Two accused of 'complete deception' over man's will

Thursday 17 January 2013 11.55
Wexford Circuit Court heard that a third man pleaded guilty in relation to the case in 2009
Wexford Circuit Court heard that a third man pleaded guilty in relation to the case in 2009

Wexford Circuit Court has heard allegations that two men were involved in complete deception by forging the will of an 82-year-old farmer.

Matthew Hayes from near Duncannon in Co Wexford died on Christmas day in 1998.

Noel Hayes from Ramsgrange and William O'Leary from Arthurstown are both denying they forged his will.

In what was believed to have been Mr Hayes' last will and testament, he left his entire estate of 162 acres and monies in various accounts to Noel Hayes, a distant relation.

Noel Hayes' lifelong friend Charlie O'Leary and Charlie's brother William were executors of the will, which was purportedly signed in August 1998.

It is alleged that all three were involved in forging the will, with Noel Hayes forging the signature of his relative when he was in fact dead a week.

Wexford Circuit Court heard today that Charlie O'Leary pleaded guilty in 2009 to his part in the alleged forgery and was given an 18-month suspended sentence and had to pay €30,000.

His brother William and Noel Hayes are now on trial, charged with forgery.

Charlie O'Leary was the first witness for the prosecution today.

State Counsel Philip Sheehan said central to this case was that Matthew Hayes did not make the will and it was in fact complete deception.

In his opening remarks, he said an unusual feature of the case was that Charlie O'Leary was an "accomplice", in that he participated in the offence but that he later came forward and admitted it.

Charlie O'Leary, 54, from Duncannon told the court he has five sisters and seven brothers, William being one.

Both were involved in the O'Leary International Transport business.

He said that just before Christmas 1998, Noel Hayes and William came to his office, with Noel Hayes telling him about a distant relation who had "taken bad" and was not likely to survive.

He said Noel Hayes said his grandmother was a relation of the sick man, that she had somehow been put out of the land, which should rightfully have then been his father's.

Mr O'Leary told the court that Noel Hayes had a copy of a cheque with Matthew Hayes' signature on it.

On Christmas Eve, they visited Matthew Hayes in hospital in Wexford but he was in a vegetative state.

Charlie O'Leary said he and Noel Hayes had been best friends from the age of ten and he decided on Christmas Day, the day Matthew Hayes died, that he would help his lifelong friend.

"I said I would partake in the writing up of a false will," he told the court.

The court heard all three met a few days later and that Noel had been doing a lot of practicing writing out the signature of Matthew Hayes.

Charlie O'Leary admitted to the court that he wrote out the will, backdating it 31 August 1998 as they did not want it too close to the date of Matthew Hayes' death or too far back in case another will existed that they did not know about.

Charlie O'Leary said Noel Hayes signed Matthew Hayes' name on the will, and both he and his brother William signed it as witnesses.

He added that there had been discussions about money, possibly £17,000, being paid by Noel to Charlie and William for doing what they were doing.

He said William was looking for a bit more, but Noel was reluctant to give more to him, and at one point Charlie said he did not want any money.

Sobbing in court a number of times, Charlie O'Leary told the jury he subsequently received £12,500 from Noel Hayes when all the probate work was finished, some of which he gave to a friend in Helvick who had a sick child and some to his sister to help buy a car.

Charlie O'Leary said he had been a director of Irish South East Vegetables with Noel Hayes and others but problems arose and, in April 2006, he was sacked as a director.

Mr O'Leary said he had been suffering from depression, had attended as an outpatient at Ely Clinic in Wexford, but that the will issue was playing on his mind and he eventually went to the gardaí about it.

Under cross-examination by Patrick Gageby SC for the defence, he said there was no other motive for going to gardaí and said he had nothing to hide from not agreeing to a defence request for an independent psychological assessment.

He admitted he had been a binge drinker, that he had been on Prozac but that he had no personal vendetta against Noel Hayes, whom he no longer talks to.

Charlie O'Leary said he and his brother, William, would not have been drinking buddies and have not spoken at all since November 2004.

It was put to Mr O'Leary that he had fought with his brother William on a daily basis for years, which Charlie O'Leary denied.

The court also heard that Noel Hayes' wife had "begged" Charlie O'Leary to "come in on" a land deal in Duncannon, Co Wexford.

Mr O'Leary said he was "under severe pressure with work" and did not get involved with the deal.

The case continues.