Cork woman whose love affair became a sensational court case in 1972

Heide Roche: Born: January 1st , 1942;died: October 26th, 2017

Heide Roche, third from left, with Garri Murphy, Anne Cronin and Mary O’Riordan. Ms Roche contributed generously but quietly to many charities locally around Kinsale. Photograph: Richard Mills

As a young married woman, Heide Roche, who has died of cancer at the age of 75, was involved in a passionate love affair which featured at a sensational court case in the early 1970s.

She began an affair in her late 20s with the wealthy Cork businessman Stanley Roche who was then in his 40s and her husband – German businessman Werner Braun – soon learned of it through an anonymous Christmas card.

In what transpired to be an extraordinary case, the German businessman sued Roche for damages in the High Court in Dublin in 1972 under the arcane law of criminal conversation, claiming that the millionaire had debauched his wife.

Opening the case, EM Wood, senior counsel for Braun, told the jury Roche “not merely debauched Mr Braun’s wife, but has corrupted her. Mr Braun’s only vindication is the damages at your hands.”


The court also heard how he had bought her a “sporty” car. Mr Braun’s counsel asked if Roche’s behaviour made his client “a pimp” in the eyes of all in Cork. Roche said he didn’t recognise it as such and Heide refused to apologise for “disgracing” her husband. The judge somewhat controversially instructed the jury that a wife was regarded as a chattel or the property of her husband.

In the event, the jury awarded Braun damages of £12,000, equal to the cost of a substantial family home at the time.

Heidi subsequently married Roche who was a scion of the Roche’s Store dynasty and had separated from his wife. In 2006 the Roche family sold their retail business – while maintaining ownership of key properties – to UK giant Debenhams for an estimated €29 million.

The couple were inseparable and not given to ostentation. Known to her friends as a vivacious and concerned person, she had contributed generously but quietly to many charities locally around Kinsale, including the Guardwell Homes retirement and sheltered housing complex, as well as youth services. Further afield, she supported the education of girls in the mountain villages of Nepal.

In their twilight years, they lived together on a 500-acre farm overlooking the sea at Oysterhaven, Co Cork. She had restored a substantial ruined dwelling house in the grounds. Her death notice closed with a poignant exhortation: “Dance with me to the end of love.”

She was predeceased by her husband, Stanley, and stepson Peter. She is survived by Bronwen (Braun-Lynch), Owen Braun, Morgan and Ondine, and her stepson Nicholas.