independent

Saturday 21 September 2019

Witness 'ruthlessly exploited' sick child

Noel Hayes
Noel Hayes

A Wexford businessman who has admitted forging the will of a bachelor farmer has been accused of being 'ruthlessly exploitive' by lawyers for his brother who denies forging the same will.

Charles O'Leary is the main prosecution witness in the trial of his brother William O'Leary and former business partner Noel Hayes, who are accused of forging the will of Matthew Hayes.

Charles O'Leary denied to Michael O'Higgins SC, defence counsel for William O'Leary, that he was exploiting the sick child of friends.

Monday was the fourth day of the trial of William O'Leary (51) of Ramsgrange, Co Wexford, and Noel Hayes (61) a vegetable wholesaler from New Ross, Co. Wexford who have plead not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to forging the will on a date between December 1998 and January 1999.

Charles O'Leary has previously pleaded guilty to taking part in the alleged forgery. He was given an 18-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay €30,000 in an account pending for the next of kin.

Mr O'Leary said he received £12,500 for his role in the alleged forgery but that he gave the money to his sister and to a family he was friends with. He said he gave the money to the wife of the family to take care of a sick child and to the husband to pay off a loan for the boat he worked from.

Counsel for his brother said that Mr. O'Leary had not mentioned to the gardaí that he was the guarantor on the boat loan because he was attempting to 'buttress' his case that his conscience wouldn't let him take 'dirty money'. Mr O'Leary corrected counsel when he said he recently received €88,000 for the tonnage of the boat, saying it was actually €89,000.

Counsel said that Mr O'Leary was 'acting deviously and deceitfully, and continues to do so' by saying the money was given to needy people who had a 'baby being fed through tubes'.

Mr O'Leary said it was 'harrowing' that the accused's defence counsel would bring the child into the case and said counsel was trying to "make dirt of that child and make dirt of me in the middle of it."

Counsel then asked Mr O'Leary: "Are you finished? I don't want to be accused of interrupting your flow."

He then put it to Mr O'Leary that he had 'ruthlessly exploited that child to the jury' and had also done so in his sentence hearing. Mr O'Leary said he had never wanted to mention the child.

Counsel said that Mr O'Leary had 'inserted' his brother 'where it was not merited' into his statements about the alleged forgery.

Counsel read from statements given to gardai by Mr O'Leary's wife and a cousin of Noel Hayes, as well as a record of his attendance with his solicitor before he plead guilty to his role.

Counsel noted that William O'Leary was not mentioned as having been a party to the forgery in any of their statements of what Charles O'Leary had told them about the alleged forgery.

Counsel also read from a number of personal complaints made to gardaí by the brothers and legal disputes related to their 'bitter and distrustful' businesses relationship.

On the opening day of the trial, Charles O'Leary testified that the will, which was shown to the jury, was not signed until a week after Matthew Hayes had died.

He said that Noel Hayes and William O'Leary came into his office a week before Christmas, 1998 and told him that a distant relative named Matthew Hayes was sick in hospital. Mr O'Leary said Noel Hayes told him tha t the land was taken from his family when his 'father's mother's brother or something like that' had put his grandmother off the land following the death or emigration of his grandfather.

Mr O'Leary said that along with his brother and Mr Hayes they discussed how they would 'put it right'.

The witness said that they decided to forge the will of Matthew Hayes based on the signature of a cheque Matthew Hayes had given to Noel Hayes in 1985. Mr. O'Leary said that Noel Hayes had said he kept a copy of the cheque 'because it might come in handy'.

Mr O'Leary accompanied Noel Hayes to visit Matthew Hayes in Wexford General Hospital on Christmas Eve 1998. Mr O'Leary learned after that Matthew Hayes died on Christmas day. He told the court that the three men met again around New Year's in the office to practice writing on wills that Noel Hayes had bought from a shop in Waterford.

Mr O'Leary said he stayed out of it while his brother and Noel Hayes were 'striking a deal' but that he remembers them discussing figures between €15,000 and €17,000.

He told the court that he and his brother signed as witnesses and Mr Hayes forged Matthew Hayes signature. They then brought it to a solicitor.

Mr O'Leary said that whole thing seemed to 'die away' until autumn 2001 when Mr Hayes contacted him to say he had something for him.

Mr O'Leary said it was to give him money and he got €12,500 which he gave to his sister and friends who had a sick child. He said he suffered from depression and was suicidal in 2007 when he decided to tell the Gardai.

Mr O'Leary told Noel Hayes' counsel Aidan Doyle SC that he was not 'demented with jealousy' over missing out on a land deal worth €6 million.

Under cross examination, Charles O'Leary said he 'wasn't vexed' when he heard about the deal which would have initially cost him and four others, including the two accused, €10,000 each.

He said the first time he ever saw the man was on his death bed in hospital on Christmas Eve in 1998, adding that Noel Hayes had asked him to go with him to the hospital 'for the spin' but denied he had a pre-printed will with him.

Under cross-examining by Mr O'Higgins, counsel for William O'Leary, the witness said it was 'normal' for him to go on trips with Noel Hayes.

When asked by Mr O'Higgins how many other dying people he didn't Mr Hayes had brought him to see, Mr O'Leary said none. The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women.

Wexford People

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