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Eamonn Lillis expected to walk free tomorrow - six years after his wife's death

Celine Cawley was killed at her home in December 2008.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated at 8.31pm

EAMONN LILLIS WILL is expected to walk away from Wheatfield Prison, just over five years after he was convicted of the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley.

Incarcerated since February 2010, the 57-year-old will not leave jail a poor man.

Following a fierce legal battle three years ago with his own daughter, Lillis was made co-owner of assets which he jointly held with his wife. Although the courts barred him from inheriting her estate (it went to her daughter), he retained a half-share of significant assets thought to be worth in the region of €1.3 million.

Since beginning his sentence, he has managed to accumulate the wealth through the sale of their Howth home, the liquidation of their production firm Toytown Films and the offloading of an investment apartment and bonds.

He has spent five years and two months in prison, shaving some time off his seven-year sentence for good behaviour and remission.

The family were thrown into the public’s eyes in the run up to Christmas six years ago.

Celine Cawley died on 15 December 2008 on the back patio of the home she shared with Lillis and their daughter on Windgate Road in Howth.

At 10am, Lillis made a 999 call to report that his wife had been attacked and that she had no pulse. When emergency services arrived, they found him administering CPR to Cawley, who was then 47 years old.

He told gardaí that there had been an intruder on the premises who had attacked both him and his wife – he had scratches on his face, as well as minor injuries to his head and hand.

However, in the subsequent days, investigating gardaí were dubious about the claim. They found blood-stained clothes in a bedroom wardrobe, as well as a watch with traces of blood. There was also a suitcase which contained a black bin bag full of bloody clothes, gloves and kitchen paper. All the blood was a match for Celine Cawley.

By the time his trial for the murder of his wife came around over a year later, he had conceded that he was the “major participant” in a row between them. Despite that admission, he said he did not inflict injuries on her.

He said he knew she was bleeding but was unaware of the extent of her injury. It is now understood that he had hit her with a brick during the fight.

The trial, held over 14 days in January 2010, attracted massive public interest and media attention.

Much of the intrigue came from their positions as directors in their own successful production firm, her former career as a model and actress and his affair with a masseuse.

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During garda interviews, Lillis had maintained that the extramarital affair had nothing to do with the fight on 15 December. It was established during the trial that he had a 10-week relationship with the local woman who worked in a beauty salon.

The affair had started with a kiss after a massage.

Despite the betrayal, he told gardaí that he loved his wife and swore that he did not kill her. The trial heard evidence from garda interviews that he said they were “really good friends” and that she was “a tower of strength” to him.

In front of a packed courtroom on 1 February 2010, a jury of six men and six women read a guilty verdict for manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years and 11 months in prison.

During his time in prison, Lillis has taken language and art classes. A number of his watercolours have been displayed in an exhibition at Kilmainham Gaol.

According to reports today, the 57-year-old may temporarily leave the country on his release to avoid media attention. It is understood he has booked a flight to England.

There was a large media presence outside the prison today. RTÉ reported that as a result Lillis has not signed the temporary release form allowing him to be freed from prison a day early.

He is now expected to be released tomorrow.

More: When should someone who kills their spouse be allowed to inherit their property?

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