TERRY PRONE: Where there’s a will, there’s always sure to be a shedload of trouble

Where there’s a will, there’s a shedload of trouble, which is why I love the cable channel devoted to telling the story of wills and the murder and mayhem they generate.

It’s more varied than the murder channel, although murder figures in many a will-based dispute.

Now, the will I wish you to consider today did not generate much murder, but it performed pretty well in the mayhem-generating department. Here’s the story.

An old lady died in Dundalk. Even in Dundalk, with the best of care, this can happen to an 81-year-old publican, which she was. She had never married, this old lady, and, not having a big family, she had intended her considerable estate to go to various charities.

The year before she died, she made a will, as any sensible publican of advanced years would. Back in 2004, when she died, her estate was worth just under €2m. But then a bunch of conspirators stepped in with a different plan altogether.

Never mind the charities, the conspirators thought, much better if the money goes to us. (If this paper could do sound effects, the relevant sound effect at this point would be the rubbing of hands.)

And so it was that a conspiracy was set in train to divert the money. But mistakes were made. Suspicions were aroused. Gardaí were informed. (Sound effect as in wee-waw siren accompanying blue lighted vehicle lashing along to right wrongs.)

The gardaí looked into the matter, which is what gardaí do. Nor did the issue confine itself to An Garda Síochána.

It went north of the border, too, and involved the PSNI. The two police forces found all sorts of hairy stuff around the edges of the dead publican’s estate, a lot of it involving doctors. Doctors examining the elderly publican before she died and writing letters about the examinations undertaken.

None of it added up, and so, in no time at all, the poor old (and now commitedly dead) publican was being exhumed, to ascertain if any of the doctors involved had anything nefarious to do with her passing. Or, to put it more simply, to check if they’d murdered her.

Examination of her body established that they hadn’t done her in. Nobody had. She had just died. Naturally.

But an investigation involving two police forces, once started, is difficult to stop, and so — 10 full years after her death — four people ended up in court last week, accused of forging one of the wills that was found.

One of the defendants was acquitted. The other three were found guilty of conspiracy and forgery and anti-social acts of that kind.

Among those convicted was a GP, who, directly after his conviction, made observations to the Dundalk Argus which prove that almost everybody in pressured situations (like being done for forgery) really should have a PR person around them, not to help them tell lies, but to help them tell the truth, starting with that most subtle of spindoctor advice: “Get a grip.”

Now, if this GP had someone close to him telling him to get a grip, after he was found to have conspired with two other people to vitiate the intent of a dead woman and profit by forging a new will for her, that person might have suggested he come out and say he’d done wrong, had been caught, was sorry for doing wrong and finally was extremely grateful the judge gave him only a suspended 18-month sentence, thereby allowing him to get on with GP-ing.

Oh, and finally, that he realised one of the nastiest things he had done was involve the name of a deceased and very well-known GP in the area, regardless of potential damage to her reputation, and he apologised for that too. He didn’t say anything remotely like that. He was brief and not to the point. He said he was stupid to have got “caught up in this mess”. What a way with words this GP has.

The way he puts it, he was ensnared in a pre-existing mess, like a tumble-weed rolled over him. He had no hand, act or part in the creation of the mess. The mess was just there and he was stupid to have stepped into it.

Now here’s a fact you would think any GP could work out for their little selves.

If you have been involved in the forging of letters in conspiracy with two other charmers, then this isn’t just wrong in a opportunistic way. It requires malice aforethought. It requires planning and discussion. It demands the printing out of trial documents and final documents and the examination of the genuine signature in order to ensure that the fake signature matches it as near as dammit.

The conviction, remember, was not just for forgery, but for conspiracy. The judge didn’t say anything about the GP getting “caught up in this mess”.

And for the convicted man to come out and say that he doesn’t know how he got caught up in the mess is simply ridiculous.

He engaged himself in a conspiracy in order to make money to which he wasn’t entitled. It’s fair to assume greed played a part, because it doesn’t look as if the conspirators planned to give their illgotten gains to a charity.

Oh, yes, they were actually preventing the money from reaching a charity or charities in the first place, right?

This GP’s post-conviction comments concluded with the wish to put all this behind him, and no doubt he will feel aggrieved at the the Irish Examiner preventing him putting it behind him by insisting, instead, on looking at his little outbreak of forgery.

Oddly, if it was just forgery, we wouldn’t be looking at it today at all. The reason we’re looking at it is that what he said fits into a pattern of self-exculpatory waffle that’s becoming daily fare.

One bit of that pattern is where the convict announces that they made a mistake. No. Putting salt in the sugarbowl is a mistake. Trying to open the car door with your mobile phone is a mistake. Calling your current girlfriend by your ex’s name is a mistake. Stealing isn’t a mistake. Murder, rape and pillage aren’t mistakes. And if they’re not mistakes they’re also not “bad choices” or “bad decisions”.

Where did it come from, this guilt-easing notion that life is like Generation Game, a TV programme of old where a line of items ranging from a hairdrier to an ice-cream-maker travelled past competitors on a conveyor belt and one of them might end up kicking themselves for choosing an electric carving knife when a better decision would have brought them an item worth ten times as much?

Life is not about choices made at random from virtues or vices passing on a conveyor belt, separated by a cuddly toy or a teasmade.

It’s about individuals trying to be good or setting out to be bad, and when they get caught doing the latter, they should say so.

Never mind the charities, the conspirators thought, much better if the money goes to us


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