Belfast Telegraph

GP in £1.5m forged will disgrace faces being struck off in Republic

By Liz Farsaci

A former Tyrone GAA team doctor who forged the will of an elderly woman who left a £1.5m fortune now faces being struck off the medical register in the Republic.

Dungannon doctor James Cassidy (62), also known as Seamus, was handed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years in June 2014.

He had admitted two counts of conspiracy in connection with the will of a widow - south Armagh publican Catherine 'Kitty' Haughey.

Yesterday Cassidy, who works as a GP in Dundalk, Co Louth, was found guilty of professional misconduct at a disciplinary inquiry at the Medical Council in Dublin.

The Medical Council found that an allegation that Dr Cassidy was convicted of an offence that, if committed in the Republic, would constitute an offence triable on indictment was proven.

However, the professional misconduct ruling relates to the omission of details about a driving conviction in Northern Ireland from his application to the Medical Council in 2009.

Cassidy told the inquiry that in 2004, and before that, he had had an alcohol problem.

Cassidy, who has four grown daughters with his wife, yesterday told the medical inquiry of the extreme shame and embarrassment his actions have brought to his family.

Newry Crown Court heard in 2014 that two weeks before childless widow Ms Haughey died in December 2004, her godson - farmer Francis Tiernan from Forkhill, Co Armagh - got a quantity surveyor to rewrite his godmother's will.

It was witnessed by a doctor - Cassidy. According to the true will, Tiernan had been left £1,000.

The original legal will, written with Ms Haughey's solicitor in April 2003, had also bequeathed her home to "dear friend" Alice Quinn, and the rest of her estate "worth in the region of a million pounds" was to be split between a hospice and cancer charity.

However, in the forged will Tiernan was to receive Ms Haughey's home, known as Annie's Cottage, her Slieve Gullion pub and the rest of the £1m estate.

After suspicions about the will were raised by Ms Quinn a Garda investigation gained speed when a falsified patient file at the GP surgery of Cassidy was generated at the behest of a letter said to be from a Dundalk solicitors.

The details of the GP's letter were constructed to read that an examination of Ms Haughey had been done by a now-deceased doctor shortly before the publican's death.

The diagnosis was to say that Ms Haughey had been a healthy woman right up to her death. The letter was declared to be false in 2008 and only a photocopy of it survived.

Ms Haughey's body was exhumed in 2007 amid fresh suspicions surrounding her death.

She had been found dead in the living quarters of her pub.

However, a post-mortem examination later confirmed the 81-year-old died of natural causes.

In June 2014 at the Crown Court in Newry Cassidy was convicted of conspiring with others to attempt to falsify the will of Catherine Haughey, and a property sale agreement. The conspiracy was described in court as "like a Hollywood script".

Tiernan had featured prominently in the Smithwick tribunal into IRA and Garda collusion in Dundalk.

It was alleged he had been a member of the IRA in Newry, although he was never convicted of a terrorist offence.

The Smithwick report also claimed Tiernan was involved in "large-scale smuggling" and was suspected of being involved in fraud in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and England.

Cassidy, a former doctor for the Tyrone GAA team, yesterday told the medical inquiry: "My children and wife have had to undergo considerable embarrassment in their own lives as a result of my actions."

When asked how he felt about his participation in the matters relating to his conviction in Northern Ireland, Cassidy replied: "I can only say shame, first of all to my family, (and) to my profession.

"It's not very nice at this stage in your life to accept that you did something hugely irresponsible."

He told the inquiry that in relation to the forgery of the will, he had felt under extreme duress and threat.

He further explained that a man, who was yesterday referred to as 'Mr A' and who was a patient and acquaintance of his, made threats against himself and his family.

Cassidy, whose children were in school at the time, said that the threat was real and that any father would have put concerns for his family above concerns for himself.

"I was trapped in this situation," he said. "I made what was undoubtedly the wrong choice but that's the reason why I did that."

He said he believed that Mr A "was not at liberty" at the present time.

Cassidy said he hopes to continue to practice, and asked that he not be suspended from the medical register.

Cassidy's contrite words at the inquiry stood in sharp contrast to his actions outside the Medical Council during a break.

While being photographed by the media, he confronted newspaper photographer Paul Nicholls angrily, and made a grab for his camera.

Mr Nicholls said he told Cassidy to not touch him, and then rang the police. Garda arrived at the Medical Council and took statements from witnesses.

Cassidy declined to make a comment to the media after yesterday's disciplinary inquiry concluded.

Sanctions will be determined at a later date.

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