Retired teacher (64) sentenced for fake passports
A RETIRED teacher who applied for passports using dead people's names has been given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
In a case described by her lawyer as stranger than fiction, Bernadette McManus forged and altered forms with the details of at least three deceased people.
The 64-year-old, of Malone Beeches in Belfast, admitted charges of fraud by false representation and three counts of making a false statement to procure a passport.
She also pleaded guilty to falsifying a births and deaths certificate, and possessing articles in connection with fraud.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday that passport authorities in the city received two applications last year in the names of different women, both using McManus' address.
They contained photographs, birth certificates and were countersigned.
But a prosecutor said officials discovered one contained "areas of damage", involving alterations to the gender and date of birth.
Checks then confirmed records of both women's deaths had been registered.
Police searches of McManus' home uncovered a large number of documents, including more birth and death certificates and passport application forms.
One of those was in the name of a third deceased person.
McManus made full admissions to her fraud, but provided police with no real reasons for her actions.
Defence counsel Michael Boyd acknowledged it was hard to understand his client's motives.
"In many ways it's stranger than fiction," he said.
"It's certainly a bizarre case and one that's difficult for anyone involved to get a proper explanation.
"She seems to have become slightly obsessed after what began with an experiment in her behalf."
Mr Boyd stressed that McManus was not suspected of being part of any sophisticated crime operation.
He added: "Clearly she was operating in a highly eccentric and unusual way rather than anything more sinister."
Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop told McManus she had committed "very serious offences".
Based on reports and her lawyer's submissions, he decided to impose a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
Mr Dunlop also ordered her to pay a £200 fine for the forgery.