A jury will begin deliberating this morning in the trial of a Killorglin man accused of stealing almost €20,000 from a pensioner farmer.
40-year-old Owen Doherty of 45, An Bhainseach, Killorglin, faces 77 counts of theft and two sample counts of forgery at Tralee Circuit Court this week.
The court heard the 77 counts of theft relate to separate cheques which Mr Doherty allegedly encashed without permission, using the name of 78-year-old farmer Bernard Hanafin.
The cheques range in value from €100 to €1,200, dating from January 2009 to August 2013.
Mr Doherty admits he signed Mr Hanafin’s name on many of the cheques, but claims it was all done with Mr Hanafin’s permission and in his presence.
The trial has heard evidence from the complainant Mr Hanafin, who has lived alone on his farm for around 20 years, as well as the investigating garda Detective Richie Naughton, defendant Mr Doherty, and Mr Doherty’s wife, Nicola.
Mr Doherty said he had known the complainant for around 30 years, that he was like a father to him, and described him as a sound man in his original garda interview.
The court heard Mr Doherty worked on and off at Mr Hanafin’s farm when he was younger, and temporarily stayed at his house when he was expelled from school and left home by age 15.
Mr Hanafin said he always paid him for his work but always in cash, as Mr Doherty wouldn’t take cheques because he was on social welfare at the time.
Mr Hanafin told the court he had nothing to do with any of the 77 cheques which relate to the counts of theft, and he did not authorise Mr Doherty to encash them.
Mr Doherty maintains he always wrote and signed the cheques in Mr Hanafin’s presence and with his permission, and he would take some of the cash for the work he did and gave the rest to Mr Hanafin.
Mr Doherty told the court he could not remember why he wrote and signed a cheque for €1,200 payable to himself using Mr Hanafin’s name in February 2013, but speculated it must have been for something to do with the farm.
The corresponding stub read “€900 cash for me and Bernard”, which Mr Doherty also admitted to writing.
Mr Doherty’s wife insisted Mr Hanafin was always there when cheques were made out to her, which usually consisted of loans to tide her over for partying at the weekend until her husband’s social welfare payments came in on the Monday or Tuesday.
For the prosecution, Tom Rice said Mr Doherty took advantage of an old man to the point where his account was overdrawn, and he had no business writing cheques for him when Mr Hanafin was fit and well able to write his own cheques.
For the defence, Richard Liston said Mr Hanafin’s evidence was replete with inconsistencies, including how he had wrongly asserted cheques were taken from the back of cheque books, and that cheque stubs were removed with a knife.
The prosecution and the defence also disagreed on the extent to which Mr Hanafin knew the family of the accused, denying Nicola Doherty’s claim he was like a grandfather to the accused’s son.
The trial will conclude this morning, when the jury will then be told to consider its verdict.