On Tuesday, January 5, 2010, Saoirse was surprised to receive a registered letter from Jaggers and Brass Solicitors. Saoirse had never spoken to or corresponded with this firm before, and in fact had never heard of it. Posted the previous day, it was authored and sent to her by Damian Brass, who it turned out, was Dolores' solicitor. Saoirse was gratified to find out her mom had a solicitor, and immediately thought to seek his help in aiding Dolores. She was, however, quite baffled by the contents of the letter.
Damian Brass stated he had been instructed by Dolores to write this letter, and yet Dolores had made no mention of it during her conversation with Saoirse on Saturday. Perhaps Dolores had decided to ring him Monday morning, and instructed him then.
[Editor's note: Well, actually, no she hadn't. It appears Damian Brass received instructions by letter. We'll explain shortly, but of course at this time Saoirse was in the dark concerning Jaggers and Brass Solicitors. That would soon change.
We think it necessary and appropriate to narrate a short history of Jaggers and Brass, and their history with Maxwell family members, before we talk about this letter and the further correspondence that flowed from it. We believe this correspondence is illuminated in a more insightful light with the benefit of this history. We believe it also helps to clarify events leading up to and after Dolores' death. This brief history will touch on a few intriguing events that will be explored in other sections of this website. ]
Was this Enduring Power of Attorney the “documents ” that Sophie referred to when she told Saoirse, “Oh, he has no control of her finances, it's all through the solicitor. Ethan has documents to prove it. And if you want the documents about all her finances, you can have them?”
If so, this EPA fell short of that by a wide margin. It shows that the solicitor had no control over Dolores' finances at that time and of course shows nothing about Ethan's involvement. Coming on the heels of Saoirse's visit to Dolores on December 3, the Elder Abuse caseworker's visit to Dolores, and the events of Christmas, the timing of this letter raised Saoirse's suspicions about who it was that had actually instructed Damian Brass to write this letter. Why this emphasis on Dolores' mental capacity? That worried her greatly; who might be questioning her Mom's mental capacity?
[Editor's note: Although Saoirse would not find out until the following month about Ethan's attempt at having her uncle Paddy declared a Ward of Court, she was fearful that Ethan was planning to do something like that to Dolores. She remembered what Ethan had written in his letter to the Bray Gardai:
“My mother likes to make her own decisions and if ever she is not capable of doing such, has advised her solicitor and completed the requisite terms for a non–family member independent person(s) to act on her behalf if she ever became mentally incapable.” ]
Who was this “Attorney” or independent person(s)? Saoirse was terrified it was Ethan, regardless of the phrase “non–family member.” She would soon see another letter referring to Dolores' mental capacity, sent at about the same time as Damian Brass' letter. ]
Saoirse certainly had no concerns about her Mom's mental capacity. Recall this exchange from her conversation with Dolores on January 2nd:
D: (unintelligible) as long as (unintelligible) as long as I get up and look after myself, etc. (unintelligible)
S: It's fantastic, yeah, no kidding. And your mind is as sharp as a tack, let me tell ya.
D: It is, it feels, it feels quite sharp, now.
S: Oh, it is!
At this point, Saoirse was commuting 150 miles a day to work and back, and would not be able to respond to this letter until the following Sunday, January 10th. In the meantime she sought to find out from her siblings if anyone else had received this letter. She would ask them several times over the next two weeks and received definitive responses from only three of them, all in the negative. Saoirse thought at first that Nathaniel had received one of these letters, but later he told her he had not. Saoirse eventually came to the conclusion that it was very likely that she was the only one of Dolores' children who had received this letter from Damian Brass. [Editor's note: Since this page was first published, we have gained sight of the instructions to Damian Brass regarding this letter, and have learned that this letter was not directed solely at Saoirse. There has still been no positive confirmation from those who received it, however. ]
Nathaniel had spoken to Dolores earlier the same day that Saoirse received the letter. In reply to her query he wrote:
“Just been talking to Mam she never mentioned anything like that. I don't for one minute believe she instructed that or had anything to do with it. When did you get the letter?”
