Wednesday 23 October 2019

A widow, her new boyfriend and the mystery of the audio recording

The Tipperary murder trial heard that Patrick Quirke asked Mary Lowry's brother to talk sense into his sister, writes Maeve Sheehan

Patrick Quirke pictured leaving court with his wife, Imelda. Picture: Collins
Patrick Quirke pictured leaving court with his wife, Imelda. Picture: Collins
Eddie Quigley. Picture: Collins
Flor Cantillon
Mary Lowry. Picture: INM
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

'Ms Mary Lowry please." A frisson rippled through Court 13. Necks craned toward the heavy wooden entrance doors. A group of middle-aged women standing beside it because all the seats had been snapped up exchanged glances. Seconds ticked by. The door opened. A garda led the way, eyes fixed on the person behind her in the purple belted coat and matching purple scarf. She walked swiftly to the witness box, taking a side aisle, which meant she passed behind, rather than in front of, the man in the dock, her one-time lover.

For the second time, Mary Lowry was giving evidence in the trial of Patrick Quirke for the murder of her then boyfriend, Bobby Ryan, at Dublin's Central Criminal Court. Two months ago she had "bared her soul" in the witness box - telling the jury about her affair with Mr Quirke after her husband Martin's death, how that relationship soured when she met Mr Ryan, and her distress when he disappeared.

She was in court again last Thursday to identify the male and female voices that featured on an audio recording found on a hard drive that gardai seized from Mr Quirke's home.

Prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman asked if she was 100pc certain that the female voice on the tape was hers and that the male voice was Flor Cantillon's.

That's correct, yes, she replied.

As she spoke, Mr Cantillon watched her testify from a bench at the back of the court room. He had finished giving his own evidence a short time earlier. A wiry man, with thick white hair and a tanned face, he told the court how he met Ms Lowry at a dance in Killarney on St Patrick's weekend in 2012. He spoke gently in a deep Cork accent. He said he had "danced with her a couple of times previous" and he had stayed talking to her afterwards. Their relationship lasted two years.

"We were in a relationship for a good while," he said and, although they had a "break" in 2014, it wasn't for long, "because we met up again in Cork". While they were going out, he stayed with her on occasion at her home in Fawnagowan, three miles or so outside Tipperary town.

He liked to buy the "small papers" like the Sunday World. He would follow the racing while she liked the problem pages, the court heard.

Gardai contacted him for the first time in January this year and played him the recording they had found on the hard drive taken from Mr Quirke's home. Mr Cantillon said he recognised Ms Lowry's voice very clearly, reading the problem page of a newspaper, and he recognised his own voice from a word that he had used.

He didn't know that he was being recorded and had not given permission for it.

The audio recording crackled and buzzed into life. There were muffled voices, sounds of movement, bursts of high-pitched laughter, Mr Cantillon's low chuckle and much banter as Ms Lowry read the problem page aloud. "After a business trip I saw him in frilly knickers," she recited. "What's the verdict, what's the verdict?" he asked. There is more chuckling. "You didn't read what Angela said," he said at one point. "I did. I told you. She said it's perfectly harmless."

Eventually the voices stop. All that can be heard is a pulsing buzzing noise before the recording ends.

Ms Lowry listened, her head to one side.

You didn't record this, or give anyone permission to record it, Michael Bowman, the prosecuting counsel, asked her.

That's correct, she replied to both questions.

Before she finished in the witness box, defence counsel Bernard Condon had some questions for her. A Garda statement suggested that she became angry when told she couldn't be present with her boys while they were being interviewed in 2013. They were minors and she was protecting them, she said. He pressed on, asking her if she became angry.

"I feel a bit intimidated," she said at one stage.

This was what gardai were saying, Mr Condon pointed out.

"I just said I did not get angry," she said sharply. "I protected my children. They were 12 and 14."

Mr Quirke (50) is pleading not guilty to the murder of Mr Ryan (52), a truck driver and DJ known as 'Mr Moonlight', some time between June 3, 2011 and April 30, 2013.

Ms Lowry has been a central witness in the case because of the relationships she had with both men - her affair with Mr Quirke, and her subsequent relationship with Mr Ryan.

The court has heard how on June 3, 2011, Mr Ryan left Ms Lowry's home at about 6.30am and disappeared. Mr Quirke found his body almost two years later in an underground run-off tank on the farm he leased from the widowed Ms Lowry.

