A Wexford businessman who has admitted forging the will of a bachelor farmer has given evidence against his brother and a friend who deny forging the same will.
William O'Leary (51) of Ramsgrange, Co Wexford and Noel Hayes (61), a vegetable wholesaler, from New Ross, Co. Wexford have pleaded not guilty to forging the will of Matthew Hayes on a date between December 1998 and January 1999.
On the opening day of the trial, Mr O'Leary's brother Charles told Philip Sheehan BL, prosecuting, that he had previously pleaded guilty to taking part in the alleged forgery.
He received an 18 month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay €30,000 into an account pending for the next of kin of Matthew Hayes.
Noel Hayes had taken ownership of just under €592,000 worth of assets including 162 acres of farmland from Matthew Hayes after being named in a will witnessed by Charles and William O'Leary.
Charles O'Leary's testified that the will, which was shown to the jury, was not signed until a week after Matthew Hayes had died.
He said that Noel Hayes and William O'Leary came into his office a week before Christmas in 1998 and told him that a distant relative named Matthew Hayes was sick in hospital.
Mr O'Leary said he had never heard of Matthew Hayes previously. He said Noel Hayes told him that the land was taken from his family when his 'father's mother's brother or something like that' had put his grandmother off the land following the death or emigration of his grandfather.
Mr O'Leary said that along with his brother and Mr Hayes they discussed how they would 'put it right'.
The witness said that they decided to forge the will of Matthew Hayes based on the signature of a cheque Matthew Hayes had given to Noel Hayes in 1985. Mr. O Leary said that Noel Hayes had said he kept a copy of the cheque 'because it might come in handy'.
Mr O'Leary accompanied Noel Hayes to visit Matthew Hayes in Wexford General Hospital on Christmas Eve 1998. On Christmas day he told the court he was driving to work when he decided to go through with the plan.
He said that he 'squared it' with himself by saying that if Matthew Hayes died on Christmas day he would do it.
'If he dies and I don't profit from it, I can work with this,' he said he thought at the time.
Mr O'Leary learned after that Matthew Hayes did die on Christmas day. He told the court that the three men met again around New Year's in the office to practice writing on wills that Noel Hayes had bought from a shop in Waterford.
Mr O'Leary said he stayed out of it while his brother and Noel Hayes were 'striking a deal' but that he remembers them discussing figures between €15,000 and €17,000.
He told the court that he and his brother signed as witnesses and Mr Hayes forged Matthew Hayes signature. They then brought it to a solicitor.
Mr O'Leary said that whole thing seemed to 'die away' until autumn 2001 when Mr Hayes contacted him to say he had something for him.
Mr O'Leary said it was to give him money and he got €12,500 which he gave to his sister and friends who had a sick child. He said he suffered from depression and was suicidal in 2007 when he decided to tell the Gardai.
The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan.