Property developer and Cheltenham winning horse owner jailed for 15 months on forgery charges

Conor Clarkson (60) found guilty on four counts of creating and using forged documents

A property developer and Cheltenham Gold Cup winning horse owner has been jailed for 15 months after being convicted of forging documents for the sale of property which was being used to pay off his debt to a bank.

Conor Clarkson (60), of Cairnfort, Enniskerry Road, Stepaside, Co Dublin was found guilty of four charges of creating and using forged documents following an eight-day trial at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court earlier this month.

The married father of three and owner of the 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Kicking King, was acquitted of four other counts of making and using false instruments in relation to the same land deal on dates in 2014 contrary to the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Clarkson was convicted of creating and using a forged statutory declaration and death certificate to induce another person to accept them as containing the genuine signature of Jean Duggan.


The documents were necessary to allow for an extension of a right of way on a lane near Ms Duggan’s home in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow which was being sought by the purchaser of the land being sold by Clarkson.

The court heard the forged documents arose from the proposed sale in 2014 of land owned by Clarkson and another individual to a pension fund belonging to Cork businessman, Richard Roche.

A co-accused, Paul Wrynn (46), a truck driver of Robertstwood, Glensynge, Enniskerry, was found not guilty on two charges of creating false documents by signing them as a witness.

At a sentencing hearing on Thursday, Judge Patrick Quinn asked counsel for Clarkson, Seán Gillane SC, if his client accepted the verdict of the jury.

Mr Gillane said his client’s position is as it was and that there was “no volte face”, adding there was no change in his client’s position about maintaining his innocence.

In evidence, Detective Sergeant Donal O’Sullivan said the documents ostensibly required to be signed by Ms Duggan were essential for the property deal to go through.

Det Sgt O’Sullivan informed the court that related civil proceedings taken by Mr Roche’s pension fund about the transaction were ongoing.

The court heard a Garda investigation began in August 2020 after Ms Duggan reported her belief that her signature had been forged on documents.

Det Sgt O’Sullivan told counsel for the DPP, James Kelly BL, that Clarkson denied any involvement in any criminal offence when he provided a voluntary statement to gardaí after his arrest.

In a victim impact statement read out on her behalf, Ms Duggan said the last five years had a large psychological and financial impact on her because of the case.

She said she felt she had been targeted by Clarkson as a vulnerable widow and had suffered many sleepless nights because she felt the lies were “louder” than the truth.

Defence lawyers had claimed during the trial that she had signed the documents at the centre of the case. She described the stress she suffered at being portrayed as a liar. The 78-year-old equestrian centre owner said it was “a frightening thought” that the lies would have continued to have been held out as the truth if a tree had not fallen on a neighbouring property during a storm leading to her family’s discovery of the existence of the forged documents.

She said the whole affair had left her very depressed and would take a long time to get over. “I’m a simple woman who wants to live in peace on my property,” she added.

Under cross-examination by Mr Gillane, Det Sgt O’Sullivan confirmed Clarkson had no previous convictions and had sold the property at a substantial loss with the money used to pay off his debt to Ulster Bank.

The court heard Clarkson bought the land for between €4 million and €5 million but had sold it to Mr Roche’s pension fund for around €1.6 million.

Mr Gillane said Clarkson was a well-regarded individual in his community who was “a relatively successful businessman” but who had suffered some dips in tandem with economic boom and bust periods.

The court heard he had started his own business after completing his Leaving Certificate at Oatlands College in Stillorgan and was now the main person responsible for looking after his elderly parents.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Gillane said being remanded in custody following the trial had been “a shocking experience” for Clarkson. The barrister said the slamming of the cell door and the turning of the key would in itself act as a punishment and deterrence.

Sentencing Clarkson to two years in prison, Judge Quinn suspended the final nine months of the sentence on condition he remain bound to the peace on his release.

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