Saturday 24 February 2018

Strung along for €2.8m, Clayton welcomes verdict

U2 star's 'trusted' former PA Carol Hawkins, who has been found guilty of fraud, went on an 'orgy of spending' over a four-year period before thefts came to light

Nicola Donnelly

U2 Star Adam Clayton warmly shook hands with some of the jurors who convicted his former personal assistant Carol Hawkins of fraud last week.



"I welcome today's outcome and I wish to thank the jury, An Garda Siochana and all those involved with the case. I'd like to thank all of my family, friends and colleagues for their support," he said after the case.

Ms Hawkins, the "trusted" former assistant of the U2 bassist still maintains she is innocent of stealing nearly €3m worth of cheques from the rock star, despite being convicted of the offences.

Ms Hawkins, whom the U2 bass guitarist met by chance on a Caribbean island in 1992 where she and her husband were running a small hotel, played on the good nature and trust of the 52-year-old musician. This chance meeting was to prove detrimental 16 years later as not only did the Grammy award-winning musician lose €2.8m but he lost his trust for a woman he let into his life.

Despite being given a house to stay in rent-free and a salary of €48,000, the "trusted employee" went on "an orgy of spending" with Mr Clayton's money and, according to prosecution counsel Colm O'Briain, she "proceeded like a whirlwind down Fifth Avenue and Bond Street," funding her secret lavish lifestyle.

Ms Hawkins, 48, who secretly purchased and maintained up to 22 thoroughbred racehorses, an apartment in New York, holidays and educated her children Joe and Eleanor with Mr Clayton's money, showed no reaction last Friday afternoon at Dublin Criminal Court when the jury returned a unanimous verdict on all 181 charges of theft after five hours of deliberations.

The mother of two, who looked pale and drawn, sat motionless with her chin resting on her hands and glanced up momentarily at Judge Patrick McCartan each time the "Guilty" verdict was read out by the jury foreman.

Mr Clayton, who had attended most days of the 18-day trial, maintained throughout the trial in his evidence that he had given her signing rights to cheques from his account for his legitimate expenses but she had no authority to fund her secret lavish lifestyle using his money. He arrived into the court room just as the jury were reading out their verdicts. Afterwards the musician briefly spoke to awaiting reporters and welcomed the outcome.

Judge McCartan released Ms Hawkins on bail for sentencing next Friday. Flanked by her solicitor Ms Lauren Martin, she covered up her face in the olive-green scarf as they exited the courthouse -- continuing in the way she had arrived and left the Criminal Courts of Justice each of the 18 days of the trial.

The trial, which Judge McCartan described as having "overwhelming evidence" heard how Ms Hawkins embezzled €2.8m over a four-year period by writing cheques from the musician's accounts in her name and lodging them into her accounts.

There were references in prosecution counsel's closing speeches that she had "an uncontrollable surge of spending," and her attempts to live the life of the likes of JP McManus and John Magnier with her overseas stables and first-class flights.

Ms Hawkins, of Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to the 181 counts of theft from two of Mr Clayton's Bank of Ireland accounts from 2004 to 2008. The thefts totalled €2,862,567.

The thefts only emerged in 2008 when she went to France to confess to Mr Clayton that she had accidentally taken up to €15,000 from his account to pay for flights to visit her children in the US and London.

She was "suicidal", according to Mr Clayton, due to the breakdown of her marriage.

Mr Clayton said he was "extremely rattled and astounded" by this revelation as he had seen a side of Ms Hawkins he had never seen before.

Mr Clayton removed her as a cheque signatory but kept her on as a PA after he sought her assurance that she had made full disclosure of the theft. Investigations later revealed that it wasn't €15,000 she had taken but €2.8m.

Defence counsel Ken Fogarty maintained that Hawkins paid for items on her credit card to protect the privacy of Mr Clayton and that she had his consent to do this.

Mr Fogarty claimed Ms Hawkins was more than a housekeeper and bought items such as art work and furniture for his homes.

Mr Clayton completely dismissed this claim saying "I would buy the things I wanted around me. Carol Hawkins bought cornflakes."

Mr Fogarty also proposed that no one told her what she was doing was wrong and no one ever told her to stop. He also compared the situation to the sinking of the Titanic, saying that Mr Clayton was the captain but that there was no one to sound the warning signs.

"Mr Clayton was the captain of the ship and this could have been dealt with in 2004 but there was a decision not to have a warning system in place or a look out and this cannot be visited on the person lighting the flares," said Mr Fogarty.

Prosecution said there was "no element of accident to it" that it was a "cold, calculated act, perpetrated over a period of time".

Sunday Independent

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