Murderer was entitled to €1m of dead husband’s pension

Committee told of need for law stopping killers benefiting financially

Eamonn Lillis: Despite his conviction for his wife’s manslaughter, Lillis later won the right to a 50 per cent share of their assets. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Eamonn Lillis: Despite his conviction for his wife’s manslaughter, Lillis later won the right to a 50 per cent share of their assets. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

The family of a man murdered by his wife for his money were forced to pay the killer for her share of their house afterwards, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Paul Byrne (48) was stabbed 68 times by his estranged wife Tanya Doyle in 2009 just a week before their legal separation was due to be finalised.

Doyle, who was convicted of murder in 2013, later told gardaí she killed her husband for his house and his money.

As well as receiving a share of the house, Doyle was at one stage poised to receive about €1 million from his pension due to the absence of any law preventing killers benefiting from their crimes. An agreement was later reached with the pension trustees not to pay her the money.

On Wednesday, Mr Byrne’s brother Noel described their ordeal during an emotional appearance before the Oireachtas Justice Committee which is scrutinising proposed legislation making it more difficult for killers to benefit financially from their crimes.

Noel Byrne said his brother was separated from his wife. She lived in Portugal and the two stayed in contact. Mr Byrne would support his wife financially and when she said she was having difficulties he arranged for her to fly back to Ireland.

She moved into his home where they had separate bedrooms. On September 4th, 2009, in what Noel Byrne described as a “pre-planned” murder, she stabbed her husband 68 times with a carving knife, puncturing five vital organs.

She had just bought the knife in a shop and had cancelled a taxi Mr Byrne had ordered before stabbing him.

“He asked Tanya at one point to call an ambulance, that she had stabbed him in the heart,” Noel Byrne said. “I believe the last stab wound happened as he lay on the bed and the carving knife pierced one side of his neck and out the other.”

Legal advice

After the death, the family received legal advice to reach a settlement with Doyle to buy out her share of the deceased’s house. Otherwise she would be entitled to a key on her release from prison.

Paul Byrne’s insurance company also told the family it was obliged to pay Doyle a settlement despite her arrest for his murder.

“We can’t understand how an insurance company would pay a convicted murderer who stated that they killed a person for money to receive any benefit whatsoever,” Noel Byrne said.

Before his death Mr Byrne had a good job which paid about €100,000 a year. Afterwards his company told the family none of the pension money would go to Doyle.

However, the family were later told she was entitled to a portion of the money. She would have received €23,000 a year which the family estimated would be worth €1 million over the course of Doyle’s lifetime.

Noel Byrne said that in 2016: “The trustees of the pension sent us an email stating that they had come to an agreement that no monies would be paid.”

Doyle (50) was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. She is due for her first parole hearing in June of this year.

The author of the new Bill, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for justice, Jim O’Callaghan, said its purpose was to prevent killers being entitled to financially benefit from their crime.

Celine’s Law

The Bill is formally known as Celine’s Law after Celine Cawley who was killed by her husband, Eamonn Lillis, in 2008. Despite his conviction for her manslaughter, Lillis later won the right to a 50 per cent share of their assets.

Mr Byrne told the committee that since 2009 more than 100 people had been killed by a partner or spouse, with their families “probably finding themselves in the same position as us and having to battle through the same legal jargon and issues surrounding their death” .

UCC law professor John Mee told the committee there were many positive aspects to the Bill but that it needed significant work before it could be passed. He pointed out that, in its current form, the Bill states a person who aids or abets a murder would not be subjected to the new law.

This would “absurdly, allow a person who hired a hitman to kill his spouse to benefit from the victim’s will”, Mr Mee said.