Wednesday 23 October 2019

Forensic anthropologist who assisted in identification of Grenfell Tower victims gives evidence in Tipperary murder trial

Trial: Patrick Quirke with wife Imelda outside court. Photo: Collins
Trial: Patrick Quirke with wife Imelda outside court. Photo: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A FORENSIC anthropologist who assisted in the identification of victims from the tragic Grenfell fire tragedy in the UK was involved in the examination of bones taken from the run-off tank in the Tipperary murder trial.

Dr René Gapert told the court he was contacted by gardaí on January 23 of this year and requested to carry out an examination of bones and bone fragments recovered from the scene at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary.

He said he had agreed to become involved after the coroner had issued the authorisation allowing it.

He was asked to establish if the bones given to him consisted of human remains, he told the court.

Patrick Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan (52), a part time DJ known as Mr Moonlight, on a date between June 3 2011 and April 2013.

Dr Gapert told the trial that on January 25 last at the City Mortuary in Dublin, he carried out an examination of the bone fragments found in the run-off tank on the farm at Fawnagowan, which were given to him in two evidence bags by gardaí.

Patrick Quirke
Patrick Quirke

The first bag contained 49 bones, a tooth and a possible human toe nail. An examination revealed that these consisted of one adult human bone which was the middle phalanx of a toe and 48 'non-human bones.' The tooth was also non-human in origin, he said, while the toe nail was 'possibly' human, Dr Gapert said.

The second bag contained 19 bones, 3 possible human finger or toe nails. Eight of the bones were human, including the middle phalanx from one of the hands and the tip of both the right and left thumb, as well as the tip of a big toe, possibly from the left side.

The remaining 11 bones in the second evidence bag were non-human, he told the jury.

Dr Gapert said that in all, nine human bones were found. They were of a brownish-yellow colour with some black areas with the toes darker than bones from the hands. They were all from the same individual who was of adult age, he said.

Forensic officers at the scene where the body of Bobby Ryan was discovered in a run-off tank on the farmland leased by the accused Patrick Quirke at Fawnagown, Tipperary on April 30, 2013. Picture Credit: Press 22
Forensic officers at the scene where the body of Bobby Ryan was discovered in a run-off tank on the farmland leased by the accused Patrick Quirke at Fawnagown, Tipperary on April 30, 2013. Picture Credit: Press 22

He said the bones did not exhibit evidence of physical trauma. The bones were completely skeletalised and he estimated that the individual had died at least a year or two before the remains were found, though he added that it could be longer.

Under cross examination by Lorcan Staines SC for the Defence, he told the court that he had been involved in the examination of many cases and 'problem' cases which involved the problematic recovery of multiple bodies, including the Grenfell fire in Britain which had entailed the identification of remains of 72 people in all. 

Patrick Quirke with his wife Imelda outside court yesterday. Picture: Collins
Patrick Quirke with his wife Imelda outside court yesterday. Picture: Collins

"We also had to deal with animal remains - pets," he added, under further questioning by David Humphries BL for the Prosecution, explaining that those remains had to be excluded from the human remains.

Under questioning by Mr Staines, Dr Gapert was asked about the fracture of the thigh bone on the remains recovered at Fawnagowan and asked whether it was possible the breaking of the concrete lid of the tank during the recovery operation might have caused it.

Dr Gapert thought this was unlikely because the thigh bone is the strongest bone in the body and he did not believe the particles of debris he saw in the photograph could have caused it - though he added that he had no way of knowing for sure since he did not weigh the concrete pieces.

The court is hearing from Professor Jack Crane the former State Pathologist of Northern Ireland, who reviewed the findings of the original pathologist, Dr Jabber.

He has told the court the body showed signs of decomposition which were indicative of the remains being left in a damp or wet environment.

The trial continues.

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