THE JURY in the Circuit Court trial of two men charged with forging the will of an 82-year-old bachelor farmer who died on Christmas Day in 1998 is expected to retire today (Tuesday) to begin considering its verdict.
Noel Hayes (59), of Ramsgrange, and Willie O'Leary (49), of Kilhilie, Arthurstown, are both accused of forging the will of the late Matthew Hayes on an unknown date in December 1998 or January 1999. The will referred to 162 acres and some money left behind by the late Mr Hayes, and the men are accused or forging it so that Noel Hayes was the beneficiary and Willie O'Leary was one of the executors.
A key witness for the prosecution in the case was Charles (Charlie) O'Leary, brother of defendant Willie O'Leary, who himself pleaded guilty in 2009 to playing a part in forging the will and who was handed an 18month suspended sentence at that time and ordered to pay €30,000 compensation.
The court heard during the first week of the trial that Charlie O'Leary no longer gets on with his brother, but he denied that the evidence he was giving about both defendants' parts in the forgery was being done maliciously to ' try bring down' Willie O'Leary and Noel Hayes.
Further evidence was offered on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, before both sides and Judge Ray Fullam began to give their summations of the case on Friday.
A forensic handwriting expert could not rule out whether a will at the centre of the case had been signed by another person.
Retired Detective Sergeant Sean Lynch, who formerly headed up the documents section of the Technical Bureau in An Garda Siochana headquarters in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, told the court that he specialised in the forensic examination of documents and comparable handwriting.
He told the court that on November 21, 2007, he received a number of documents from Sergeant Michael Troy of New Ross Garda Station. The documents he received were photocopies of what was said to be the will of Matthew Hayes, while he also received a photocopy of a statement given by Charles O'Leary, containing his authentic signature.
The witness also told the court that he further received the statement of William O'Leary, containing his authentic signature. He also said that he examined various documents with signatures attributed to Charles O'Leary and William O'Leary, such documents being in the Probate Office in Wexford.
The purpose of the documents, he said, were to compare the signatures of Charles O'Leary on the will with the signatures on the statement and also on the will and oath executor document.
On examination of those documents, he found no evidence of mechanical aid. There was no evidence of tracing, pencil marks or guide marks on the will. Having examined the signatures, he found there was no significant difference between them.
Mr. Lynch said that having examined the signatures, he found that Charles O'Leary was the author of the signature 'Charles O'Leary' on the will. However, he could not exclude the possibility of another person being the author of the signatures.
In the case of William O'Leary, he said, he compared the signature of William O'Leary on the will with the specimen signature on the statement. He also found no evidence of mechanical aid, while he found common handwriting features between all the signatures suggesting William O'Leary as the signature, but could not rule out the possibility of some other person having signed it.
He told Defence Counsel, Michael O'Higgins, S.C. for William O'Leary, that the possibility that another person had signed it is 'a reasonable one'.
On Wednesday, one of the accused, in a statement read into the court, told investigating gardai that his brother had a 'witch hunt' against him.
William O'Leary had his statement read into court by Sergeant Michael Troy. The statement said that when he was asked by a garda if he knew the reason why he was being brought to the Garda Station, the answer was 'It's a witch hunt for my brother (Charlie) to get at me'.
The statement added: ' There is a history there with South East Vegetables. There is also a history there with O'Leary International. We went to the High court and settled regarding South East Vegetables and Charlie been sacked. It was a row over a cheque being written out by my brother (Charlie).'
In his statement, William O'Leary said he did not know who the main beneficiary of the will was. 'I've known Noel Hayes for thirty years, we were in business together, and have been friendly for the last two or three years.
'I don't know how Noel Hayes is related to Matthew Hayes. At that time in 1998, Noel Hayes, Charlie O'Leary and myself, I could not remember whether we were talking or not. I don't know. I did not remember about Noel Hayes telling me a story about his family being kicked off the land.'
He also told Sgt. Troy in his statement, when asked if he had agreed a price with Noel Hayes, 'I have my own money. I worked hard for it, I slaved for it.'
Sgt. Troy also told the court that Noel Hayes was arrested on February 22, 2008, under the provisions of the Forgery Act and brought to New Ross Garda Station.
He said that Noel Hayes in his statement said he owned about six acres of land in Boley, about 140 acres in Duncannon, with the rest in Clonad.
Hayes also said in his statement that along with his wife Francis he owned the land since 1996. She (Francis) is also the owner since the Probate, which is in joint names. Matthew Hayes owned the land prior to that.
In his statement, Hayes also said that he came into the possession of the land immediately after Matthew Hayes's death. He also said that Matthew Hayes was a second cousin of his.
He said: ' I suppose I knew Matthew Hayes for twenty years before he died. He died on a Christmas Day. I'm not sure of the year. Immediately after his death I undertook the running of the farm. It was actually before his death. Matt lived alone before he died.
'I knew Charles O'Leary and William O'Leary were the executors of the will. I would have known Charlie O'Leary all my life. I would also have known William O'Leary all