The Celine Cawley and Jean Bourke murders got us thinking....

Sep 30 2010
The Celine Cawley and Jean Bourke murders got us thinking....

We have often been asked, ‘How did you choose the topic of murder within a marriage?
For the Irish reader when I say ‘the Celine Cawley case’ you will not need any more information. For you, it was a big story. It created media frenzy. I was told by one young Irish journalist who was working in radio last July when Eamonn Lillis was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter, that she interrupted regular programming to go to that news. Public interest was huge. The case captured the Irish imagination.
The Celine Cawley Murder
Celine Cawley was a celebrity in Ireland. In her earlier life she had been a ‘Bond Girl’ and model; she came from a well respected family and mixed in high society. She and her husband ran a very successful company and lived in a large house in Ireland’s most exclusive suburb.
She was found in a pool of blood, dead, on the back deck of her home, two weeks before Christmas in 2008. She had been hit on the back of the head with considerable force by a brick. Initially her confused husband murmured things about a balaclava clad intruder. He claimed that things were normal in their home that morning, he had risen at 6.30, made a cup of tea for his wife and brought it to her in bed, driven his daughter to school at 8.30 after which he had spoken to an old friend. He picked up a copy of the Irish Times and headed back home. At 10.02 am he called 999 and frantically told the switchboard operator that his wife had been attacked and was dead. He was instructed to give her CPR which he did under instructions from the phone operator. She was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead not long after.
Lillis told police that he had returned home after taking the dogs for a walk and found a masked man standing over his wife’s bloody body with a brick in hand. When he had rushed to her rescue, he too had been attacked and suffered cuts and bruises. As the days went on his story began to sound improbable, especially as people discovered the truth of some things that happened within the closed doors of the marriage. It seemed that couple were sleeping in separate rooms, and that he was having an affair with his 35 year old masseuse. Everything was not as it seemed. Lillis was charged with murder but granted bail and allowed to live on in the house.
The case only recently came to court and by that time the charge had been reduced to manslaughter and Lillis received a reduced sentence. It had been in the news for over eighteen months and had the general public fascinated. Surprisingly some even took the side of the murderer saying that he was in a sexless marriage where his wife wielded the power and possessed all the wealth; he was reduced to seeking solace with his masseur and lost his temper when his wife refused to release him to go with her.
The Jean Bourke Murder
In March, 2009, about the time we arrived in Ireland, the Celine Cawley story was revisited on talkback radio when the murder of Jean Bourke was reported. It was alleged that David Bourke telephoned emergency services at about 10.30 am and told the operator that he had stabbed his wife several times. The couple’s three children could be heard in the background. He had stabbed their mother in front of them.
Apparently he had read his wife’s diaries and had his suspicions confirmed the night before she died when he when he confronted her. She was going to leave him for a man with whom she had been having an affair. David Bourke was a well respected man and this was a well regarded family in the community. Where did it all go so wrong?
The airwaves hummed with people discussing the case and giving their opinions. Again we were surprised that some people came into bat for David Bourke, the husband who was the murderer.
This got us talking and wondering. We drew on our knowledge of awful incidents that had happened at home in Australia – the man who threw his child over the Westgate bridge after an access visit, the man who drove his three young sons into a dam on Father’s day, and left them to die, the woman who suffocated her two boys in their beds and unsuccessfully tried to kill herself, the church going couple who got involved in group sex sessions which ended in the wife being found in the boot of her car.
What motivates a person to do such a thing? What goes on behind closed doors that would escalate a marriage that begins in love and promise towards such an unholy end? Did either partner see it coming? How and where did the tragedy begin?
The book ‘Lover Husband Father Monster ‘explores these questions and tells the story from two perspectives, allowing you to be the judge.