Saturday 21 September 2019

Bobby Ryan told Quirke 'leave Mary alone' in confrontation, former policewoman reveals notes of meeting with widow

  • 'Mystery woman' heard on third sex tape

  • Frightened widow stalked by Quirke

  • Former policewoman took notes of meeting with 'deeply distressed' Mary

Patrick Quirke (left) has been found guilty of the murder of Bobby Ryan (inset). Mary Lowry is pictured right
Patrick Quirke (left) has been found guilty of the murder of Bobby Ryan (inset). Mary Lowry is pictured right
Pictured: Witness Mary Lowry (left) and killer Patrick Quirke (right)
RECOLLECTIONS: Retired policewoman Catherine Costello took notes as Mary Lowry confessed her affair. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
HISTORIC LOCATION: Hayes Hotel in Thurles, where the two men met after Pat Quirke discovered Mary Lowry was seeing Bobby Ryan. Picture: INM/Sunday World
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Murder victim Bobby Ryan told Pat Quirke to stay away from Mary Lowry because he was making her life so uncomfortable, according to the woman in whom she confided her affair.

Contemporaneous notes taken by Catherine Costello record the widow's fears that Quirke was "stalking" her, and that Mr Ryan had been so concerned that he had warned the married dairy farmer to keep his distance from her.

According to Ms Costello, a retired policewoman, Mr Ryan confronted Ms Lowry's former lover in the yard of her farm at Fawnagowan, in the months before he was murdered by Quirke.

While Ms Lowry's confession of the affair to Ms Costello was given as evidence during Quirke's trial for murdering Mr Ryan, the revelation that Mr Ryan moved to protect Ms Lowry from Quirke was not disclosed to the jury as it was deemed to be hearsay.

Quirke received a mandatory life sentence last Wednesday for bludgeoning to death the DJ known as Mr Moonlight following one of the longest criminal trials in Irish history.

Gardai believe Quirke was a stalker who had placed a voice-activated recording device in Ms Lowry's home to spy on her. According to one senior Garda source, the investigators considered whether the device could also have been used in the planning of Mr Ryan's murder. The device was never located.

Four audio recordings, including three 'sex tapes', were recovered on Quirke's computer late in the investigation. Three of the four recordings were of couples having sex and ranged from a minute to five minutes in duration. Ms Lowry confirmed that one of the tapes was of her and Quirke. Quirke is suspected of being on the second recording, with two different women, neither of whom were formally identified by gardai, sources said. The court was told in the absence of the jury that one may be his wife Imelda. Sources said one of the recordings included explicit and graphic dialogue. A fourth that was disclosed was of Ms Lowry reading out the problem page of the Sunday World to her then boyfriend, Flor Cantillon. The court was told that recording was associated with a Nokia mobile phone.

Ms Costello took notes of her meeting with the "deeply distressed" Ms Lowry in a petrol station in Tipperary two weeks after Mr Ryan disappeared. The notes reflect how, even then, the widow suspected that Quirke had something to do with her boyfriend's disappearance. Her suspicions would become key strands in the circumstantial evidence that would eventually convict him.

RECOLLECTIONS: Retired policewoman Catherine Costello took notes as Mary Lowry confessed her affair. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
RECOLLECTIONS: Retired policewoman Catherine Costello took notes as Mary Lowry confessed her affair. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

The notes show Mr Ryan had sought to protect Ms Lowry from Quirke by confronting him. "I understood he warned him in the yard, in the back yard of the property," Ms Costello told the Sunday Independent.

In her four-page statement to gardai, Ms Costello said: "Bobby Ryan had been aware of that affair as Mary told him. Mary Lowry told me that Bobby had told Quirke to stay away from her as Quirke had made her life extremely uncomfortable.

"Apparently Bobby Ryan's attitude was that everybody has skeletons and he didn't consider finishing the relationship as a result of her past affair. I cannot stress enough her deep anguish and tears throughout the conversation in the car."

The account provided detectives with further insight into Quirke's personal animosity toward Mr Ryan as they sought to build a case against him, which the dairy farmer repeatedly denied in his Garda interviews.

Quirke was convicted of murdering Mr Ryan, a case based on an accumulation of circumstantial evidence so compelling that it convinced a majority of the jury of his guilt. Quirke, Ms Lowry's brother-in-law through marriage, murdered Mr Ryan to get him off the scene and resume his control of the widow and access to her finances.

During the trial, Quirke sought to destroy Ms Lowry's character, portraying her as a bitter woman who was out to trash him when their affair ended; she was accused of spreading poison about him, of lying and of "revising history".

