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Women ordered out of home as judge rejects 'wild' claim of bribery in battle over will

By Alan Erwin

A mother and daughter have been ordered to leave their Co Down home after losing a High Court legal battle over a will.

Mr Justice Horner granted an order for possession of the late Grace McEvoy's property after rejecting "wild and scurrilous" allegations about lawyers being bribed.

Jacqueline McEvoy and Michelle McCartney had disputed the executrix of the estate's right to bring proceedings and wanted the case referred to the Supreme Court.

But the judge held they had signed up to a compromise agreement aimed at selling the house on Rathfriland Road, Newry, and splitting the proceeds between 12 siblings.

He described them as wanting to remain in the property rent free, with no prospect of the deceased's daughter raising the £140,000 necessary to buy out the other children's interests.

"The property will have to be sold and she and the first defendant will have to leave," he confirmed.

"Both defendants seem unable to understand that they are receiving preferential treatment and that by remaining on the property, rent free, a great injustice is visited on the other siblings."

Grace McEvoy died in April 2015, leaving a will witnessed by a woman appointed executrix and said to be a solicitor operating in the Republic of Ireland.

Her house was to be sold and the proceeds divided equally between the 12 children.

The two defendants were among five people living with Mrs McEvoy at the time.

They claimed the will was defective, questioned the deceased's capacity, and raised issues about the will being properly witnessed, the court heard.

But despite the compromise agreement, they failed to vacate the property.

They alleged that the were forced to sign up to the arrangement by counsel, and that their legal team was bribed and conspired with the other side.

"The fact that these wild and scurrilous allegations have been made against professional men and women in open court is to be regretted," Mr Justice Horner said.

"On the information before me, they appear either baseless or irrelevant."

He concluded that the pair have no legal right to remain in the house.

"The plaintiff as executrix is entitled to possession of the property to sell it as the deceased directed in her will, and to divide the proceeds of the sale equally," the judge said.

He directed a further hearing next week if no agreement is reached on how long the defendants should be given to find alternative accommodation.

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