The prosecution's case is that Mr Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so he could rekindle his affair with her - and later staged the discovery of his body when he knew the farm lease would be coming to an end.

When Ms Lowry left the witness box, her brother Eddie Quigley stepped in.

A carpenter who lives in Newport in Tipperary, he was close to his sister. They came second and third in the family of four children who were raised on a small farm. When her husband Martin died, she was "devastated", he said. He believed she found it "difficult to cope". She never really talked about it - not to him anyway, he said. He thought she might be "running away" from it.

He was happy for her when she met Mr Ryan. Mary herself had previously told the court she "loved him to bits". But Mr Quirke was not happy, according to Mr Quigley. The court heard how Mr Quirke complained to Mr Quigley about the DJ.

"He just hadn't anything good to say about Bobby Ryan," said Mr Quigley. "He was playing loose, he was out late at night, things like that." His sister was leaving the kids on their own, and he wanted Mr Quigley to "talk to her, to talk sense into her".

"He felt she was doing the wrong thing being involved with Bobby Ryan," Mr Quigley said.

He told Mr Quirke: "You know Mary as good as I do - Mary will make up her own mind what she wants to do and you or I won't change that."

Mr Quigley asked his sister if she was having an affair with Mr Quirke. "I asked her was there something going on between herself and Pat Quirke. She denied it." He asked her again a couple of weeks later, which made her "cross".

After Mr Ryan went missing, Mr Quigley spent time at Fawnagowan, where people had congregated and search parties were out combing the woods, the farmyard and all the fields around it. Mr Quigley went out with Mr Quirke, who was driving his car, and Jimmy Lowry, Mary's brother-in-law.

"There wasn't very much said in the car," Mr Quigley said, but as Mr Lowry was getting out of the car, he said: "This wouldn't have happened if Martin Lowry was alive." Mr Quigley didn't like the remark, he told the defence counsel, Mr Condon. "I felt the blame was being put on Mary."

In August 2012, Patrick and Imelda Quirke's son died tragically.

Sometime after the funeral, Mr Quigley was working on Mary's house, repairing the roof. From there, he could see his sister heading toward her vegetable garden.

"After a while I could hear some loud shouting and talking," he said, like "angry exchanges". He knew by the voices that it was Mr Quirke and his sister, he said.

Some weeks later, Mr Quigley was again approached by Mr Quirke while working on his sister's house.

"He called my sister… a right bitch. She didn't support him or Imelda. I said do you not think Mary has enough to deal with?" said Mr Quigley. "He said: 'I only want good friends and family' at his son's month's mind Mass. If Mary was to go, he would personally remove her from the church himself. I said that was his choice…"

The following month, the family held an anniversary Mass for Martin Lowry at the house in Fawnagowan, after which Mary, her sister and the boys were to travel to a family wedding in Spain. But Mary's passport had disappeared and, according to Mr Quigley, they spent the night of the anniversary Mass searching the house for it without success.

The court has previously heard how she accused Mr Quirke of taking it.

On April 30, 2013, Mr Quirke discovered Mr Ryan's body when he opened a run-off tank on Ms Lowry's farm, intending to draw water from it for slurry.

Mr Quigley recalled meeting his sister that afternoon in Tipperary town. They drank tea in SuperValu and waited for the boys to finish school. She was visibly upset, he said. She had collected a few clothes, he added, and she moved to his house. When the media called to his house she moved on, first to her sisters and then to a house in Dundrum in Tipperary.

On Friday, the deputy state pathologist gave his opinion on Mr Ryan's fatal injuries. Dr Michael Curtis, called as a witness by the defence, agreed with other experts that Mr Ryan died of blunt-force trauma to the head. As to the "mechanism" of death, the possibilities included being hit by a baton or a baseball bat, he said. But in his opinion the most likely possibility was "vehicular impact trauma" or being hit by a moving car.

The vehicle involved would have sustained significant damage, the court heard. The fractures to Mr Ryan's head and face would have bled profusely.

The neat alignment of his limbs suggested that Mr Ryan's body was not thrown but "placed" into the run-off tank.

Dr Curtis stressed that he was giving his opinion. He was not involved in the post- mortem, but he and his colleagues had reviewed the work done by Dr Khalid Jabber, who is unable to testify at the trial.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of six men and six women.

Sunday Independent

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