Saoirse on hearing that Nathaniel had just spoken to their Mom was hopeful that she could also reach Dolores. Dolores' land line rang out, but she answered her mobile. After the call Saoirse apprised Nathaniel in an email:
“Just spoke with mom on mobile after being unable to reach her via phone. She was a little protected but it appears Ethan is not down there at present. We talked for some time. Anyway, she says she sent the letters to each of us. I asked why now etc., she said she and dad should have done it about 20 years ago. I questioned why now after the latest going ons but she didn't seem to connect them or want to. I believe the letters are motivated by Ethan and I think he's hoping we see them as a threat to us and back off. I've not said anything about mom being incompetent but am worried about her physically and also reminded her of that in my call to her. Anyway, am continuing this end and will update as things appear.
Oh, as an interesting aside, I was finishing my call with mom when I heard this cat giving a loud miaow. I asked her if she had a cat now, like us. It's her phone. Likely the home phone. Anyway she forgot to hang me up from her mobile and picked it up, said hello etc. They obviously hung up and she putzed around a little. Then her cat phone went again. She said 'oh I haven't hung up?" She then hung me up. I think she's trying to get our attention but has to be very, very careful how she does it.”
[Editor's note: And yet again we note the monitoring of Dolores' calls, and the very tight choke chain Ethan maintained on Dolores' phone even during the rare times she seemed to be allowed to answer or use it. See this. Or perhaps Dolores spoke to Nathaniel and Saoirse this day in defiance of Ethan.
We note that Dolores didn't mention this letter to Nathaniel, and was under the impression that they were sent to all of her children. We believe from this and other evidence, that Damian Brass wrote this letter under instruction from a letter written by Ethan, using Dolores' name. It seems obvious that Dolores never read the instructions sent to Damien Brass. Most likely, Ethan, as we have seen before and will see again and again, wrote the letter and forged Dolores' signature on it. Or perhaps he just said, “Sign this.” ]
[Editor's note: Since this page was first published, we have gained sight of the instructions to Damian Brass regarding this letter, and they are worth a closer look. See the Postscript at the bottom of this page. ]
Two days later, Saoirse asked Sophie Saoirse: U mentioned Ethan could provide paperwork or documents proving he has no acess or knowledge of moms personal finances or business would love 2 see same. Saoirse
After about an hour, with no reply, Saoirse sent another text:
Saoirse: Did u receive a reg letter ?
Sophie: No. Was i meant to. From who?
Saoirse: Seemed all of us . But u said Ethan had documents
Sophie: Ask mom.
Saoirse: I would like them to ease my mind.
Sophie: If we want them they can be got. There will no more childish behaviour from him at all.
Saoirse: U said Ethan told u he had the docs and could provide them 2 us?
Sophie: He can. So can mom. I have no heating, or water for 3 days now. Have the flu. I cant deal with any of this. Ask her she should be ok. Tell her i said its fine.
Saoirse: Feel better have the same flu also bedridden dont drive in this either!
Saoirse was unable to ask Dolores at this point. Dolores could not be reached by either land line or mobile, once again.
[Editor's note: An “Attorney” in an EPA can be anyone, family member or not designated by the client (known as the Donor) to handle her affairs if she is incapacitated and unable to do so herself.She may appoint one or more Attorneys. Dolores' EPA was made in May of 2009. She appointed Damien Brass as her Attorney. The Donor also must designate at least two Notice Parties who are apprised if an EPA is going to be registered. Dolores' Notice Parties were Ethan and Ronan. View the ENDURING POWERS OF ATTORNEY REGULATIONS, 1996.
We will see in various correspondence purportedly from Dolores (and of course believed to actually be from Ethan), that the author of the correspondence is unaware how many attorneys were designated in Dolores' EPA. Damian Brass believed that Dolores' EPA was made at Ethan's insistence, and claims he was relieved when Dolores named him as Attorney and not Ethan. It is easy to conclude from that statement that Damian Brass was aware in 2009 of at least some troubling aspects of Ethan's relationship with his mother. From our view, it makes Damian Brass' later correspondence and actions inexplicable.
