Saturday 23 September 2017

Friends and clients horrified to learn of lawyer's cruel betrayal

Paul and Aideen Costigan, who were betrayed by their friend Thomas Byrne.
Paul and Aideen Costigan, who were betrayed by their friend Thomas Byrne.
Witnesses Vera McGrane at court where she gave evidence in the trial of former Solicitor, Thomas Byrne

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

Former clients of Thomas Byrne, some of whom were lifelong friends, told the trial of their horror when they discovered the title deeds to their family homes had been signed over to him and used as security for multimillion-euro loans.

Many only became aware of the transactions after Byrne's practice was closed down in 2007 after a colleague reported him.

Aideen and Paul Costigan

The husband and wife spoke of their horror at discovering that Byrne had transferred Mrs Costigan's family home -- left by her recently deceased mother Josephine O'Donnell -- into his own name by forging Aideen Costigan's signature.

As a child, Byrne had taken piano lessons with Mrs O'Donnell.

Byrne had attended the funeral in 2006 and sympathised with her family when his former teacher passed away. The court heard that Byrne, who was tasked with transferring the family home to the dead woman's five children, was a friend of Mrs O'Donnell and was trusted by her.

Vera McGrane

A friend of Thomas Byrne whose mother, the late Kathleen Fahy, was also a client of his firm.

A land registry document showed that Mrs Fahy (91) had sold her family home to Byrne for ¿380,000 a month before she died in June 2007.

But Vera McGrane testified that her mother could not have signed the document. Her late mother needed help signing documents because her hand trembled and was confined to bed in the days and weeks before her death.

Ms McGrane said she never left her mother's side in her final days and said the house was transferred over to Byrne "in his dreams".

Brendan and Michael Dunne

Brendan Dunne was a close friend of Byrne's since childhood.

A deed of transfer document purported to state that Mr Dunne's late mother had sold the family home to Byrne for ¿240,000.

But Mr Dunne and his brother Michael Dunne told the court the signature on the document bore no resemblance to their late mother's signature.

Matt and Terry Connors

The Connors brothers operated properties around the city and rented some out as social welfare housing to HSE clients.

Matt Connors gave evidence that he employed Byrne in the purchase of five properties and that he later found out that these had been transferred into the solicitor's name using forged signatures without his knowledge.

Byrne used these properties and others as security for 18 loans from the six banks.

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