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WILL OF FARE Taxi driver denies making fake will to claim elderly customer's €275k Dublin house

Seamus Conroy has been accused of producing a homemade will after the death of Joe Kavanagh (85) who he befriended in 2014

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Seamus Conroy speaks to our man Eamon Dillon.

Seamus Conroy speaks to our man Eamon Dillon.

Seamus Conroy speaks to our man Eamon Dillon.

The taxi driver at the centre of a court wrangle over claims he faked a will in which a pensioner left him his €275,000 house has denied doing anything wrong.

Seamus Conroy has been accused of producing a homemade will after the death of Joe Kavanagh (85) who he befriended in 2014.

The legal dispute began when Conroy's claim to the Dublin house emerged after a niece who had previously been left a share of the property went to sell the house.

This week at Dublin Circuit Court Conroy wept as he told how he had formed a close bond with the elderly widower during daily taxi trips.

Over the course of three or four years, the elderly man paid Conroy €40,000 which the taxi man said he spent on buying them lunches together.

Conroy spoke to the Sunday World at his home in Celbridge.

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Joe Kavanagh’s home in Stoneybatter.

Joe Kavanagh’s home in Stoneybatter.

Joe Kavanagh’s home in Stoneybatter.

 

When asked if the allegations made it look as if he had conned the elderly householder, Conroy replied: "That would probably be the image that went out, but it's so far from the truth."

He said would fully explain the story after the case has been resolved, adding: "We'll give it a good lash then, there's a good story behind it."

At a Circuit Civil Court hearing this week he denied he preyed on vulnerable old people to win their trust and confidence for personal financial gain.

He broke down in tears several times as he told Judge John O'Connor a close friendship had developed between him and Mr Kavanagh, who was from Stoneybatter, Dublin.

They first met when Mr Kavanagh waved Conroy down on the North Circular Road in Dublin to bring him to see his ailing wife Frances, who later died in St Mary's Care Hospital in the Phoenix Park.

They later struck a deal in which he would bring Mr Kavanagh from his home to the hospital every day for €30 a day, an agreement which lasted for a number of years until Mr Kavanagh's death.

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Conroy explained he would collect Kavanagh at his home, bring him to the hospital and, when the visit was over, bring him to a restaurant and buy him a lunch or afternoon tea.

"The fare, waiting time and food very often cost me not less than €50 or €60 but Joe was never charged more than the €210 weekly agreed rate," Mr Conroy said.

The will in which Conroy was to be left the house by Mr Kavanagh is being challenged by solicitor Cormac O Ceallaigh, who drew up an original will for him.

In that will Mr Kavanagh left 60 per cent of his estate to charities and divided the rest between two nieces.

Mr O Ceallaigh told the court when the property had been put on the market as per the original will, a lawyer acting for Conroy asked for the sale to be stopped.

Conroy said in court this week that Mr Kavanagh had handed him an envelope and had told him to keep it and not to open it until after his death.

When he eventually opened the envelope he found the will in which he had been left the house and contents.

Barrister Rory de Bruir told the court that total charges for taxi fares had topped €40,000. He said Conroy had changed his evidence of the money being for taxi fares to having spent it on afternoon teas for Mr Kavanagh.

Conroy denied having wrongly influenced Mr Kavanagh in any way in the changing of his will.

In her affidavit which was opened in court, niece Elaine McGuirk expressed her fears that Conroy had an "undue and malign influence" on her uncle.

Her fears were raised after her uncle had told her he didn't have to pay for Frances's funeral, an attitude which she said was "so unlike my uncle as we knew him."

Previously he had shown her details of a bank account with €20,000 which he said was for funeral expenses.

She believed it was "highly unlikely that my uncle would have left his house and contents to a man whom he only got to know sometime in or about 2014."

Funeral director Alan Harmon in his affidavit said he had been in contact with Mr Kavanagh over Frances's funeral bill.

He raised his concerns over Conroy's influence on Mr Kavanagh and spoke to Ms McGuirk about it.

After Mr Kavanagh's death in August 2019 Mr Harmon said Conroy called him and promised to pay the balance of the cost of Frances's funeral but said he never heard from him again.

At a previous hearing in June Judge O'Connor described the proceedings as a very sad and serious case.

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