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Monday 18 February 2019

Man denies altercation with uncle after siblings claim farmer 'lacked capacity' to sign will in hospital

Richard Cooper Jr pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Richard Cooper Jr pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A man who was left a farm by his uncle in a will, which other family members say was made when he was dying and lacking testamentary capacity, denied he was ever in a physical altercation with his uncle before his death.

Richard Cooper Junior (40) told the High Court claims that he had put bachelor Michael Buckley "to the ground" were untrue because "it never happened".

He said while he and his uncle sometimes had arguments about the way things were done on the farm, they always made up and had a generally good relationship. 

He rejected claims by his cousin Bobby Buckley who, the court heard, will say Michael told him (Bobby) about the alleged altercation. He also denied  he was involved in a later conversation about it when he (Richard) was allegedly shaking and saying "I don't know how to handle that man (Michael)".

Mr Cooper was giving evidence on the third day of an action against him by four of Mr Buckley's siblings, Joseph, William and Elizabeth Buckley and Teresa Doyle.

They say the will was made under undue influence when their brother was not well enough to make it because he was dying from cancer days after major surgery.

Sheila Cooper pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Sheila Cooper pictured at the Four Courts for a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts

Richard, who works in tractor and machinery sales, denies the claims and says he never discussed with Michael about who he would leave his 54 acre farm to. 

However, he spent his first seven years living on his uncle's farm,spent much of his life working with his uncle. He agreed he would have been disappointed if his uncle had not left it to him.

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Mr Buckley died on March 20, 2011, aged 76, and had no children.

Richard said his uncle sold him a site on the farm at Caim, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, where he built a home and where he now lives with his wife and two children.

While he worked as a seasonal contractor to other farms in the area he continued to work with his uncle on his farm. From October 2010, which Michael first got sick, he said he was doing almost everything around the his farm.

Under cross examination by Michael Counihan SC, for the four Buckley siblings, he said the only arguments he ever had with his uncle Michael were verbal. "We fell out verbally, not physically", he said.

Asked about Michael having once referred to him as "a cur", he said "they are Theresa Doyle's words but he never called me a cur", referring to one of his aunts.

He disagreed he, his mother Sheila and his father Dick Cooper had pressed Michael to give him (Richard) the place when he was still alive. 

The only time there was mention of what would happen with the farm was when Michael was in hospital and he said "I will sort this place out when I get home (from hospital) but he never went home", he said.

He was ignorant about "all the chat" about who would get the farm and was not aware Michael had said "the Coopers will never the place".  He disagreed his father Dick and Michael did not get on together.

Michael's sister Sheila Cooper, Richard's mother, told the court her late brother was very private and "his own man".

She said the day after Michael had the operation on March 10, 2011, he asked her who her solicitor was because he wanted to put his affairs in order.  She went to the home of local solicitor John Mernagh that night and the solicitor went the next day to the hospital to take his will but decided the man was too ill to do so.

When the solicitor informed her of this, she and her husband decided to ring another local firm John A Sinnott, who had also acted for Michael previously, to do it.   A solicitor for that firm successfully took the will a few days later when Michael had improved, the court heard.

Under cross examination, she disagreed it was she who "put it into his head" to make a will because she thought it was the right thing to do but at a time when he was psychologically unfit to make such a decision.   She said she did it because she was asked to by Michael.

The case resumes on Tuesday.

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