Ms Lowry has told friends that she was immensely relieved by the life sentence handed down to Quirke, according to a source close to her.

Ms Costello, who volunteers with an organisation that searches for missing people, joined the search for Mr Ryan, at his daughter Michelle's request, in the days after he disappeared after leaving Ms Lowry's home on June 3, 2011.

Ms Costello had three meetings with Ms Lowry and took contemporaneous notes of each, which she released to the Sunday Independent.

It wasn't until the third meeting that Ms Lowry disclosed her affair.

Two weeks after Mr Ryan disappeared, Ms Lowry phoned her as she was pulling out of the garage in Bansha with other searchers and asked to meet.

Ms Lowry wanted to come to her, saying she needed to get out of the house.

When Ms Lowry arrived, Ms Costello left her car and got into Ms Lowry's car to talk. Ms Lowry was sobbing, "absolute hysteria to the point of hyperventilating.

"She said 'I didn't tell you I've been having an affair'," said Ms Costello.

Ms Costello talked through the notes she took of that encounter with the Sunday Independent. "This note refers to when she meets me, why she is in such distress," said Ms Costello. "She said 'I'll tell you why I think he did something to Bobby'."

The notes record Ms Lowry's account of how she arrived home one evening to find someone had broken in through her bathroom window. Nothing was taken. Ms Costello said she told her: "The guards said that it was youngsters that came in the bedroom window. All the toiletries were disturbed on the window.

"She said, 'I think it was Pat Quirke that did it because I had an affair with him and he's been stalking me'."

She told Ms Costello that after that, she came back one day and "he was at my kitchen table".

He told her the door was open. "She said 'I know, I locked the door. I just had a break-in'.

"She did specifically tell me that he [Quirke] had told her that she couldn't open her mouth about the affair. Because I remember saying to her, 'Mary, Mary, listen, will you do me a favour. Stop beating yourself up. Brothers-in-law do not do this. You have to stop beating yourself up'," she said.

"I also told Mary, 'this isn't love'. I said, 'don't be fooling yourself he is in love with you. This isn't love'."

Ms Costello said Ms Lowry named a particular shop in the town that has CCTV and told her to go and check it out for the morning that Mr Ryan disappeared.

"He has CCTV and she says you might get Quirke on it," Ms Costello said.

"That's how strongly she was suspecting him."

After her emotional interview with the widow in her car in the petrol station forecourt, Ms Costello said she believed what Ms Lowry had told her dramatically changed the nature of the investigation entirely.

"I thought, this is a murder inquiry. This isn't a missing person inquiry any more."

That was why she urged Ms Lowry to tell gardai as a matter of urgency, and why she followed up the following day to make sure she did.

"This was of too much concern to leave another 12 hours," she said.

Ms Costello's notes portray Quirke as a malign presence in Ms Lowry's life in the months before he murdered Mr Ryan.

The notes also record the suspicions that would later feature in his trial; Ms Lowry told Ms Costello about the morning Mr Ryan left her home on June 3, and how she lay in bed waiting to hear the sound of his van leaving.

She told Ms Costello that she was wondering what was keeping him from the starting the van. "It was at least five minutes, it might be longer," she told Ms Costello.

"I had genuinely come to the conclusion myself after meeting Mary that it wasn't Bobby driving that van out of her drive, that there was a possibility he could be shackled up and injured... to terrify him into submission. It was because of that I spent so long searching empty houses," she said.

Her notes record the suspicions that the prosecution would build into the case against Quirke, such as the fact that he had a key to Ms Lowry's house that she had thought was missing.

"She was certain he had a spare key," Ms Costello said.

Ms Lowry also told Ms Costello that Quirke was on the farm earlier than usual on the morning that Bobby disappeared. "Quirke." "Friday." "8.30am."

Ms Costello said she asked Ms Lowry what time he normally came. "She said 11-ish," said Ms Costello.

"I asked her has he every spoken about suicide. She replied, 'Yes, we have spoken of self-harm, and no, he was not suicidal, he loved his children and he loved life'. He had a saying, 'I get out of this mood as soon as I get into it'."

Ms Costello said Ms Lowry spoke with great affection for Mr Ryan, which is also reflected in her notes.

"He was really happy, loved his family, it was serious," Ms Costello noted.

Gardai suspect that Quirke had placed a voice-activated device in Mary Lowry's home over at least a two-year period which he may have used in his plan to murder Mr Ryan.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News