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‘It’s a very slow burn trauma,’ says daughter of Celine Cawley

There is no handbook for dealing with the death of one parent at the hands of the other, the daughter of Celine Cawley has said. Georgia Lillis said on Thursday it was her horses that kept her “on the straight and narrow” at that difficult time.

I think I was in denial for a long time, as anyone would be. You know, there’s no handbook written on how to deal with it, as a teenager, as a child, effectively losing both parents.

Ms Cawley was 46 years old when she was killed in 2008, by her husband Eamonn Lillis. She had been a successful businesswoman who ran a television production company. Mr Lillis was convicted of manslaughter by a jury in 2010. The case attracted significant media attention at the time.

He was sentenced to six years and 11 months in prison. With remission, he was released in April 2015.

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“I’m very lucky that my mother’s side of the family and everyone there, they’re exceedingly supportive of me,” said Ms Lillis. “They’ve been there through thick and thin. And so I don’t know where I’d be without them as well. It was a really hard time and 100 per cent it was the animals, I think, that kept me on the straight and narrow.”

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Ms Lillis said she has been running an equine therapy school for the past five years working with children many of whom have autism.

The qualified therapeutic coach credits her late mother with her career. “She herself rode up until I was born, and she always made sure that I was able to pursue my passion on horses. I was very, very lucky. And, you know, she was a wealth of knowledge for me when I was a child growing up, even though, typical child, you don’t want to listen to your parents. But I definitely use her knowledge a lot in my day to day.”

Ms Lillis said she has not had any contact with her father in years. “I haven’t spoken to him since he’s gone into prison. And I don’t think I ever really want to see him again, to be honest.

“I think I’ve kind of come to terms with it. It’s a very slow burn trauma, you know, there’s the initial sort of trauma event and then each layer gets peeled away. Like, okay, my dad was arrested. Okay. Actually, my dad was responsible for the death of my mother. Okay. He’s going to prison. Okay. Now we have to go to court.

“So, it was all these different layers. You know, most people in their first year of college are enjoying partying and going out and some of that. But my first year of college was in the High Court trying to make sure that I had secured my future with my family. You know, I had to then see my father. So it was definitely multiple layers of trauma that kind of slipped away.”