Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Insect infestation of Bobby Ryan's body took place at least 11 days before body found', says expert

Patrick Quirke has denied the murder of Bobby Ryan. Picture: Collins
Patrick Quirke has denied the murder of Bobby Ryan. Picture: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The emphasis shifted this week to the scientific and the expert evidence of this case.

The jury heard much more about the agricultural tank where Bobby Ryan's remains were recovered.

It had been built in the 1970s from cavity blocks, sunk 1.6 metres deep, was 6.3 metres long, and 1.8 metres wide.

A light 3mm skim of plaster coated the interior of the tank.

Consultant Forensic Engineer Michael Reilly told the trial its function was to accommodate the dirty water washed down from the dairy at the end of milking twice a day.

The water would collect in a shore in the pit where the farmer would stand while milking the cows, before flowing out via a plastic pipe into the tank.

Access was via two removal covers on one side of the tank, while the rest was covered with an in-situ cover not designed to be moved, and which had been cast on site, by pouring wet concrete on top of a piece of corrugated iron.

Mr Reilly had performed a series of tests, running water into the tank.

On February 6, 2014, he commenced a test which ran over two days, pumping the entire water supply of the farm at Fawnagowan into the tank. Mr Reilly noted that it was also raining heavily at this time.

He measured the level of water in the tank and found that although he had pumped in over 21,000 litres, the tank held at its maximum 4,212 litres.

Over the two days it lost more than 17,000 litres because, he said, the tank was too porous to hold it.

"Once it reached a certain position, it was going out of the tank as quickly as it was coming in," he said.

When he went back to the tank for the final time on February 15, 2014, to remove the gauge, he found the water level in the tank had dropped back to the same level as it had been before the tests began, at 250 mm, Mr Reilly said.

Forensic Entomologist Dr John Manlove said it was his opinion that Mr Ryan's body had remained in the tank "for most if not all of the time" since he went missing in June 2011.

Dr Manlove, who is based in the UK, explained to the jury that he specialises in the study of insects and certain invertebrates to assist in investigations, particularly regarding suspicious deaths.

He told the trial at the Central Criminal Court that the body had not been exposed to insect activity for a long time.

He was engaged by An Garda Síochána to work on the case in 2014, he said.

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

Specifically, Dr Manlove was asked whether an insect infestation had commenced in 2011 or in 2013.

Dr Manlove had access to evidence at the technical bureau in Dublin, as well as photographs from the crime scene and the post-mortem examination.

He also visited the scene and examined the tank at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, in September 2014.

Dr Manlove said that flies such as blue bottles are attracted by chemicals produced by the body as it changes from life to death.

Factors which can delay this include poor weather condition, by the body being indoors or securely wrapped, buried or submerged, he said.

In his report for the prosecution, he concluded that the insect infestation of Mr Ryan's remains took place "at least 11 days or possibly longer", before the discovery of the body was reported to gardaí on 30 April 2013.

From his examination of a single larva and from looking at photographs of the body, he was able to estimate its age and stage in the life cycle, he explained to the court.

If the body had been open to infestation for weeks or months, he would have expected to see 'quite a different pattern' of insect damage, he said.

"In my opinion, the body was not exposed to insect activity for a long time," said Dr Manlove, adding that his findings were in keeping with the remains being kept in tank for most if not all the time since Mr Ryan was last seen.

He estimated the tank had been opened a minimum of 11 days beforehand but it could have been longer than this.

Irish Independent

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