Titanic replica row ends up in High Court

A dispute over the ownership of a replica model of the Titanic — on display as part of Tall Ships Festival — has come before the High Court.

The court heard that the model was constructed at the home of Corkwoman Carmel McGrath, who paid the costs of building the 16ft replica by Hungarian man Zoltan Panka.

The model, estimated to be worth up to €70,000, is jointly owned by the pair, it is claimed.

Yesterday, barrister Gerard Nicholas Murphy for Ms McGrath told Mr Justice Kevin Feeney that earlier this month Mr Panka, without permission, took the model from his client’s home while she was away.

Despite her requests to return the model, Mr Panka has failed to do so, and counsel said his client now feared he may sell the model and return to Hungry.

Mr Justice Feeney said he was satisfied to grant Ms McGrath a temporary injunction preventing Mr Panka from selling, disposing of, or parting with the possession of the model of the ship that sank more than 100 years ago.

The injunction was gran-ted on an ex-parte basis (one side only). The judge made the matter returnable to early September.

When the matter returns before the court, Ms McGrath will seek further orders, including one directing Mr Panka to deliver up possession of the model.

Seeking the order, Mr Murphy, for Ms McGrath, of Glenview Park, Dillon’s Cross, Cork, said his client had known Mr Panka since 2009.

The two began an intimate relationship shortly after meeting and had lived together at her home in Cork. He became an integral part of her family, counsel said.

In Oct 2010, when he was not working, they decided to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking by building a detailed model replica of the ship.

Both parties were to be joint owners of the model. Ms McGrath paid €8,300 towards the cost of the model, which was built by Mr Panka who, the court heard, was unemployed and living at a homeless shelter on Anglesea St, Cork.

The model was built to a high standard, put on display in Cobh and featured in media reports.

It was to be stored in a garden shed at Ms McGrath’s home until the model had been sold. The proceeds were to be split 50:50, counsel said.

However, earlier this month, after she returned from holidays, she discover the model and other items were gone and alleged that damage had been done to the shed.

Mr Panka, who had been house-sitting for her while she was away, had removed the model without her permission. She informed the gardaí. She phoned and texted Mr Panka asking him to return the model, but he did not respond.

Ms McGrath then got a letter from a solicitor acting on Mr Panka’s behalf complaining of harassment, threatening and abusive text messages, and making a vexatious complaint to the gardaí.

Ms McGrath denied that the messages she sent were any way threatening or abusive.

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