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Dying man's signature forged in property transfer document

A document purporting to show a dying man's donation of a bar to his son was invalidated by a court today after it established that the signature was forged. 

The Civil Court however refused to annul the dying man's will after an expert witness concluded that the signature on the will was genuine.

Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti delivered the judgments following applications filed by Mary Louise Briffa against Mario Bartolo, his son Clayton and the Director of Public Registry.

Ms Briffa told the court that she was the sister of Mario Bartolo, who died on May 16, 2009 after a serious illness.

She explained that for a long time she had managed her brother's bar (known as "Lyons's Bar" in Cospicua) after he fell ill. She had never been paid for her work and all the profits were handed over to her brother.

Mr Bartolo had promised her that, by way of compensation, he would leave her the bar in his will.

In fact, by means of a will of November 10, 2008 drawn up by Notary Rosella Sciberras, Mr Bartolo had bequeathed the bar to her while at the same time nominating his wife and children as his sole heirs.

After Mr Bartolo's death it resulted that he had drawn up another will on January 20, 2009 before in terms of which he had annulled his previous will and instituted his wife as his sole heir.  According to another document, on May 5, 2009, just 11 days before his death, Mr Bartolo had donated the bar to his son Clayton. Both the will and the deed of donation were drawn up by Notary Carmelo Lia.  

Ms Briffa requested the court to annul both the will and the deed of donation on the basis that the signatures on both documents were not those of her brother.

Mr Justice Chetcuti denied Ms Briffa's request insofar as it concerned the will drawn up in January 2009. The court-appointed calligraphy expert had confirmed that the signature on the will was indeed that of Mr Bartolo (sr).

The court added that the will had been signed when Mr Bartolo was in bed on the ground floor of his home in Zabbar. His wife and two neighbours as well as a notary had been present for the signature and all confirmed that it was indeed he who had signed the will.

But the same calligraphy expert reached a different conclusion when asked to examine the signature which was allegedly that of Mr Bartolo on the deed of donation entered into 11 days before his death.

The expert said that after examining other specimens of Mr Bartolo's signature he concluded that it had not been Mr Bartolo who had signed it. He maintained his conclusion after taking into consideration Mr Bartolo's poor state of health.

The court decided in both cases to rely on the expert's report and while confirming the validity of Mr Bartolo's signature on the will found that the deed of donation of May 2009 was null and void as the signature was not authentic.

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