Woman claimed she forgot she was divorced after claiming late husband’s estate

Son of deceased man tells court he is angry at failure by officials to prevent claim

Bernadette O’Loughlin arriving at an earlier sitting of Letterkenny Circuit Court. Photgraph: NW Newspix

A woman who claimed she forgot she had divorced her husband has been given a suspended prison sentence after falsely trying to claim his estate.

Bernadette O'Loughlin (56) pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court to using a form to get letters of administration to the estate of Keith O'Loughlin, who died in 2006 and left a house in Findrum, Convoy, Co Donegal.

The accused had divorced Mr O'Loughlin in Northern Ireland in 2002. However, when interviewed by gardaí in Letterkenny in September 2019 she claimed she had no memory of this. She said she did not think any such divorce would have an impact on any matters in the State.

Det Garda Peter Cullen told how the couple had two children together. After they divorced, Mr O'Loughlin remarried and had a son, Conor O'Loughlin.


Det Cullen said the accused submitted documents “holding herself out to be the legal wife although she was actually divorced at the time”.

“We got a statement from the probate office that if they had been made aware of the divorce outside Ireland, the matter would have had to be referred to the court for all parties. His three lawful children would have been entitled to his estate,” he said.

The house left by Keith O’Loughlin, who died aged 39, was valued at €179,000 in 2009 but was sold in a dilapidated state in 2017 for just €20,000.

Conor O’Loughlin, a student who was aged four when his father died, said he was angry at at what had happened. “What was rightly mine was taken away from me so cruelly.”

Shane Costelloe, counsel for the accused, said his client was suffering from psychological and alcohol issues and was very sorry for the hurt caused.

Judge John Aylmer said there was a "significant level of premeditation" in what O'Loughlin, of Greeve Park, Strabane, Co Tyrone, had done. He said it merited a sentence of four years in prison before mitigation such as her early plea and the absence of previous convictions. He reduced the sentence to one year and suspended it on condition that Ms O'Loughlin enter a bond to be of good behaviour for three years.