Monday 22 January 2018

Woman whose will is contested by sisters 'was a lady who knew what she wanted' - doctor tells court

Majella Rippington leaving the High Court after the hearing.
Majella Rippington leaving the High Court after the hearing. PIC: COURTPIX
Majella Rippington, with her husband, Shaun Rippington, leaving the High Court after the hearing. PIC: COURTPIX

Tim Healy

A woman who died from cancer, and whose will is being contested over alleged undue influence, was no more vulnerable than any other cancer patient in a similar position, a doctor told the High Court.

Hair stylist, Celine Murphy (50), Old Naas Road, Dublin, died on March 15, 2011, leaving her estate, including an apartment, to a friend, Mary Butler, from Straffan, Co Kildare. 

Ms Murphy, who was not married and had no children, also entrusted the will to Tridentine Bishop Michael Cox who acted as executor.

Her two sisters, Majella Rippington and Edel Banahan, along with Mrs Rippington's husband Shaun, want the will declared invalid because they say Celine was not physically or mentally capable of signing it on March 8, 2011. She died a week later in hospital.

Ms Butler and Bishop Cox says Ms Murphy was of sound mind and have counter-claimed seeking a declaration the will is valid.

The court has heard the family say the entire estate, including an insurance policy, is worth about half a million euro while the defendants estimate its value is now €283,000.

On the second day of the hearing Wednesday (July 22), a doctor who treated Ms Murphy in St Luke's Hospital in Dublin said she was no more vulnerable than anyone with cancer.

Dr Osama Salib, consultant in radiation oncology in St Luke's, said Celine was in fact a very strong willed person and would on occasion tell him (doctor) what to do.

She was referred to St Luke's psycho-oncology service because she was anxious about her financial affairs, her illness, and did not want her 93-year-old mother to know about her cancer,  Dr Salib said.

Asked by Majella Rippington, who is presenting the family's case, how Celine's illness impacted on her, Dr Salib said "her thinking was absolutely perfect.

"She told me what to do at times and she was very clear about what she wanted.

"She was a lady who knew what she wanted, you could not mislead her easily".

The court heard Ms Murphy's two sisters and brother-in-law were claiming Celine's fingers were so badly damaged as a result of complications from her cancer that she was not physically able to sign a will.

They also claim it was not possible for Celine to have travelled to Ms Butler's home in Straffan to sign the will, as the defendants claim, on the evening of March 8.

Ms Murphy's cousin, Catherine Byrne, told the court she spoke to Celine a number of times on the day the will was signed.   Celine had driven to private hairdressing clients in Co Meath and had told Ms Byrne by phone, as she stopped along the way, that she was feeling very unwell.

Majella Rippington said phone records showed it was not possible for her late sister to have been in Straffan for the hour on March 8 when she allegedly signed the will. 

She also claimed her sister was brought by Mrs Butler, shortly after her illness was diagnosed as terminal, to a Galway faith healer despite the fact she was in no condition to make the journey.

Asked by Cormac O'Dulachain SC, for the defendants, what the difficulty was about bringing her to a faith healer, Mrs Rippington said this was all part of "a game at play" whereby her sister would be introduced to one faith healer so that she could then be introduced to Mrs Butler's friend, Bishop Cox,  into whose hands the will fell.

The case continues.

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