Monday 18 December 2017

Astonished Adam: my home, my PA I bought things for bought cornflakes

Nicola Anderson and Lyndsey Telford

U2 star Adam Clayton decided to employ a personal assistant because he was "fed up" coming home from tour only to find his "electricity or phone cut off", he said yesterday.

The 52-year-old bass guitarist took to the witness box at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday where the former assistant is accused of stealing almost €3m from him.

He revealed that he was so concerned for Carol Hawkins' welfare when she confessed to taking more than €13,000 from him that he found her a therapist because she claimed she wanted to kill herself.

"She mentioned that she had been suicidal and had taken an overdose," he told the packed courtroom.

"I was concerned for her health and recommended she see a therapist. I got her a therapist locally.

"In the matter of the money, I accepted she was a distressed woman. Her marriage broke up; her children had gone away."

Giving evidence against the defendant at her trial, Mr Clayton claimed he was in court because he trusted people.

"She had my absolute trust," he told the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin.

"We had been together a long time; working together. She had been very conscientious. I felt she looked after my money and on many occasions accused others of being greedy, so I was extremely surprised."

Ms Hawkins, a mother-of-two who worked for the musician for 17 years, listened attentively as Mr Clayton, dressed in a navy jacket and grey shirt, was grilled about their working relationship and his bank details.

He said he expressed his "absolute astonishment" when it was discovered €434,000 was spent by Ms Hawkins (48) on horses and related expenditure -- as he had no interest in horses or gambling.

"I never owned a horse but many years ago, I was invited to be part of a syndicate for a horse named after 'Unforgettable Fire,' a record by U2. But the horse ended up with a splint and never ran," said Mr Clayton.

Mr Clayton said he learned the extent of the alleged theft in April 2010 when gardai produced 181 cheques drawn from his accounts and signed by Ms Hawkins. "They were very large cheques that even I would have thought twice before signing," he said.

Asked how he would have felt had he known at the time that all that money had been spent on horses, Mr Clayton said he would have been "extremely distraught".

Ms Hawkins also bought a Volkswagen Golf for her son Joe, it was claimed, and paid for fashion and film courses which Mr Clayton suggested may have been for her son and daughter.

Mr Clayton said he met Ms Hawkins and her husband, John while on holiday in Christmas 1992 on an island in the Caribbean, where the couple were running a small hotel.

He was aware that they had two small children they wished to bring back to Europe for schooling and after thinking about it for some months after his return home, decided to contact them to offer them a job. He believed their hotel experience would stand to them in good stead working on his estate at Danesmoate, Rathfarnham, in Dublin.

"I live there on my own," Mr Clayton said yesterday, adding he had required someone to do the shopping, some basic cooking and running the house.

He had agreed to employ both Ms Hawkins and her husband who would drive for him and cook for the odd dinner party, with a net wage of €4,000 a month split between them, with accommodation and utilities making up part of their salary.

When she and her husband separated, in around 2007, Mr Clayton continued to pay her the full salary of the two.

Ms Hawkins, of Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to 181 counts of theft from two of Mr Clayton's Bank of Ireland accounts from 2004 to 2008. The alleged thefts totalled €2,869,274.

"I'm a musician. I'm a creative person. I'm away a lot so I was requiring a person to take care of these things," he added.

Asked if he had any accountancy training himself, Mr Clayton replied that he didn't "even have a Leaving Cert".

The court heard that further large sums from his account were spent on designer goods, jewellery, concert tickets, flights, hotels and restaurants, with €7,000 spent at Shanahan's on the Green steakhouse.

Under cross-examination, Mr Clayton played down Ms Hawkins' responsibilities.

Defence barrister Ken Fogarty maintained that the accused served as "a chartered accountant, personal assistant, general dog's body, housekeeper, minder, security guard, overseas property surveyor".

He also put it to Mr Clayton that Ms Hawkins was authorised to spend money on more than just household necessities with petty cash, that she was charged with making larger purchases for the mansion.

Mr Clayton denied that Ms Hawkins had bought art or furnishings for his home, saying: "I would buy the things I wanted around me. Carol Hawkins bought cornflakes."

He also denied claims that Ms Hawkins oversaw the multimillion-euro refurbishment of his listed property.

The former PA was just authorised to sign cheques and make payments on his behalf to architects and contractors, as opposed to liaising with them directly and setting budgets as Mr Fogarty had suggested, Mr Clayton told the court.

Questioned about the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, Mr Clayton said that he'd once had coffee on the terrace there. When prosecuting barrister Colm O'Briain put it to him that €2,300 was spent there, Mr Clayton joked: "I didn't drink that much coffee."

Apologetic

When called to give evidence, Mr Clayton was promptly instructed by Judge Patrick McCartan to remove his hands from his pockets and with an apologetic smile, he obliged.

When the judge urged him to speak into the microphone, there were smiles in the court when Mr Clayton replied that he was "more of a dum, dum, dum man" but that he would practice his technique.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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