Three-year jail term for forging godmother’s will

October 27, 2014

A Forkhill man has been handed a three-year jail term for forging the will of his godmother in an attempt to inherit the bulk of her £1m estate.

In Newry Crown Court on Friday, Francis Tiernan, a 54-year-old farmer from Carrickasticken Road, was told by Judge Kevin Finnegan QC that the fraud conspiracy was “founded in greed and deceit”.

Tiernan had earlier pleaded guilty to forging the will of Catherine ‘Kitty’ Haughey who was found dead in her flat above her pub, Larkin’s in Forkhill, in December 2004.  He initially denied involvement but changed his plea following his extradition from the Republic.

Concerns first arose about the authenticity of the will when it emerged it had been altered less than two weeks before her death.  Ms Haughey’s close friend, and one of the main beneficiaries of the original will, Alice Quinn, became suspicious following a conversation she held with Mr Tiernan at the wake.  She subsequently alerted police to her concerns.

In the genuine will, Ms Haughey had left her home, known as Annie’s Cottage, to Ms Quinn, €2,000 to North Louth Hospice, the sum of €1,000 to Tiernan and the remainder of her estate – including Larkin’s pub valued at around £500,000 – to be divided between St. John of God Hospice, Newry and the Ulster Cancer Foundation.

However, Tiernan enlisted the assistance of a Dundalk-based doctor and a quantity surveyor to forge a new will, which saw him inherit the bulk of the estate, including the public house, with around £60,000 bequeathed to the deceased’s friends.

Dr Seamus Cassidy from Dungannon and David McQuaid, a surveyor from Banbridge received suspended sentences after they pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy which was described in court as “like a Hollywood script”.

Tiernan’s defence team maintained that the forged will “reflected her dying wishes” but accepted that he went about changing the document “in the wrong way”.

During the sentencing hearing, Judge Finnegan said the conspiracy to alter the will had resulted in substantial financial loss to the deceased’s “dear friend” Alice Quinn and two charities.  The judge praised Ms Quinn who brought her suspicions of fraud to the attention of the police, “not for a desire for money but her desire to see the true will and wishes” of her friend.  The court heard the charities that would have benefitted have lost out substantially as the estate has “suffered loss and damage” while in Tiernan’s control.

Tiernan was remanded in custody to begin his sentence.