Farm worker tells trial Quirke said 'Polish people involved in murder of Bobby Ryan'
Labourer on work placement with accused was unaware of tank where DJ's body found
A farm labourer has told the Tipperary murder trial that Patrick Quirke told him he had heard a rumour that "Polish people were involved in the murder of Bobby Ryan".
Gary Cunningham said he could not recall if he heard that rumour from anyone other than the accused, adding: "To be honest, there were so many rumours going around I can't recall."
Mr Cunningham told the jury in the trial at the Central Criminal Court that in 2013, he was studying agricultural science and started a 15-week work placement on Mr Quirke's farm at Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, that February, milking and feeding cows.
At the end, he stayed on an additional two weeks to help out Mr Quirke on the farm.
He was involved in the day-to-day running of the farm, helping with milking, feeding cattle and with silage.
The milking was done at Mr Quirke's own farm at Brenshamore and he would go up to the farm leased at Fawnagowan where Mr Quirke had livestock, he said.
Asked about the spreading of slurry at Fawnagowan, he said he had carried out this activity during his time there, using a tanker on the back of a tractor.
Asked about the run-off tank in which the body had been found, he said he was not aware of that tank.
Questioned if it was ever used, to his knowledge, when he was there, he said "no".
Mr Quirke (50) has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan (52), a part-time DJ who went by the name 'Mr Moonlight', on a date between June 3, 2011, and April 2013.
Mr Cunningham was asked if he was working on the day the body was recovered, on April 30, 2013. He said that he was not, as he had got a kick from a cow the Friday before and was out for about two or three days.
David Humphries BL, for the prosecution, asked how he was after that.
"I was limping. I got a fair kick. I couldn't walk," said Mr Cunningham.
Asked if he ever had a conversation with Mr Quirke about the spreading of slurry, he said they had a general discussion about slurry which was to be spread in the fields.
Mr Humphries asked him to explain the process for members of the jury, who might not be aware of how it is done, and Mr Cunningham explained that there is a propeller on the agitator which drops into the slurry tank.
"It's the same if you're whisking or baking or something - it mixes it up," he said.
Asked if the run-off tank in which the body was recovered had ever been mentioned to him by Mr Quirke, Mr Cunningham said "no".
He also said he had not been asked by Mr Quirke to fence around that tank.
Mr Humphries asked if he recalled any conversation touching on the matter of Mr Ryan in the few days after the body was discovered.
Mr Cunningham replied that he did. "One quick conversation," he said. Mr Quirke had asked him if he had heard any rumours about what had happened.
"I brushed it off and didn't really say anything," said Mr Cunningham, adding: "He said he heard there was a Polish group and that was it, that was the end of the conversation."
Farmer Emmett Kenny told Mr Humphries that he started working on Mr Quirke's farm in 2009 and continued to work there annually during calving season, from February to April, doing general farm work, including feeding, milking and looking after the cattle.
Mr Kenny was asked if he had ever been requested to fence around a tank after a heifer had damaged her hind leg in it.
He said he knew it had been damaged in the septic tank because Mr Quirke told him after he had been asked to erect fencing around it one of the first years he was there.
Asked if he was aware of a different tank at the back of the farm, Mr Kenny agreed that he was, saying he had become aware of it after he came across it when he was asked to check fencing in that area.
He thought it was an old septic tank from the house, he said. Mr Kenny said he had never fenced off this tank.
Cross examining, Bernard Condon SC, for the defence, asked if it was possible that the heifer had been injured at the run-off tank and Mr Kenny agreed this was "quite possible".
Mr Humphries asked Mr Kenny if he had ever seen Mary Lowry at Fawnagowan and he replied that he had seen her around 20 times over the years and that she was "always around the greenhouse" on the farm.
He saw Mr Quirke together with her once or twice and they appeared to get on "fine", he said.
He recalled Mr Quirke telling him that Ms Lowry has a good farm, but they never discussed her apart from that.
Under cross-examination by Mr Condon, he accepted he had told gardaí that Mr Quirke had said "Martin Lowry, (Ms Lowry's deceased husband) was a good farmer".
Asked if he had ever spread slurry at Breanshamore, Mr Kenny said "no".
Asked who did, he replied: "Two different contractors, Paddy O'Donnell at Fawnagowan and Crotty at Breanshamore."
On the bank holiday weekend when Mr Ryan went missing, Mr Kenny recalled that Mr Quirke went away on the Friday.
He said Mr Quirke had told him about two weeks earlier that he would be going away for the bank holiday and asked if Mr Kenny be available to do the farm work.
The day after the discovery of Mr Ryan's body, Mr Kenny met the accused in the milking parlour at Breanshamore. Mr Quirke asked: "Did you hear?" and the witness replied: "I did, yes." Mr Quirke told him he had been "sorting out a load of water from the tank".
The trial continues.