An Irish champion rally driver from Co Londonderry has been declared bankrupt after a former friend who lent him £40,000 brought a claim against him to the High Court.
Eugene Donnelly, who has been Irish Tarmac rally champion five times and is the current title holder, was not in court to hear the adjudication in Belfast yesterday.
Donnelly, who lives in Draperstown, is a self-proclaimed big-hearted charity man on his website, but his friend Roisin Boyd from Belfast put the brakes on his generous image.
Miss Boyd decided to take her former friend to court in an attempt to regain some of her losses. Her solicitor Edmund Sinclair told the Belfast Telegraph Eugene Donnelly had been adjudicated as bankrupt and the “DETI Insolvency Service would now be dealing with this matter”.
Back in April and May, Mr Donnelly was hailed a hero on the Stephen Nolan show by driving coaches out to the Continent to bring back Northern Ireland passengers who were stranded following the ash cloud crisis.
He was unavailable for comment last night despite repeated attempts to contact him.
Last night Miss Boyd told the Telegraph that she lent Donnelly the cash in “good faith”.
“He told me he needed the money to help keep his business going,” said Miss Boyd. “I assumed the money would be put to good use and he would spend it on his business. He did tell me that his business was not doing very well but my money would help sort things out. I considered him a friend and trusted him.”
Miss Boyd claims she got to know Donnelly while she was a rally driver and competed against him in several events during her 20 years of rallying. She said she lent the money in May 2009 but never received a penny back.
Donnelly’s first rally was the Cavan Stages Rally in 1984 and his first win was at the Galway International in 2002.
He lists swimming and PlayStation racing games among his interests.
On his website Mr Donnelly pledged his support for the Children's Heartbeat Trust, a charity that provides emotional and practical aid to Northern Irish children who have serious heart conditions, and their families.
Miss Boyd, a mother of one, added: “I have been asking for the money back since August of 2009. He said he would pay me back, but then he stopped taking my calls.
“In November of 2009 I felt the only way forward was to go down the legal route. Eugene didn’t turn up to the bankruptcy court hearing, but as of yesterday, he is bankrupt.”