Saturday 23 September 2017

Meg's girl fights for family home

Sasha Keating outside Dungarvan Court yesterday
Sasha Keating outside Dungarvan Court yesterday
Sasha's late mother Meg Walsh
Sasha's stepfather John O'Brien leaving court
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

SLAIN mother-of-one Meg Walsh disappeared just seven days after she took legal steps to have her husband sign the family home over to her.

The revelation was made yesterday during a court case taken by her daughter against her stepfather, John O'Brien, who was cleared in 2008 of her mother's murder.

Sasha Keating (21) is claiming a share of the former marital home owned by Mr O'Brien and Ms Walsh, who vanished on October 1, 2006, leaving no will.

Waterford Circuit Civil Court was told that, shortly before she went missing, Ms Walsh and Mr O'Brien had agreed to give her sole possession of the home they shared at Dunvarra, Ballinakill Downs, Waterford.

Michael Delaney, counsel for Ms Keating, said this agreement was reached in return for Ms Walsh not seeking a barring order against Mr O'Brien and for not making a formal complaint to gardai about an assault to which he had subjected her.

This is vehemently contested by Mr O'Brien, who denies that any such binding agreement exists and also claims that Ms Keating has no legal basis for making her claims.

Mr O'Brien has admitted assaulting Ms Walsh on September 20, 2006. The court also heard claims he had assaulted her on previous occasions.

In the wake of the September 20 assault, Ms Walsh demanded assurances that he would never do so again.

She went to Waterford GP Dr Bernadette O'Leary on September 22 to show her her injuries and the GP insisted on walking Ms Walsh to the nearby Ballybricken garda station.

Ms Walsh then spoke to Sgt Eric Gavigan and he photographed the bruises and swelling on her arms and shoulders. But she declined to make a formal complaint.

"She said she was not in a position to leave him (O'Brien) for 12 months. Maybe then she could afford it," Sgt Gavigan said.

When Mr O'Brien pleaded with Ms Walsh for forgiveness for what he had done, she challenged him to "prove it".

In a statement he later made to Det Inspector John Hunt, Mr O'Brien said he replied: "If that's what it takes, I will do it."

It was claimed he agreed to sign over his share in their home which was bought in 2002 for €223,000. They had taken out a joint mortgage with Bank of Ireland for €184,000.

Ms Walsh then met her solicitor, Gerard O'Herlihy, on September 25 and sought an authority document relating to the property.

Mr O'Herlihy also wrote to Mr O'Brien on her behalf. That letter read: "On Wednesday, September 20 (2006), you viciously assaulted your wife at 19 Dunvarra, Ballinakill Downs, causing injuries to her head, shoulders and arms.

"You terrorised her ... (with) a persistent assault including punching and strangling."

It was alleged Mr O'Brien had also dragged his wife by the hair, locked her in the house, taken away her mobile phone and threatened her life.

Judge Olive Buttimer was told the authority document was later returned signed by both Ms Walsh and Mr O'Brien.

However, when bank officials had processed the document and were ready to work further on it by October 4, Ms Walsh was already four days missing.

Fracture

On October 15, following a massive garda search, Ms Walsh's body was recovered from the River Suir. A post-mortem examination revealed she died from blunt force trauma which had inflicted a skull fracture.

An inquest earlier heard that she may have been still alive when she was dumped into the river by her killer.

Mr Delaney said Ms Keating's civil action was not motivated by vindictiveness.

"This case is not about retribution, this case is about the fact that the plaintiff (Ms Keating), as the only child of Meg Walsh, receives her just share of the estate," he said.

The judge was told that Ms Walsh died intestate and, after Mr O'Brien was acquitted of her murder, under survivorship laws he inherited sole ownership of the property.

A life insurance policy on Ms Walsh's life was paid and it cleared the remaining €163,000 outstanding on the mortgage.

The judge adjourned the matter until Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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