Wednesday 21 August 2019

Fatal attraction: The affair that led to murder as Pat Quirke's love boiled over into hatred

Pictured: Witness Mary Lowry (left) and killer Patrick Quirke (right)
Pictured: Witness Mary Lowry (left) and killer Patrick Quirke (right)
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Less than four months after an agony aunt advised him to take stock of his life and 'make good', Patrick Quirke decided to take matters into his own hands and solve the 'problem' in the most brutal and savage way imaginable.

Mercilessly and without qualms, he dispatched the gentle, good-natured man he saw as his rival and a threat to his own happiness, leaving him to lie for two years in a concealed tank.

On every level, the relationship between Quirke and Mary Lowry was deeply toxic.

Theirs was truly a fatal attraction, laying waste to all the stability that had been before, shattering the family circle - and ending up in courtroom 13, where all was exposed before the hungry eyes of the public.

Bobby Ryan's children Robert Jnr and Michelle outside court
Bobby Ryan's children Robert Jnr and Michelle outside court

"Look, it's not easy talk. It's embarrassing," Ms Lowry told the court as she began her evidence, setting the stage and revealing the complicated and unsavoury circumstances which had somehow led a successful, though deeply troubled, dairy farmer in the Golden Vale to commit the most heinous of crimes. Bobby Ryan was the ultimate victim of Quirke's rage and poisonous jealousy - but Ms Lowry and his wife Imelda fell victim in their own way.

Imelda loved him and stood by him but Quirke betrayed her repeatedly over many years and deliberately sought to involve her in the discovery of Mr Ryan's remains.

She was the one who rang gardaí.

But it was his relationship with Ms Lowry that led to Quirke spiralling down a dark path.

Patrick Quirke left the body of Bobby Ryan (pictured) in a run-off tank after killing him
Patrick Quirke left the body of Bobby Ryan (pictured) in a run-off tank after killing him

She had "suffered at the hands of Pat Quirke", she told the trial.

Ms Lowry's marriage to Martin Lowry had been, by all accounts, an extremely happy one. But when he was diagnosed with cancer after being ill for a considerable time beforehand, passing away in September 2007, she was left "lost", she told the court.

Quirke took over the lease at Fawnagown at a peppercorn rent of €1,600 a year, once subsidies were taken into account.

He also helped her with financial advice and spending so much time together, their relationship shifted.

Relative: John Ryan, brother of Bobby Ryan, leaves court after the verdict and sentencing. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Relative: John Ryan, brother of Bobby Ryan, leaves court after the verdict and sentencing. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Quirke told her that he would have to "pull back" from his involvement in her farm because he was "falling in love" with her.

Ms Lowry's exact answer was "I am too", he claimed.

Things became sexual. They would meet at Fawnagown while her children were at school, and went away for the night a handful of times, staying in plush hotels - the Lyrath in Kilkenny, the G in Galway, Cliff House in Ardmore, Co Waterford, and the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney, Co Dublin, Quirke told the court. If Imelda Quirke knew, she never brought it up.

For Ms Lowry's part, she believed Quirke had 'crossed the line' by making advances on her.

Heartfelt tribute: Bobby Ryan’s children Robert Ryan and Michelle Ryan at court after Patrick
Quirke was convicted of murder. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Heartfelt tribute: Bobby Ryan’s children Robert Ryan and Michelle Ryan at court after Patrick Quirke was convicted of murder. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

"I was very vulnerable at the time," she said. She found him "overpowering".

If she was ever late on a day she was supposed to meet him, "he would not be pleased".

She felt guilt over the affair, trying to finish it "many times", she claimed. But Quirke was dismissive, saying: "Sure who else will have you, you and your three boys?"

Patrick Quirke
Patrick Quirke

Quirke wasn't "nice" to her even during the affair, she told the court.

She thought Quirke was not emotionally committed to their relationship. He said he was in love with her at one stage but still loved Imelda.

Asked how she had felt in terms of her own emotions, she told the court she had "regard" for Quirke but that he was more of a friend.

She had not had a sexual relationship in "a lot of years" because her husband had been very sick.

"I suppose that's the only explanation I can give for this seedy affair, that is what I would call it," she said - sparking accusations from the defence that she was directing her comments "towards the local newspapers". Quirke was also constantly looking for money from Ms Lowry.

She gave him €80,000 to invest in CFDs, a risky form of trading. Within 18 months, Quirke had doubled that money - and they split the profits 50/50.

She lent him €20,000 he never paid back, and he also presented her with an estimate of more than €16,000 he claimed she owed him because one of her cows had introduced disease into his own herd. He would look for this money "once a month", he admitted to gardaí.

