Reddish-grey in colour, the concrete brick being held aloft in front of the jury looked utterly unremarkable.
There were no discernable marks on it, and it attracted only a mere glance from murder accused Eamonn Lillis when it was produced as evidence yesterday. Yet this small object was enough to attract audible whispers and the curious stares of onlookers.
Some 13 months earlier, the brick had been retrieved from the patio of the house at Rowan Hill where murder accused Lillis lived with his wife Celine Cawley. Photos from the scene showed an unsightly pool of crimson blood, the heavily stained brick lying alongside it with strands of hair sticking to the side.
It was picked up by gardai and taken for forensic testing, during which experts found they were unable to establish a DNA profile from the blood as it contained "inhibitors". When Dr Hilary Clarke of the Forensic Science Laboratory produced it in court yesterday, the staining had all but disappeared.
Dr Clarke told the court: "The blood seems to have absorbed into the brick, it's not as obvious at it was". Lillis looked up briefly at the object, which he had initially claimed was used by an intruder to attack his wife. He then returned to his notes, his bespectacled face revealing nothing.
When gardai took over the Rowan Hill property in the aftermath of Celine's death, Lillis and his teenage daughter had gone to stay at the home of Celine's brother Chris and his wife Sorcha. It was a devastating time for all concerned, as the house filled with concerned relatives and visitors.
On December 18, three days after the killing, Chris Cawley was in his living room with Lillis when they began discussing an article which had appeared in the Herald.
Mr Cawley told the court yesterday: "The article indicated that the murder weapon had been found.
"He (Eamonn) said to me words to the effect that it was ridiculous because everyone knew the brick was the weapon.
"He said, 'Sure, didn't I hold the brick in my own hand?'"
At the back of the room, a tired-looking Jim Cawley watched as his son gave evidence, his face betraying the strain of those long days in court. He had been among the many people who had gathered in Chris Cawley's home on the day of Celine's death.
Yesterday gave us a glimpse into the sense of chaos and devastation that had erupted following the tragic events at Rowan Hill.
On that Monday morning, neighbour Pauline Frazer had slept late, tired from a night tending to her ailing mother in St Vincent's Hospital.
She revealed: "What woke me that morning was that I heard somebody screaming. It struck me as being fairly odd, it's a very quiet road. When I heard it, I looked at my watch and it was 9.30am."
In earlier evidence, the jury heard how the accused had made a 999 call at 10.02am, half an hour after Mrs Frazer recalled hearing the screams. It was a "high-pitched" noise, a shriek, followed about 30 seconds later by another scream. Asked to describe the sound, she offered: "It was definitely someone in trouble. Something had happened to some- body". Later that day she noticed a police helicopter hovering over the garden. And when her husband rang to tell her someone had been injured on Windgate Road, she immediately recalled the screams and made contact with gardai. By that time, Lillis was in Howth Garda Station and news of his wife's death was filtering out.
That morning, Paula Lynskey had recalled seeing the accused some time around 8.30am as she made the school run. After running some errands and chatting to her sister, she turned off her phone in order to attend an appointment.
Turning on the 1 o'clock news, she heard how the mother of a teenage daughter had been found dead at Windgate Road in Howth. Ms Lynskey told the court: "I got a sinking feeling in my stomach, because I know a lot of people on Windgate Road but only one person with one teenage daughter."
A phone call to her sister confirmed the news she had feared, so she made her way to Chris and Sorcha Cawley's house. When Lillis arrived, his daughter ran down the stairs towards him. The young girl was distraught as she embraced her father, and the sounds of grief emanated through the hall.
As the family began to deal with the tragedy, they were supported by a wide circle of friends and colleagues. Among these was Emma O'Byrne, a commercials producer who had been employed by Celine at Toytown Films. It was she who had taken a phone call at the office from Lillis on December 15, during which he told her Celine had been attacked. Later that day, she and a colleague went to Chris Cawley's home where they met with the accused.
Cross-examined by defence counsel Brendan Grehan, she described Celine Cawley as "the boss" in Toytown Films.
Lillis, she said, "would have taken a back seat in the company and wouldn't have been involved in the day to day running.
"He would have been at home with (his daughter)."
The trial continues.