A rare books expert yesterday handed in to the Commercial Court copies made by him of the letters written by Ms Kennedy, wife of assassinated US president John F Kennedy, to Vincentian priest Fr Joseph Leonard between 1950 and 1964.
Owen Felix O’Neill, of Cahir, Co Tipperary, copied the entire collection, and those copies will remain in a locked safe in the central office of the Four Courts pending the outcome of legal proceedings against him by MJ Fine Art Ltd, trading as Sheppard’s Irish Auction House, of Durrow, Co Laois, the court heard.
The only electronic copy of the documents held by Mr O’Neill had been wiped, his counsel said.
Sheppard’s claims the letters are owned by All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin, and are to be auctioned by the firm on behalf of the college on June 10. The firm holds the original letters, while the college has copies of them, it was stated.
Sheppard’s sought injunctions against Mr O’Neilll last week after saying it believed alleged actions by Mr O’Neill could have an adverse impact on the value of the collection which, Philip Sheppard suggested, could attract bids of up to €3m.
Among various concerns expressed by the firm was that what appeared to be photos of some of the letters had been published in the Boston Globe, which had described Mr O’Neill as purchaser of the letters, a description which was “wholly untrue”, said Mr Sheppard.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly had granted an ex parte application to Sheppard’s for various injunctions, including orders restraining Mr O’Neill presenting himself as the owner or seller of the letters, or passing copies or extracts from them to third parties.
Mr O’Neill “strongly disputes” many of the assertions made to the court last week.
The correspondence between Ms Kennedy and Fr Leonard extends from 1950 to 1964. The letters were “effectively the autobiography” of Ms Kenn-edy and there was “enormous interest” in them worldwide, Mr Sheppard told the court last week.