Gardaí put it to him that he had used Ms Lowry in every way with "cash on demand and sex on demand".

Quirke told gardaí he and Ms Lowry had confided in one another.

"She'd have told me about her upbringing that was probably difficult for her to tell," he claimed.

They had also discussed "day to day things" such as problems she would have at work or with "the boys".

He had also told her things that he never told anyone else, he said.

They had talked of a possible future together, Quirke claimed.

He told gardaí he was happy with his wife and remained intimate with her at that time. He said he "bitterly regretted" what he had done but said that with Ms Lowry he found "companionship, intimacy, trust and honesty".

Ms Lowry told the court their affair had ended in the summer of 2010 and that she had broken it off, saying she wanted to enjoy her life.

"There's nothing nice about having an affair, nothing," she told the court.

That August, she met Mr Ryan and they "got on like a house on fire".

He was fun and, like Ms Lowry, was fond of dancing. And most importantly, she could be open and not have to tell lies, she told the court.

Quirke's timeline was slightly different - Ms Lowry had ended their relationship in mid-December 2010 after trouble arose when he found out she was seeing Mr Ryan.

He had suspicions so when they were lying in bed he took her phone from under her pillow and saw "lots of texts" with Mr Ryan. He left with her phone, angry and "in a rage", and rang Mr Ryan, saying: "I'm the man."

Gardaí suggested his behaviour had the hallmarks of jealousy. Quirke replied: "It was anger, the jealousy came later."

Quirke seemed "very down", Ms Lowry told the court. Once, he told her he had felt like driving into a ditch. He was "disgusted with Mary's whole attitude", Quirke told gardaí.

"I felt I'd given a lot of time and effort in sorting Mary out after her husband died and it was all forgotten." The break-up was "not amicable", he said. Their relationship worsened. In January 2011, she returned to her home one day to find him hiding behind the door in her house. He claimed she had left the door open but she knew this wasn't true.

The following month, on Valentine's Day, she received a letter from the social services, instructing her that they had received a report that she was not taking care of her children properly. Quirke admitted he was the one who had phoned them.

Mr Ryan suggested that he might be able to help - since he had gone through a rough time when his own marriage crumbled and he "nearly became an alcoholic", according to Ms Lowry.

The three of them had a meeting at Hayes Hotel in Thurles, in January 2011. It was "amicable", Ms Lowry claimed, and ended with the two men shaking hands.

Less than five months later, Mr Ryan disappeared.

Ms Lowry's brother, Eddie Quigley, told the court that in searches for Mr Ryan, Ms Lowry's brother-in-law, Jimmy, had said: "This wouldn't happen if Martin Lowry was alive."

He was annoyed because he felt the blame was being put on his sister.

The affair between Ms Lowry and Quirke resumed - but things weren't as they had been before, she told the court. She spent a night with him in the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney, but claimed she felt "a bit scared" during the stay and did not want to be there.

She drank too much and they did not rekindle their affair, she told the court.

The defence put it to her that she had phoned Quirke during a family skiing holiday to Austria with her boys. She claimed she made the call because Quirke was "in my head" and she would "face his wrath" when she returned if she did not get in contact while she was away.

In August 2012, Quirke and Imelda lost their 11-year-old son, Alan, when he was tragically struck by his father's 4x4. Quirke furiously accused Ms Lowry of not being supportive, saying "not a text or a phone call from you and all I did for you".

He told Mr Quigley that she was "some bitch" and warned that if she turned up at the Month's Mind Mass, he would "personally remove her from the church".

After a spate of break-ins in 2012, Ms Lowry put up CCTV cameras on the farm and on December 3, 2012, identified Quirke peering through her windows and going into a shed at the back of her house where the clothesline was located.

Asked what was on the line, she said: "Items of clothing, everything. I had underwear on that line."

She contacted gardaí and decided that Quirke's lease had to be terminated and legal letters flew back and forth, before they fixed on a date of July 2013 for him to leave. He then leased land from a neighbour named Mary Dillon.

On April 29 of that year - the day before the discovery of Mr Ryan's remains in the underground run-off tank - Ms Lowry bumped into Quirke on her farm.

"You're some c**t and I can't wait to see the back of you and I hope you won't be stealing Mary Dillon's knickers off the line," she told him furiously.

His response, she said, was: "Ha."

In the courtroom, the dynamic between them was coldly apparent - where once there may have been love, was now active hatred. Quirke's hold on Ms Lowry had long since evaporated into thin air.

Irish Independent

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