Bishop denies influencing disputed will

Latin Tridentine Bishop Michael Cox has told the High Court he did not in any way influence a woman whose will is at the centre of a legal dispute.

Bishop denies influencing disputed will

He said Celine Murphy, 50 simply produced the handwritten will from an envelope and asked him to witness it and also entrusted it to him as executor.

He was addressing the third day of a hearing in which Ms Murphy’s sisters, Majella Rippington and Edel Banahan, and brother-in-law Shaun Rippington, seek to have the will declared invalid on grounds of alleged duress and undue influence.

Bishop Cox, 70, and sole beneficiary Mary Butler, a long-time friend of Ms Murphy, dispute she was not of sound mind and have counter-claimed seeking to have the will declared valid.

Ms Murphy, a hair stylist from Old Naas Rd, Dublin, died from cancer on March 15, 2011. Her estate has a disputed value of between €283,000 and €500,000.

The court was told yesterday that she arrived at Mrs Butler’s home in Sallins, Co Kildare, on March 8, the day before she was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital, where she died.

Mrs Butler was not at home but her daughter Johanna was there along with Bishop Cox, a long-time family friend of the Butlers.

Johanna, like Ms Murphy, suffered from cancer.

Bishop Cox told the court the three of them were sitting around the kitchen table when Ms Murphy produced the handwritten will from an envelope and asked them to witness it. They signed it and Ms Murphy entrusted it to him, asking he not say anything about it for three weeks should anything happen to her.

Asked about claims that he may have influenced Ms Murphy, he said: “No, the document was already prepared, all we had to do was sign and witness it.”

Earlier, he said he first met Ms Murphy, through Mrs Butler, around 2000. He got to know her well and they often had discussions about the work he was doing in his church. She “held her own views, she was a very nice person, very intelligent and strong willed”, he said.

He often visited the Butlers and had gone from his home in Shinrone, Co Offaly, on March 8, for a break and was there when Ms Murphy arrived.

Johanna Butler told the court she was shocked when Ms Murphy produced a document from an envelope saying “this is my last will and testament” because they both had always been so positive about their illness.

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