A woman wept today after being acquitted of defrauding thousands of pounds from her late mother's life savings.
The Belfast Crown Court jury of five men and seven women deliberated for two hours and 20 minutes before finding 49-year-old Heather Noble unanimously not guilty on two counts of theft, two counts of forgery and a further charge of fraud.
Following further deliberations and a direction from trial Judge Corinne Philpott QC that she could accept majority verdicts in the case, the jury returned 45 minutes later and returned not guilty verdicts by a majority on a further six charges of fraud.
As the jury left the court room with the thanks of the judge, Noble and her daughter wept in each other's arms in the public gallery.
During the course of the four day hearing the jury had heard the Crown allege that Noble, from the Aughnabrack Road in north Belfast, had defrauded her mother Johina Noble out of £41,000 and had also ousted the pensioner from her own home.
Noble's brother Raymond gave evidence that his mother, who died in 2008, had dictated a statement to him in which she stressed she had never given her daughter Heather permission to sign her name on her cheques.
Ms Noble was quoted telling her eldest son: "My daughter expected me to die sooner rather than later in which case these underhand acts would die with me."
It was the Crown case that Heather Noble had forged her mother's signature on more than 30 cheques, some of which had been made out to herself, with neither her mother's permission or knowledge.
Noble however gave evidence on her own behalf, counterclaiming that her mother had been “sharp as a tack” and would not have allowed her to conduct any of her affairs against her will, even while seriously ill in the Royal Victoria Hospital high dependency unit after a heart attack.
Denying that she had kicked her mother out of the home she had bought from her at a fraction of the market value, Noble claimed she had an “arrangement” with her mother where she would sign cheques in her mother’s presence, with her permission and that a number of purchases, including a £1,900 medical chair, house refurbishments, electrical equipment, leather sofas, a Toyota Rav4 jeep and amounts to Heather’s children, had been at her mother's request.