A Wexford businessman who has admitted forging the will of a bachelor farmer has said the first time he ever saw the man was on his death bed in hospital on Christmas Eve in 1998.
Charles O'Leary, who is the main prosecution witness in the trial of two men accused of forging the will of Matthew Hayes, told Michael O'Higgins SC, defence counsel, that he had never met Mr Hayes before and it was one of the accused, Noel Hayes, who brought him to the hospital to see the dying man.
He said that Noel Hayes had asked him to go with him to the hospital 'for the spin' but denied he had a pre-printed will with him.
It was day three of the trial of William O'Leary (51) of Ramsgrange, Co Wexford, and Noel Hayes (61), a vegetable wholesaler, from New Ross, also in Wexford who have pleaded not guilty to forging the will of Matthew Hayes on a date between December 1998 and January 1999.
Charles O'Leary had previously pleaded guilty to taking part in the alleged forgery. He was sentenced to 18 months suspended and ordered to pay €30,000 in an account pending for the next of kin of Matthew Hayes.
Matthew Hayes, from Duncannon, Co Wexford, died on Christmas Day 1998. In what was believed to have been his final will and testament he left 162 acres of land and money in various accounts to Noel Hayes, a distant relation.
Charles O'Leary and his brother William were executors of the will, which was purportedly signed in August 1998. It is alleged that all three were involved in forging the will, with Noel Hayes forging the signature of Matthew Hayes.
Under cross-examining by Mr O'Higgins, counsel for William O'Leary, the witness said it was 'normal' for him to go on trips with Noel Hayes.
'Yes, I went into hospital to see a man in a bed whom I had never met before,' Mr O'Leary said. 'I'd often go for spins with Noel.'
When asked by defence counsel how many other dying people he didn't know that Mr Hayes brought him to see, Mr O'Leary said none.
Mr O'Leary agreed that it was very odd and eccentric thing to do to visit Mr Hayes on his death bed. Counsel described the deceased as being 'in a vegetable state and not in a position to talk'. The witness agreed that maybe this made it easier to steal his land.
Mr O'Leary said he and the two accused went to a solicitor who gave them 'various advice on wills' and it was at that stage it was discussed that Noel would go into the hospital and get an 'X' on the will. However, he said the solicitor advised them that if a person normally signs their name then an 'X' would not suffice.
'Noel had a copy of Matthew's signature since 1985 from a cheque and the solicitor said if a person signs all the time with an X that's fine. But if he signs his name, it's not fine,' said Mr O'Leary.
He said he did not know if Noel Hayes brought a copy of the pre-printed will to the hospital.
'I never had a pre-printed will and I don't know if Noel had one in his pocket. I went for a spin to see Matthew Hayes in Hospital,' said Mr O'Leary. 'I can't speak for Noel.'
The trial continues before Judge Patricia Ryan and a jury of eight men and four women.