Damian Brass also states that he knew Dolores wasn't a typist, and that he would “disregard” some of the instructions he received from “Dolores.” Much more on all that as the narrative of Dolores' Last Year and its aftermath unfolds. ]
Saoirse responded to Damien Brass in a letter written on Sunday, January 10th, and sent the next day:
Address Redacted, Co. Galway
Phone Number Redacted
January 10, 2010
Mr. Damian Brass:
Jaggers and Brass Solicitors
Re: Your ref: Reference Redacted
Dear Mr. Brass
Thank you for your letter dated January 4, 2010, concerning the Enduring Power of Attorney my mother completed. I am however curious who is appointed to act as her attorney in the event it is ever necessary? It is not stated in your letter. It appears at this point this letter was only sent to my brother Nathaniel and I. Surely this should be sent to all 10 of my mother's children as she indicated to me on January 5? In addition, you note you 'think' I 'am aware' of your representation of my mother for several years. I'm terribly sorry but I have no idea who you are or your relationship with my mother, father or anyone else.
I have no doubts whatsoever that my mother is fully capable of minding her own affairs. Her mind is as sharp as ever, thankfully, and it is my firm wish that she have the freedom to live her life in whatever manner she chooses.
However, since returning to Ireland in April 2008, I have become very much concerned that my mother is being prevented from living her life freely, to the detriment of her health and safety.
On December 3, being repeatedly unable to reach my mother through either her landline or mobile, and having checked with my brothers and sisters and finding they were also unable to reach her, I went to her home in Rosslare to make sure she was Ok. When I arrived she seemed glad to see me and we had a wonderful chat over tea. Shortly thereafter, my youngest brother Ethan burst in and there ensued a bewildering display of bullying and erratic behaviour from him. There is no point to relate how he treated me, but concerning my mother, I will say a few things.
Ethan was in such a rush to get my mother away from me, he threw the door open to the 'below zero weather' and proceeded to bully my mother verbally, grab her bags and push her out the door and into his car. He forced her outside without a coat and she and I had to remind him she needed it on. He bundled her into the coat without any concern for her arthritic shoulders and body. He also denied her access to her medicine, telling her she could get it in Bray. He physically prevented her from trying to get into the back seat of the car, forcing her to sit in the front with him against her express wishes.
This was but one incident, and I am understating it quite a bit. There are many, many more. A lengthy history exists of Ethan physically and emotionally abusing both my father and mother and controlling access to them. This history includes broken bones, bruises and other irrational violence committed by Ethan, even to the point of Ethan punching my sister in the stomach when she was pregnant. His influence has extended to the point of forging my father's signature on papers, I believe, and threatening other brothers and sisters at their places of employment. My father – with the help of Nathaniel - tried to take a barring/protection order out against Ethan while he was living in Spain some years ago. It never materialised and Ethan returned to Ireland. Once again, please understand I am understating both the breadth and depth of this problem.
After the incident on December 3, having witnessed firsthand the inexplicable and violent nature of Ethan's temper towards my mother, I have been/am in contact with her priest, doctor, the Wexford, Rosslare and Bray gardai and the HSE Elder Abuse representative for my mother's area.
A meeting with the family over Christmas was also thwarted. Although Ethan would not allow our mother to see us at his house where she was staying and would not allow any family member to pick her up there, it was prearranged that she would be picked up by a non–family member on December 27 in Bray. She was then to meet Alex and his family who were visiting from the USA as well as Sean, Nathaniel, myself and the various grandchildren and spouses. The meeting was prearranged between Alex and my mom and we all planned to spend some time with her. Unfortunately, Ethan did not allow this to transpire and took my mother elsewhere in his car. After first trying to explain it away as a mix up, mom later admitted Ethan had prevented her from going. Ronan who was in the car and staying at Ethan's also confirmed the same. It has been over two years now that Ethan has not allowed my mother to see Alex and his family.
It is my belief that my mother instructed you to send this letter at Ethan's insistence. I sincerely hope that it was not Ethan who contacted you to send this letter. It would be a serious disservice to my mother to act under anything other than direct instructions from her solely. I look forward to your response to my two questions as I continue to ensure my mother's safety and wellbeing come first.
Many thanks for your time.
