Catherine Nevin's conviction for murdering husband 'does not prove her guilt'
Catherine Nevin's conviction for murdering her husband Tom does not actually amount to proof of her guilt, her legal team have claimed in a long-running battle over his estate.
Nevin earned the moniker 'The Black Widow' after she was convicted of the March 1996 murder at Jack White's Inn in Brittas, Co Wicklow.
Tom Nevin died intestate and the couple had no children which generally means the entire estate goes to the widow.
His mother Nora initiated proceedings in November 1997 seeking that Nevin be disinherited, but more than two decades later the saga continues in the courts.
Now the Supreme Court must decide whether Nevin's murder conviction can be relied on by his family, in their bid to ensure her estate does not benefit from his.
Nevin died in a hospice last February having been given compassionate temporary release from her life sentence.
But the disinheritance case is being opposed by the executors of her estate.
Yesterday the Supreme Court heard an appeal, which follows the Court of Appeal finding the criminal conviction can be relied on in the civil disinheritance proceedings as proof of Nevin's guilt.
Members of Tom Nevin's family were in court for the appeal on which the five-judge court, presided over by the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, reserved judgment.
In submissions, Coleman Fitzgerald SC, for the estate, said Nevin always denied involvement in her husband's murder and had intended to give evidence to that effect in the civil proceedings.
There was a procedural flaw in the manner in which the family had sought orders permitting them to rely on the conviction, he said.
He argued that a conviction order is proof only that a person was "found guilty" and was not proof of their guilt.
In that context, the conviction order amounted to "hearsay".
George Brady SC, for the family, said the "indisputable fact" was Nevin had been convicted in 2000 of the murder after a 42-day trial in the Central Criminal Court.
That was the third trial, two earlier trials having been aborted, he said.
He rejected the estate's arguments of a procedural flaw in the family's preliminary application seeking orders permitting them to rely on the criminal conviction for their civil case.
When making the preliminary application, he was acutely conscious of a lacuna, or gap, in the Succession Act but had not argued that point.
He instead relied on the common law in seeking the order to rely on the criminal conviction, Mr Brady said.
Mr Nevin was murdered in 1996 at Jack White's Inn in Brittas, Co Wicklow, the pub jointly owned by the couple.
The pub was re-opened for a short time before it was sold in 1997 for IR£620,000. After Nora Nevin died intestate in 1999, her case was taken over by Tom Nevin's brother and sister, Patrick Nevin and Margaret Lavelle, who were in court yesterday.