Accusations that Ulster property millionaire Charlie Gilpin took over the financial affairs of a mentally retarded Belfastman and then sold off city centre property belonging to him, some of it to one of his own companies, are being investigated by the RUC Fraud Squad.
Ballymena-born Mr. Gilpin died earlier this year while police investigations into accusations made by the mentally retarded man's sister were still proceeding. He was a prominent member of the Plymouth brethern and well known for his strong religious views.
Mr. Gilpin was also a director of upwards of twenty different companies in Ulster and Britain. Major interests included Ulster Properties, Ulster Real Estate Ltd, Neville Johnston Garages Ltd., Belfast Car Parks Ltd., Belfast Office Properties Ltd and Ulster Commercial Properties Ltd.
Ulster Real Estate was owned by Mr. Gilpin, two other individuals and the trustee for an orgnisation called 'The Lords Work' Fund based in Kilmarnock, Scotland. He was also a shareholder in several investment companies, one of which, Windsor Securities, owns the Clandeboye Shopping Centre.
But the current controversy centres on Mr. Gilpins role in taking over and supervising the financial affairs of Mr. Freddie Andrews and his elderly mother, Mrs. Minetta Andrews after the death in 1972 of wealthy Belfast businessman Mr. Frederick Andrews, Freddie's father and a business acquaintance of Mr. Gilpin.
[I should point out here that my father, Fred Andrews senior, always said the Mr. Gilpin should be "kept at arm's length". I never knew my father to discuss his business with anyone, even members of his own family.]
When Mr. Andrews senior died, he left substantial property in Belfast to his son Freddie, who is mentally retarded, but Mr. Andrews did not appoint trustees to manage Freddie's financial affairs. [This last statement may not be accurate.]
However, Mr. Gilpin himself took on the role of adviser to Mrs. Andrews, then in her late seventies and her son, then in his forties, according to Mrs. Eileen Wright, a sister of Freddie.
Mrs. Wright now looks after Freddie and their ninety-year-old mother. She bluntly claims that, from the very start, Mr. Gilpin was intent on getting control of the Andrews family's business interests, and that he used Freddie's mental incapacity unscurpulously.
Eileen Wright insists that because of Freddie's child-like mentality which was well known to Mr. Gilpin, ber brother was easily persuaded to go along with Gilpin. He can write his own name but cannot read, she says.
"Freddie is very gentle and always willing to oblige and he'd sell you the house for five pounds if you asked him to", she insists. "He was no match for Charlie Gilpin".
Among the properties left to Freddie by his father was the land on which the family business was located. The actual business - Andrews and Co. of Smithfield, Motor Traders - was left to Mr. Billy Andrews, Freddie's brother.
In 1974, acting on Mr. Gilpin's advice, the sale of Freddie's Smithfield Property to the Andrews company, then controlled by Mr. Billy Andrews was agreed. He now claims that at this time Mr. Gilpin was also taking a close interest in his (Billy's) business affairs and had suggested that he offer to buy.
A Belfast firm of estate agents, again acting on Mr. Gilpin's advice, suggested that Freddie would accept £35,000 for the property. However, this sale did not go ahead. According to Billy Andrews, his own solicitor finally advised him that it was impossible "due to the incapacity of Freddie".
Despite this, other property belonging to Freddie was sold by Mr. Bertie Wright, acting on the advice of Charlie Gilpin. In April 1974, for example bomb-damaged property in Belfast's Little King Street was sold for £7,640.
In October 1976 the Northern Ireland Office made an award of £7,100 for damage caused by the bombing, but for reasons so far unexplained this money was not paid into Freddie's bank account until March 29, 1977.
Mr. Gilpin was also closely involved in discussions in 1976 on selling more property in Belfast's Winetavern Street which also belonged to Freddie Andrews. This was finally sold in January 1978, but no written record is now available of who actually authorised acceptance of the sale.
In 1977, Mr. Gilpin finally persuaded Billy Andrews to sell the Andrews Motor business to one of the companies he was involved in - Neville Johnston Garages Ltd. Billy Andrews now insists that he had a nervous breakdown at the time because of continued harrassment by Mr. Gilpin.
Part of the sale document which bears Billy Andrews' signature includes reference to another agreement in which Freddie Andrews allegedly was willing to sell the