Former solicitor Thomas Byrne has described to a jury his former business partner John Kelly as a “psychopath” who forced him to become a property magnate against his will.
During a sixth day in the witness box yesterday, Mr Byrne told Remy Farrell, prosecuting, that Mr Kelly threatened to kill his 7-year-old daughter as part of a pattern of intimidation to force him to draw down €52m in loans on his behalf. Mr Byrne accepted he owned between 40 and 50 properties but said he bought all of these to use as collateral as loans for Mr Kelly.
He agreed with counsel that he was forced to become a “reluctant property magnate”. The accused said he had no interest in property or money himself and was acting under duress from Mr Kelly.
Mr Farrell put it to Mr Byrne that he had tied himself to the “most inept property developer of all time” and: “It really really kills you that he isn’t sitting in the dock next to you.”
The accused said he has now moved on with his life and denied that “it kills him” that Mr Kelly is not before the court.
Mr Byrne, aged 47, of Walkinstown Rd, Crumlin, is accused of theft and fraud offences totalling €51.8m. The charges allege he transferred clients’ homes into his name and then used them as collateral for property loans.
He has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 50 counts of theft, forgery, using forged documents and deception between 2004 and 2007.
The accused said he knew that some regarded his evidence as dramatic and said during the trial he heard a garda remark disparagingly that “it was like a scene from Gone with the Wind”.
He told counsel he did not go to the gardaí when Mr Kelly threatened him because he was so scared.
Mr Farrell put it to the accused that in a previous civil case, Mr Byrne told a judge that he had no ill feeling towards Mr Kelly. “This is the man who you say threatened to kill your daughter?”
The trial continues today with closing speeches.
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