AN alleged victim of former solicitor Thomas Byrne has described her "horror" at discovering he had transferred her family home into his name.
It was the third day of Mr Byrne's trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m.
Mr Byrne (47), of Walkinstown Road, Crumlin, has pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception.
The trial heard from husband and wife Paul and Aideen Costigan. In 2006, Mr Byrne carried out work for the couple relating to the sale of the house left by Ms Costigan's recently deceased mother.
Ms Costigan said the solicitor arranged the sale of the house to a third party but that she later found to her "horror" that he had transferred the property into his own name by using an allegedly forged signature.
Mr Costigan said the house was "tied up in the courts" for the following six years and that they recently sold it for less than half of what they were originally offered when Mr Byrne became involved.
The jury were shown the alleged forged signature of Ms Costigan side by side with her genuine signature. She insisted it was not her signature but that it was similar.
She said Mr Byrne had been a friend of her late mother, having taken piano lessons from her when he was a child, and that her mother had trusted him. When she passed away in 2006, Mr Byrne was tasked with executing her will and transferring the family home to the deceased's five children.
Ms Costigan said that shortly afterwards Mr Byrne told her he had a client who wanted to buy the property for €410,000. She and her siblings then decided to put the house on the open market to see if they could get a higher price.
She said the family received an offer from a new party of €420,000. Ms Costigan went back to Mr Byrne, who said his client would raise his offer to €430,000.
She and her family decided to accept this and Mr Byrne told them the sale would be completed within four weeks.
Ms Costigan said a short time later she became aware that the solicitor's practice was in trouble and that the Law Society was involved. She said she tried to contact Mr Byrne but he did not answer his phone.
She said she was advised by a lawyer friend to check the status of the house on the Land Registry. When she did so she found it was now in the name of Thomas Byrne.
A document that appeared to be signed by the witness stated Mr Byrne had purchased the house from her for €410,000.
Ms Costigan said she never received such a sum and that she never signed the document.
She also rejected a suggestion by defence counsel that she had an agreement to allow Mr Byrne rent out the house to tenants while the transfer was being processed. She said nobody was living in the house and that it contained no furniture.
The trial continues.