Main beneficiary of contested will was subject of garda fraud investigations, court told

Main Beneficiary Of Contested Will Was Subject Of Garda Fraud Investigations, Court Told
The High Court has heard that the main beneficiary of a deceased Co Galway farmer's will has been investigated by gardaí over alleged fraud
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High Court reporters

The High Court has heard that the main beneficiary of a deceased Co Galway farmer's will has been investigated by gardaí over alleged fraud and has also been served with a revenue bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau.

The investigations arise from claims made against Mr Peter O'Toole of Leagaun, Moycullen, Co Galway, who denies any wrongdoing.


Galway-based Detective Garda John Kerrigan told the court on Thursday that the DPP had after receiving a file had decided that no prosecution is to take place regarding complaints made over a will purportedly made by the late Margaret Hernon in 2006.

However, the garda said a decision is being awaited from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on another file in relation another complaint made against Mr O'Toole, who the court heard is aged in his 70s, made by the late Peter 'Bunker' Lydon.

The files regarding both matters were sent to the DPP at the same time, he said.

In the will Mrs Hernon left the bulk of her valuable estate to Mr O'Toole. It was purportedly executed before retired solicitor Mr Liam O'Gallchobhar.


Gardaí said the complaint in relation to the will was conducted at the same time as a complaint made by Mr Lydon before he died in July 2020.

Bachelor farmer

He was a bachelor farmer, aged in his 80s who had claimed that he was never paid for lands he owned in Kingston, Galway that he sold to Mr O'Toole.

The Garda said that an aspect of the investigation centres around lodgements of large sums of money totalling €1.5 million by Mr O'Toole in January 2019 to the benefit or favour of Mr Lydon who was in a nursing home at the time.

Mr Lydon, the Garda said, was not able to read or write.


The Garda said that, as part of the investigation into that matter, documents were presented which state that Mr O'Toole made a large number of cash payments to Mr Lydon.

Many of the receipts of those payments were witnessed by the late Mr John Concannon, who died in May 2017, who is alleged to have been a witness to the 2006 will that was purportedly signed by Mrs Hernon and executed before Mr O'Gallchobhair.

The Garda said that one document, which had been altered, seemed to date the late Mr Concannon, a farmer from Barna Co Galway, as having witnessed one payment on the date of his death in May 2017.

CAB tax demand

The Detective Garda also said that the revenue wing of CAB had served Mr O'Toole with a tax demand.


The figure of that demand was not disclosed in open court, however the Garda said that the demand is currently under appeal.

The evidence was given on the third day of an application brought by Mr Agustus 'Gus' Kelehan who is one of over 40 children of the deceased first cousins, against the executor of the estate retired solicitor Mr Liam O'Gallchobhair of Highfield Park, Galway seeking to set aside the 2006 will.

It is claimed that the will was procured by deceit.

It has been claimed that Mr O'Gallchobhair was not the deceased solicitor, and that he is an associate of Mr O'Toole who in the past has been convicted of offences including possession of a weapon, forgery and deception.


The claims are denied.


Under cross-examination by Michael Hourican SC for Mr O'Gallchobhair, who questioned the relevance of the Garda evidence, the detective said that the allegations had been investigated by the Gardai as part of their remit to deal with the nature of the complaints made in relation to the will.

He denied that he had been selective with the document she had furnished to the court as part of his evidence. All relevant material to this case had been provided to the court and he denied that anything had not furnished any documentation that would be of benefit to Mr O'Toole.

The court also heard evidence from Ms Meave Joyce solicitor of Horan & Son Solicitors in Galway. She said the firm had acted for Mrs Hernon and her husband Frank for many years.

She said she had discussions with Margaret Hernon on several occasions about making a will.

She told David Kennedy SC for Mr Kelehan that Mr Hernon would become upset on occasions when it came to drafting a will, particularly in the time leading up towards her death.

Ms Joyce said that Mrs Hernon was aware of what would have happened if she died intestate and said there would be "Helter-Skelter" if that happened.

Ms Joyce said that in her discussions with Mrs Hernon form 2010 onwards there was no mention of a will being executed and said that she wanted to leave her estate to members of her late husband's family as well as others including Maureen Donnellan who had been good to her.

There was no mention of leaving Peter O'Toole anything in her will in any of their discussions, Ms Joyce said, adding she was very surprised to learn that Mrs Hernon had purportedly made a will in 2006.

Under cross-examination from Mr Hourican, she said she did not believe that Mrs Hernon had forgotten about the 2006 will.

Mrs Joyce also said that she did not accept a claim made by Mr O'Toole that he had been told by Mrs Hernon that she had gone to another solicitor in 2006 because she feared that her discussions with Horan's was being made public.

In her will she had left sums of money to a few family members, including Mrs Donnellan and her mother, and the local Catholic Church totalling €22,000 while the rest of the estate was left to Mr O'Toole.

In his defence of the claims against the estate Mr O'Gallchobhair claims the will was validly executed in 2006 and was witness by Mr Concannon.

He claims he knew the deceased for many years.

He accepts that he knows Mr O'Toole, and had acted for him, but denies all the allegations that he colluded with him regarding the will.

Mr O'Toole also denies any wrong-doing and claims that he had a good relationship with the deceased.

The hearing before Mr Justice Cian Ferriter continues.

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