Belfast Telegraph

Doctor accused of forging will bids to sack legal team

By Patrice Dougan

A doctor accused of forging the will of an elderly woman to secure the rights to her pub made an application to sack his legal team just minutes before he was due to go on trial.

Dr James Cassidy (59) and his secretary Niamh Hearty (31) are accused of forging the signature of Catherine Haughey, a south Armagh publican who ran Larkin's Pub in Forkhill.

The pair have pleaded not guilty to the charge, and that of making a false agreement between Ms Haughey (81) and a man named Francis Tiernan for the sale of a property, understood to be her pub, just two weeks before her death in December 2004.

The pair appeared in Newry Crown Court on Monday for what was due to be the first day of their criminal trial. But minutes before it was to start, Dr Cassidy asked for an application to change his legal team. He cited a conflict of confidence as the reason behind the eleventh-hour bid.

Judge Kevin Finnegan asked if it was an attempt to delay proceedings and reminded the defendant he was on legal aid.

Judge Finnegan questioned whether “this is some attempt to put this trial back further”, and added: “It really is an unfortunate situation that so many people, and at so much expense, have arrived here to find this. One wonders if the applicant were not legally aided that we would be embarking on this.”

The judge will hear the legal arguments in relation to the application, and is due to give his decision today.

Ms Haughey was found dead in the living quarters of her pub on December 19, 2004.

Her body was exhumed in 2007 amid suspicions surrounding her death.

However, a post-mortem examination later confirmed she died of natural causes.

But detectives continued their investigation and last year charged Dr Cassidy, who has a practice in Dundalk, and his secretary Ms Hearty on two counts of forgery and two counts of conspiracy to use a false instrument.

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