Monday 26 February 2018

Court hears sordid tale of sex, lies and corruption

The Forsey trial has been told an extraordinary story of betrayal and deceit amid a local rezoning wrangle

TURBULENT TIMES: Jenny Forsey Ms Forsey told the court that her ex-husband had told her and their
three children that he had ended the affair, but it emerged later that, in fact, he had not. Photo: Gerry Mooney
TURBULENT TIMES: Jenny Forsey Ms Forsey told the court that her ex-husband had told her and their three children that he had ended the affair, but it emerged later that, in fact, he had not. Photo: Gerry Mooney
TURBULENT TIMES: Jenny Forsey Ms Forsey told the court that her ex-husband had told her and their three children that he had ended the affair, but it emerged later that, in fact, he had not. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Karen Morrissey


'I CALL Jenny Forsey," the cry came out from the top benches in Waterford Circuit Court last Wednesday. A smartly dressed woman with a stylish bobbed hairdo stood up from her seat beside two of her children and slowly made her way to the witness box.

The court hushed with anticipation as she was the prosecution's star witness in the corruption case against her ex-husband and former Fine Gael Dungarvan councillor, Fred Forsey Jnr, who is accused of corruptly receiving €80,000 from a big developer to help him rezone land.

As she made her way from the public gallery, she passed Karen Morrissey -- who almost looked like a younger version of herself -- with whom her husband was having an affair, something his wife discovered after he sent a text message meant for Ms Morrissey to his 15-year-old daughter. Jenny Forsey did not acknowledge Ms Morrissey as she passed her.

A few steps on, as she passed by the assembled media, she cast a withering glance at her ex-husband and father of her three children before she took her seat to begin her testimony.

That testimony was explosive.

In the space of 52 minutes on the stand under some intense cross-examination, Ms Forsey painted an extraordinary story of sexual betrayal, a marriage breakdown, financial woes, deceit, rejection, physical violence, political corruption and despair -- all as her husband's lover sat just feet away.

Sitting directly in front of her ex-husband, she told the court how they married on August 11, 1990, and have three children, now aged 20, 18 and 15.

Fred Forsey, of Collagh Road, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, was co-opted onto the local town council in 2002, following the election of John Deasy to the Dail. By 2006, he was a struggling businessman, running a one-man driving school and the family had financial worries.

In July 2006, Jenny and Fred Forsey had gone to socialise in the Moorings pub in Dungarvan, where they met many people including a "very wealthy man" who they knew to be a developer.

"He spoke to him for probably no more than 15 minutes," she said. On the walk home from the pub she asked her husband what the developer wanted. "He was vague, but he did say, 'I think I might get in with him'."

When asked did she know what he meant by that Ms Forsey replied: "Not really, no." She said that Mr Forsey met the developer several times during the month of August and that he told her the developer was trying to have land outside Dungarvan rezoned.

During August, she also learnt Mr Forsey received a large sum of money from the developer.

The discovery came following a trip to Cork Airport to collect his sister and family. As they waited for them to come into the arrivals hall, Ms Forsey said to her husband: "Wouldn't it be lovely to fly off somewhere?"

She told the court that because of their poor financial circumstances, they couldn't afford to go abroad. Yet, out of the blue, the following day, her husband arrived home and announced the whole family were off to Rome the next day, August 25, 2006, and returned on August 28.

In Rome, during which the family paid a visit to the Pope, Mr Forsey gave cash to his children and this aroused the suspicion of his wife. "I asked [where he got the money] but did not delve into it, as the children were there."

In Rome, he admitted that he had received €30,000 from the developer he met in the pub in Dungarvan only weeks before. "He told me the developer had lodged €30,000 into his account on the morning we left."

But this was not the full story. The developer had not given him €30,000 as he told his wife, but double that. "He never told me he got €60,000," she said.

Records showed he withdrew €8,000 of that €60,000 on the morning they departed for Italy.

The Forseys also bought new PVC windows, spent €5,000 on furniture, €1,500 on a new fireplace, and €23,000 on two cars, a Subaru and a Mercedes. Mr Forsey spent €35,000 in one five-day period, it emerged. At one stage he had €15,000 in a safe upstairs in the house.

"At this time, to me my marriage was fine," Ms Forsey told the court.

But everything was far from fine.

Mr Forsey was in dire financial straits. He was earning just €150 a week from his driving school and €65 a week from Dungarvan Town Council at the time. But under cross-examination, the real drama of this case emerged.

Banks had turned him down for bank loans, he was financially distressed, and at this time he became acquainted with the developer.

It was put to Ms Forsey that the monies received from the developer were a loan, and there was a loan agreement. Repeatedly she said: "There was never any question of the money being paid back, we had no money."

Mr Forsey does not deny receiving the money but he insists he was a financially desperate man who approached the developer for a loan which was to be paid back. To date, it has not been paid back.

In evidence from gardai, the loan agreement document was "purportedly signed on August 20, 2006", yet computer records seized showed the document was not created until January 9, 2007.

An email from the law firm secretary on January 9, 2007, to the developer relating to the "Fred Forsey matter" asked: "Do I have the surname correct?"

