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home-made will Taxi driver weeps in court over dispute about pensioner’s will leaving him €275k home

Seamus Conroy (67) has denied allegations that he preyed on vulnerable old people to win their trust and confidence for personal financial gain

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A Co Kildare taxi driver wept in court as he recalled a friendship he struck up with an old age pensioner who left him his €275,000 and its contents in what was described as a home-made will.

Seamus Conroy (67) has denied, in a Circuit Civil Court dispute over the will, allegations that he preyed on vulnerable old people to win their trust and confidence for personal financial gain.

An emotional Conroy, of Beatty Grove, Celbridge, Co Kildare, broke down several times as he outlined to Judge John O’Connor a bond he claimed had developed between him and 85-year-old widower Joe Kavanagh, of Swords Street, Oxmanstown Road, Stoneybatter, Dublin.

He told his counsel Eanna Mulloy SC he had picked up Kavanagh when waved down in North Circular Road, Dublin, and afterwards made a deal to bring him daily to and from the sick bed of his wife, Frances who later died in St Mary’s Care Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Mr Conroy, a former photographer with Irish Press, said the agreement was for €30 per day and was paid weekly at €210 per week, an understanding than lasted for several years until Joe Kavanagh’s death.

He told Mr Mulloy, who appeared with barrister Tim Dixon and Swaine Solicitors, Galway, that he would daily 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.

He said that through Frances Kavanagh’s time in hospital and until Joe died several years later he had done everything he could for the former printer with the Leinster Leader in Naas.

Conroy, a shared Lotto winner and part-time property developer, faced a challenge over the will by Cormac O’Ceallaigh Solicitor who claimed to have drawn up an original will for Mr Kavanagh.

In this will he had bequeathed 60pc of his net estate to charities and divided the remainder between two nieces.

Money was to go for the upkeep of priests and church buildings, parish funds, the Legion of Mary Concillium and St Peter’s Church, Phibsborough, Dublin.

Mr O’Ceallaigh told the court that when Mr Kavanagh’s home had been put on the market as per the original will, a purchaser paid a deposit of €7,000. Swain Solicitors on behalf of Mr Conroy had written indicating the were in possession of a final will appointing Mr Conroy as Executor and that no further steps be taken in connection with the sale.

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Conroy told Judge O’Connor that Mr Kavanagh, a considerable time before his death, 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, who appeared for Cormac O’Ceallaigh, told the court that total charges for taxi fares had topped €40,000. He said Mr Conroy had changed his evidence of the money being for taxi fares to having spent it on afternoon teas for Mr Kavanagh.

Mr Conroy denied having wrongly influenced Mr Kavanagh in any way in the changing of his will. Mr Conroy and O’Ceallaigh have lodged claim and counter claim regarding the legality of both wills.

Mr Mulloy and Mr de Bruir are to submit legal submissions to the court before judgment is delivered.

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