Belfast Telegraph

Signatory of £1.5m will benefiting Sinn Fein 'did not know' about donation

William E Hampton
William E Hampton

The only surviving signatory of a will that left £1.5m to Sinn Fein has said she did not know the document included the windfall.

Last week, it emerged that mechanic William E Hampton bequeathed the money - the largest ever to a political party in Northern Ireland -  upon his death aged 82 in January 2018.

“If somebody said in a will ‘I’m leaving £1 million to somebody’, you would register [that],” said legal secretary Carmel Brady.

It is understood that Mr Hampton inherited the money from his father, who owned a transportation business, however he has since been described as someone who lived a very frugal and hermitic life.

Ms Brady, a legal secretary from Co Cavan, was one of two witnesses to the will when it was signed on June 27, 1997.

The other, solicitor Niall Dolan, died five years ago.

Speaking to the News Letter, Ms Brady, who is now a Fine Gael councillor, said she was not present when the will was discussed with Mr Dolan, however the document did not strike her as unusual.

“I kind of do remember the man coming in and out – but until I saw the picture there today on the [news] website, it didn’t register with me at all.”

Ms Brady also pointed out that is only in the last decade that someone would be asked to write down the details of their assets, so no one would know precisely what amount was being left "unless they told you".

Since the donation was revealed last week, there has been much speculation about the mysterious will, given the fact that William Hampton was living in a caravan in Ireland at the time it was drawn up and did not seem to be particularly wealthy.

TUV leader Jim Allister has called on the National Crime Agency to investigate the payment.

In addition to the money for Sinn Fein, the will also instructed £1,000 to be given to Labour MP Dennis Skinner and investigative Private Eye journalist Paul Halloran.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on Monday, Mr Halloran recalled how he first met the pensioner at the magazine's offices in Soho, London, in around 1989.

Mr Halloran said Mr Hampton wrongly believed he was being chased by accountants over his inheritance, when in fact the accountants were simply trying to deliver him dividend cheques from his family's transportation company.

"The dividend cheques must have stacked up and he must have also begrudgingly cashed some of them to keep himself going but he was not someone who lived well," he said.

"He was very frugal and when I met him I thought, 'You haven't eaten for a while'.

"I took him out and gave him a bacon sandwich and cup of tea. That's all he wanted and he wasn't all that happy about taking it."

Mr Halloran added: "He was a very lonely creature and a sad man. He moved from place to place because he had the view that he was being persecuted."

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