The family of a blind 94-year-old grandmother, whose son and daughter-in-law have been jailed for six months for cheating her out of her home, said she has been left devastated by the fraud.
Husband and wife George Ignatius Martin and Mary Martin were jailed yesterday after they admitted forging land registry documents to transfer the elderly pensioner’s home into their name, while she lay ill in hospital.
Crown Court Judge Mr Justice Hart told the Martins that their greed had caused deep distress to their victim, Mrs Annie Martin, who was forced to live in a nursing home on her release from hospital, while her son and daughter-in-law lived in the Saintfield property they had cheated her out of.
Last night Mrs Martin’s family told the Belfast Telegraph that her life had been destroyed by the couple.
The fraud relates to a house at Downpatrick Street in Saintfield which the victim Mrs Annie Martin owned with her son George Ignatius Martin.
In 1997 Martin and his wife forged Mrs Annie Martin's signature so her daughter-in-law Mary's name would be added to land registry documents.
In 2002 the property was transferred from the three names to the names of George and Mary Martin after the couple again forged Mrs Martin's signature on a registry form.
Civil proceedings are now under way to have the property signed back to Mrs Annie Martin.
Her granddaughter Michelle Crawford told the Belfast Telegraph that while the family is pleased with the sentence imposed by the courts it will not change the fact that Mrs Martin has been left devastated by the actions of her son and daughter-in-law.
“My aunt and uncle left my grandmother homeless and, in doing so, deprived her of her friends, her neighbours and her grandchildren.
“They were cold, calculating and callous in the extreme and they made no effort to right the wrong that they did,” said Michelle.
She added: “They didn’t even have the decency to tell my gran that they were not letting her back home. They left my parents and I to do that and simply dumped three plastic bags of belongings into my gran’s hospital ward.
“They said that as far as they were concerned she had had her day and was dead to them — and that is how they have treated her since. They have not made contact with her since they threw her out nearly three years ago.
“Had my parents not been full- time carers for my mum’s father they would have loved to have had gran to live with them but instead she had to go to a nursing home.
“We are all now hoping to try and move on as best we can and we hope this case will highlight how vulnerable the elderly are”.
Jailing the pair at Downpatrick Crown Court yesterday Mr Justice Hart said: “The chief mischief in this case was to take Annie Martin’s home away from her in her declining years, and inflict upon her the deep distress at being excluded from her home and contact with her grandchildren.
“Even on the basis that Annie Martin may have agreed to, or even initiated, the suggestion that the property be put in the sole names of the defendants, I do not believe that she ever contemplated that they would exclude her from her home.
“The defendants forged her signatures to get this house into their names and took advantage of her absence in hospital to refuse to allow her back and then took advantage of their sole ownership to get a large amount of money”
Saintfield solicitor Ann Ervine, who prepared the transfer documents, was originally accused of claiming to have witnessed Mrs Annie Martin sign over her house to her son and daughter-in-law.
The prosecution, however, did not proceed with the charges against her.