[Editor's note: Damian Brass and Saoirse corresponded into the following month. We'll visit these illuminating letters, but the next part of A Winter's Tale will focus on the return of Geoffrey Blair, the HSE Elder Abuse Caseworker. Geoffrey Blair Returns
As always, we seek and encourage anyone with knowledge of Dolores' life and/or the events presented here to contribute to this site. Memories, anecdotes, photos and documents are more than welcome. Clarification or alternative views are encouraged and welcomed. Submissions ]
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
so it is better to speak
–Warrior Poet Audre Lorde
The Black Unicorn: Poems
Since this page was first published, we have obtained the instructions that “Dolores” sent to Damian Brass. They were written the same day as the Letter to the HSE, and expressed a lot of the same things. We will offer comments after:
Although Dolores had told Saoirse that this letter was sent to all ten of her children, we see that Damian Brass was not instructed to send it to Ethan, Sophie, Ronan or Emily. It was only sent to those that Ethan perceived as a threat to his increasing control of Dolores.
Dolores' Enduring Power of Attorney appointed a single person, Damian Brass, as the sole attorney. The author of these instructions gets it wrong yet again (twice!).
Just like the and the , the author states there is more than one attorney. Surely Damian Brass remembered that he was the sole attorney, yet correspondence from him to Dolores after receiving these instructions makes no mention of it. Curious.
The author of these instructions to Brass also seems unaware of the correct addresses of three of Dolores' children. Sean's address gives a wrong street name, Saoirse's address is misspelled, and the author instructs Damian Brass to search Google for Nathaniel's address before crossing out that line and writing an incorrect address above. As we'll see in a moment, it was Ethan who wrote the incorrect address. Nathaniel's letter was returned to Damian Brass after it could not be delivered to Nathaniel. That anyone, including Damian Brass, would believe that 79 year old Dolores would tell him to “Google” her eldest child's address is absurd. Although many seniors are of course computer literate, Dolores was not. She did not use a computer. She did not type.
The author begins the letter with this statement: “Over the past weeks, I am feeling pressurised by some of my children with regard to my decision-making ability and there have even some (sic) suggestions and false accusations made to the Gardai and the Department of Social Welfare.” We note the ubiquitous grammatical errors in virtually every piece of Ethan's correspondence; it is present here. The statement itself is curious. The only ones who has seen Dolores in the “past weeks” were Saoirse on December 3, and Emily sometime during the secord or third week of December; but of course Ethan, Sophie and Ronan had seen her throughout this period.
Dolores' “decision-making ability” was never in question. What was a source of great concern and alarm was that Dolores' decision making opportunities and freedom to live her live as she chose were stolen by Ethan. This letter was an attempt by Ethan to further consolidate his power and deny Dolores her right to make choices to the point that on January 2, Dolores would tell Saoirse that “It's a survival thing. It's survival, really.” See Dolores calls Saoirse.
The author continues: “In the past I wrote to you concerning the unauthorised removal of personal documents of mine from my home. It has been suggested to me that this was done by my son Conor in an attempt to gain control of my finances.” Indeed this same author had written to Damian Brass about this previously, on January 23, 2009, and not only to accuse Conor. Other were accused also. In that letter the author explains that the only one authorised to have access to Dolores' “personal financial legal documents” was Ethan. This was given as a reason for Dolores' to change her will at that point. In this December 30 letter it is given as a reason to appoint “trustworthy non-family members” as Dolores' EPA attorneys.
The author of this letter also makes this claim: “During Cecil's fineral and to this date on numerous occasions, much reference has been made by some of my children regarding what inheritance would be there for them at the end.” The only known references or concerns about Dolores' finances any of her children ever made were in regards to Dolores' future needs.
[Editor's note: Speaking of Dolores changing her will, it is interesting to note that although Damian Brass more than once said he could not recall any prior wills that Dolores made, it appears that between Cecil's death on January 22, 2008 and June 4, 2009 Dolores had no less than five wills. That a 79 year old woman would change her will so many times in less than a year and a half did not throw Damian Brass one whit, even though he had been made aware of the abuse and duress Dolores' suffered from Ethan (who was also his client) by no less than three separate sources. Very curious indeed. ]
Of course the phrases that the author uses, “…I am coping perfectly well”, “I am happy to be living in Rosslare while I can still manage!” and the reference to the Tagoat Day Centre is echoed in the letter to the Community Welfare Officer. In that letter the author states “I am fortunate to be able to attend the day centre in Tagoat, and with some help with domestic chores, I am able to cope.”
The handwritten incorrect address for Nathaniel is compared below with a known sample of Ethan's writing.