Judge urges mother and children to resolve dispute over jockey’s estate
Case involves estate in Co Louth of the late and legendary amateur jockey Bunny Cox
Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, told the High Court a transfer of property was in consideration of the natural love and affection her husband bore for her and is valid, effective and enforceable.
Mr Justice Denis McDonald made the appeal twice during proceedings by a court appointed administrator against Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, known as Bunny, of Lisnawilly, Dundalk, Co Louth, who died in January, 2006 aged 81.
A native of Dundalk, Mr Cox was one of the greatest amateur riders in the history of Irish National Hunt racing. He rode his first winner aged 13 in 1938 and his career in the saddle extended until 1972 when he retired after winning five amateur championships in Ireland, including a tie in 1958 with Francis Flood.
He won the National Hunt Chase in successive years at Cheltenham on Pontage (1953) and Quare Times which went on to win the Aintree Grand National for Vincent O’Brien.
Mr Cox had appointed three executors of his estate, one of whom was his wife.
Anthony Toomey was later appointed by the court as administrator following the death of Chetwin Cox, one of the other two executors, and illness of the other, James Smith.
The administrator’s case is aimed at setting aside a deed of transfer of March 18th, 2005, made between the late Mr Cox and his wife.
Under that transfer, Mr Cox transferred the house and lands at Lisnawilly from his sole name into the joint names of himself and his wife. The effect of the transfer, if upheld, is the house and property passed to Mrs Cox on her husband’s death.
It is claimed Mr Cox’s consent and/or signature to the deed of transfer was procured by duress and/or undue influence. It is alternatively claimed the transaction effected as a result of the transfer amounts to an unconscionable bargain.
It is claimed, after the transfer, Mr Cox made a last will on June 11th, 2005, and a codicil or amendment of August 17th, 2005.
Under that will, it is claimed Mr Cox left 50 per cent of his house and lands to his wife; 10 per cent to each of his three daughters Jennifer, Michelle and Suzanne; and 20 per cent on trust for his son Richard for his life, to be split equally after Richard’s death between the three daughters.
It is alleged, when Mr Cox signed the March transfer document, he had been suffering from ill health for some time, having been diagnosed with lung cancer about November 2004. Other claims include he did not have the benefit of independent legal advice concerning the transfer document which, it is claimed, was witnessed by the same solicitor for Mr Cox and his wife.
Love and affection
It is also claimed, when his will was being prepared and executed, Mr Cox had represented himself as the owner of the house and lands for the purposes of disposing of those via his will and had not instructed his solicitors in relation to the earlier transfer.
In opposing the case, Mrs Cox denies the claims, says the March 2005 transfer was in consideration of the natural love and affection her husband bore for her and is valid, effective and enforceable.
She says her husband acted freely and voluntarily in relation to the March 2005 transfer and had independent legal advice. She also claims he had the necessary capacity to understand the transaction and did understand it.
She also claims, without seeking to impugn the validity of the June 2005 will and August 2005 codicil, but for purposes of full defence of the case, the execution of the will was procured by duress and undue influence on her late husband by their daughters Jennifer and Michelle, that her husband was not acting voluntarily at the time and had “succumbed to the pressure for peace sake”.
She claims the June 2005 will was a “radical departure” from previous wills. She claim she and her late husband had made mutual wills earlier which left their entire estate to each other if one died before the other.
In a reply to her defence, her claims, including concerning alleged duress and undue influence on her husband by their daughters Jennifer and Michelle in relation to the June 2015 will and August 2015 codicil, are denied.
The hearing continues on Wednesday.