Defence counsel John Phelan argued the file could have been downloaded from a memory stick having been created earlier.

But it was the breakdown of the marriage over Mr Forsey's affair with the much younger Karen Morrissey which revealed the most dramatic testimony. Ms Forsey revealed how he inadvertently sent a message meant for his secret lover to one of his own children.

In October 2006 "he sent a text message to his partner to my 15-year-old daughter", she said.

"I wasn't happy. I am human, I was furious. I had a

lot on my plate, I was in the care of a doctor," she added.

"He told me and the children he had ended it," she said, but it later came out he had not.

The couple separated. She denied deliberately driving into a wall outside the house her ex-husband had moved to. She did admit to attacking his lover, Karen Morrissey, on one occasion.

"You attacked her," Mr Phelan asked. "I did," she replied.

"Why?" he asked. "Fury, but she gave as good as she got," Ms Forsey replied.

She also denied a claim she slashed the paint work on the car. "I couldn't stand up, I was in shock," she said.

On his birthday, she once again called out to the house Mr Forsey and Ms Morrissey were living in to give him presents from the children.

She "ripped up presents" bought by Ms Morrissey for the Forseys' three children and a Christmas card, which said "to my fiancee".

"I was furious," she said.

"Hell hath no fury, would that be a fair description?" Mr Phelan asked. "I'm sure it would," came the response.

The Forseys remortgaged the house with an internet high-interest company during the breakdown of their marriage. Ms Forsey insisted on receiving her share of the remortgaged money, about €10,000, which she lodged into the credit union.

"I agreed to the remortgage against my better judgement. The house was in arrears," she said.

After they separated, the court heard how Mr Forsey was in financial trouble. He was refused an overdraft of €1,000 and his Mini driving-instructor car had been repossessed. Knowing his wife had the €10,000 he asked her for a loan to replace the car, as if he did not have one he could not work and support his children.

Just before Christmas 2006, after Mr Forsey had failed to repay the money to his ex-wife, she "basically hounded him" for it. "It was three days before Christmas and I had €50 in the entire world. I had three children I had no money he wasn't giving me any money," she said.

On December 22, she threatened that if he didn't pay her back, she was going to report him to the gardai. "Yes, I threatened him . . . I told him I was going to go to the guards if he didn't pay me back my money," she said.

That same day, Mr Forsey made 48 calls to the developer, the same day the final lodgement of €10,000 was made into his account. In contrast to Forsey's panicked state, the developer phoned him just once that day at 4.44pm.

Mr Forsey told gardai he gave a property developer a "sob story" about separating from his wife to get another €10,000 on that day.

When questioned by gardai, Mr Forsey admitted he paid his wife back only €4,000 of the €10,000 he owed on December 22. He said he used about €3,000 "over the month or whatever" on his rent and living expenses.

When he was asked why he thought the developer would give him another €10,000 when he hadn't paid him back before, he said: "I think he just trusted me . . . listened to the sob story I had."

He said he told the developer he had separated from his wife and they were going to sell the house and split the proceeds "50/50". "I just told him I would sell the house and get the money back."

It was at this stage Mr Forsey admitted to being a liar. Asked in interviews in 2009 if the house was actually on the market, Mr Forsey said: "No, I just told him that. I lied to him."

Ms Forsey denied her motive of going to tell John Deasy about the payments was revenge. "I didn't approach him or the guards until April [2007]. That's four months later. I didn't rush into town or rush into the garda station as a woman scorned," she said forcibly.

"I voiced my suspicions [about the money from the developer] to Mr Deasy," she said.

Mr Deasy said in court that on foot of his conversation with Ms Forsey, he immediately made contact with Garda Superintendent Tom O'Grady and advised her to do the same.

Mr Deasy said he was asked to support the land rezoning deal but said he had "difficulty", adding: "It was my opinion now and it was always the aim . . . to inflate the price of land."

When asked did he know why Ms Forsey had picked him as an "ally" or that Mr Forsey had left his wife and was living with Ms Morrissey, Mr Deasy said he was unaware that the Forseys were having marital and financial difficulties.

Aside from the dramatic breakdown of the Forseys' relationship, the trial revealed an extraordinary train of events in local politics.

It heard how councillors -- despite an ongoing garda investigation, a direction order from the then environment minister John Gormley not to rezone the land and overwhelming objections from council staff -- went ahead and rezoned the land anyway in 2008.

That decision was later reversed by Mr Gormley.

Several senior Waterford council officials explained why they had objected and opposed the rezoning of the land outside Dungarvan.

Council engineer Aoife O'Flaherty said the application was refused because it was zoned agricultural and not suitable for residential development, as there was sufficient land within the existing town boundary already. She said the road networks were not sufficient and the application was premature.

Aisling Gleeson, a planner at Waterford County Council, said it was its view that there should be no residential development on the lands outside Dungarvan. Waterford county manager Denis McCarthy agreed that had the land been rezoned, its value would have increased tenfold.

It emerged that there was a significant split within Fine Gael at local level whether to support the project or not. In her evidence, Councillor Ann Marie Power said the "dogs in the street" knew the project was wrong but only three Fine Gael councillors voted against it. The rest voted for it in 2008.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Sunday Independent

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