "I'm truly, truly sorry, but I felt trapped by it. I couldn't see any way out of it. I was in a complete and total panic at the time".

Pressed as to why he hadn't admitted his mistake, he insisted: "I thought I'd boxed myself into a corner and there was no way around it at all. All that week I was surrounded by all of Celine's family and all of Celine's friends. I'd never been in a situation like this in my life. I'd never been involved in any violence, never been in a fight. In a situation like this, my wife was dead. I couldn't believe it, I didn't want to accept it even. I couldn't find any way of explaining to people what really happened".

Mary Ellen Ring, prosecuting, pointed out to Lillis that he was a 51-year-old adult at the time of Celine Cawley's death, and yet he had lied. Meanwhile, his own child, who is now just 17, knew that it was wrong to lie.