The murder of Celine Cawley, a former New York-based Irish model who once lived in the home of tennis legend John McEnroe's father, has captivated Ireland in what has been described as the trial of the decade. She had also appeared briefly in a James Bond movie in her acting days.
In the dock and later found guilty of manslaughter was Eamon Lillis, a 52-year-old businessman accused of murdering his wife, former model Celine Cawley by hitting her repeatedly with a brick at their fashionable home in the upmarket suburb of Howth on December 15th 2008.
Celine Cawley who was 46 when she died and came from one of Dublin's leading families. Her father, lawyer James Cawley, was a leading lawyer who was very close to Tony O'Reilly, former head of Heinz and Independent Newspapers.
Cawley and Lillis were said to be unhappily married and he had commenced an affair with a 31-year-old massage therapist he had met some months before the murder. On the day of the murder he had dropped his daughter to school and returned home, where he and his wife began arguing.
Lillis claimed the fight then turned violent and his wife tried to hit him with the brick. In the ensuing struggle he said he had hit her to keep him away from him, though that testimony was disputed by the prosecution which claimed Lillis was the aggressor because he wanted to end the marriage because of the affair.
Lilis later tried to claim that a masked intruder had come into the house and he and his wife had struggled with the man. He even named a local gardener who worked on their garden on a few occasions as the suspect.
However, he came clean on the first day of the trial and revealed that he and his wife had fought.
Celine Cawley was alternately portrayed as a domineering woman, completely in charge of her henpecked husband, who she employed at much lesser wages than her in her successful television advertising business, or as a warmhearted devoted mother and friend who had built a great career.
At age 17 she had began a modeling career and had been discovered by Johnny Casanova of the Elite modeling agency. She moved to New York where she lived with John McEnroe senior for a time – her father and the McEnroe's were friends. She also appeared briefly in a James Bond movie with Roger Moore.
She returned to Ireland and became successful in the film production world. Her husband lost his job in an advertising agency so she hired him.
The trial was a huge media event with hundreds lining up every day for courtroom seats. Lillis was found guilty of manslaughter after the jury informed the judge that the state case had failed to prove intent to murder. The judge will deliver his sentence on Thursday.
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