Sunday 26 May 2019

Jury in 'love rival' trial to resume deliberations tomorrow

Jury begins deliberations and told to consider circumstantial evidence 'with care'

Patrick Quirke. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Patrick Quirke. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The jury in the Tipperary “love rival” murder trial has retired for the evening and will resume its deliberations in morning.

The jury spent around an hour and three quarters deliberating today, having earlier heard the judge's charge in the case.

They began deliberating at 2.14pm and concluded for the evening at 4.10pm.

There was one break in between where the jury foreman told the judge they didn't get print outs of all of the garda interviews given by murder accused Pat Quirke and asked that these be provided.

He also said some jurors wished to see phone records submitted in evidence.

Most of the material sought was given to them and they resumed their deliberations at 3.30pm.

The foreman later told the judge one of the garda interviews was still missing from the materials supplied.

Earlier, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon told the jury circumstantial evidence can be powerful, but must also be considered with care.

The judge said the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence which it argues showed farmer Pat Quirke murdered his alleged love rival Bobby Ryan, a part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight.

But she said the defence had argued this evidence was “not enough” to convict Mr Quirke of murder.

Ms Justice Creedon told the jury they would have to consider the weight of the evidence. She said they needed to be objective and dispassionate and must not be influenced by emotion, sympathy, anger or disgust.

“Circumstantial evidence can be powerful evidence, but you must consider it with care,” she said.

The judge also told the jury: “You have to be satisfied that not to find him guilty would be an affront to common sense.”

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

The prosecution alleges Mr Quirke killed Mr Ryan so he could rekindle his affair with Mary Lowry, the widow whose farm Mr Quirke was leasing.

The jury has heard Mr Ryan disappeared after leaving Ms Lowry’s house at Fawnagown, Co Tipperary at 6.30am on the morning of June 3, 2011.

His body was discovered 22 months later by Mr Quirke in an underground tank on the farm, but the prosecution alleges this was a “staged” discovery.

The charging of the jury of six men and six women by the judge this morning was the last stage of the trial process before the jury goes out to deliberate. The case is now in its 15th week.

As part of her charge, the judge gave the jury a synopsis of the evidence in the case and also addressed them on issues of law.

She advised them there are only two possible verdicts open to them, either guilty of murder or not guilty.

At the outset of her charge, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said it had been a long case and that if she left out some details, this did not mean they are not important.

She said it was up to the jury to decide the facts of the case and what happened.

The jury was told a transcript of the evidence was available to the judge and if at any time they wanted to be reminded of a piece of evidence, they could ask for this to be read to them.

Ms Justice Creedon said Mr Quirke had the right to the presumption of innocence.

She said that the starting point of their deliberations was that Mr Quirke was not guilty.

“He remains not guilty unless and until you decide on the evidence he is guilty,” she said.

“You must look with a critical mind at the evidence. You must weigh one piece against another.”

The onus of proving the case was on the prosecution, she said, and the defence does not have to prove anything.

She said proof was required to a standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

This was a higher standard than the standard that applies in a civil case where things are decided on the balance of probabilities, the judge said.

But she added that it was “not an impossible standard” and the case did not need to be proven with “mathematical certainty” because nothing in human affairs can be proven to that extent.

She said that if the jury had doubts, these must be based on reason and could not be fanciful.

The judge told them a reasonable doubt was the sort of doubt which might give someone pause for thought when they are making a major decision.

She said that if the jury thought the accused was guilty but weren’t sure, that would not be enough to convict.

If they believed he was “probably guilty”, again, this would not be enough.

The judge said they would have to be certain, satisfied and have no reasonable doubt. “Only then can you convict,” she said.

Ms Justice Creedon said that if there was a doubt over a piece of evidence, the benefit of the doubt must go to the accused.

Mr Quirke did not give evidence in the case. But the judge said this was his right and could not be held against him.

She said the jury was entitled to take into account the impression a witness made on them when they gave evidence.

The jury, she said, could bring their life experience to assessing the evidence of witnesses. They could decide to accept some parts of a person’s evidence and reject other parts.

Ms Justice Creedon said the jury had been told they were entitled to draw inferences from certain evidence, but they could not speculate. This was a correct interpretation of the law, she said.

The judge said that it was often the case that direct evidence such as an eye witness was not available in a criminal case and the prosecution relies instead on circumstantial evidence.

She gave a number of examples of circumstantial evidence, such as evidence that establishes motive and opportunity, the state of mind of the accused, fingerprints and DNA evidence.

The job of the jury would be to consider the weight of the circumstantial evidence put forward in this case, she said.

The judge then gave run down of the circumstantial evidence the prosecution was relying upon.

This included the evidence of Mary Lowry that Mr Ryan left her house at 6.30am and that there was a delay in him leaving the yard outside, as well as her evidence that she saw Mr Quirke looking “hot and bothered” in the farmyard at 8.30am.

The judge referred to the evidence of Mr Ryan’s daughter Patricia that she could tell her father was not the last person to drive his van.

She mentioned the evidence of Mr Ryan’s employer that he did not show up for work that day, as well as evidence that the condition with his body was consistent with death on July 3, 2011 and it being kept in an airtight container.

She referred to the fact no blood was found and the evidence which suggested Mr Quirke milked the cows later than usual that morning.

Other circumstantial evidence referred to by the judge included an A4 sheet of paper found in Mr Quirke’s house and Google searches conducted on his computer for “DNA” and “body decomposition”.

The judge also referred to correspondence between solicitors about the termination of Mr Quirke’s lease on Ms Lowry’s farm, a provision in her will that €100,000 be left the Mr Quirke, her loan of €20,000 to him, their joint investments, and evidence that the accused was in financial difficulty.

Ms Justice Creedon said the prosecution had drawn all of these together and contrasted them with what they say are lies told by Mr Quirke during garda interviews.

She said the defence, on the other hand, had said circumstantial evidence was “not enough” to convict Mr Quirke.

The judge said the defence had argued Ms Lowry was not a credible witness. It had pointed to her claims of being assaulted by Mr Quirke and of her passport being taken, and described her evidence on these matters as insufficient and unreliable.

Ms Justice Creedon said the defence had stated the jury would have to be satisfied with the timings provided by Ms Lowry.

She said the defence had also said there was no evidence Mr Quirke was in financial difficulty.

The judge also referred to defence claims that the garda investigation was “inadequate”, that no search was conducted of Ms Lowry’s house at the time of the disappearance, that the pathologist did not visit the scene and was not informed part of the slab coveringthe tank had fallen into the tank when the body was being removed.

The judge said the defence maintained the case against their client was one of rumour and suspicion, which was insufficient to convict him of murder.

Ms Justice Creedon said that if lies were told by Mr Quirke, the jury could not just make the leap that this was evidence of guilt.

She said defendants can lie for a number of reasons, including panic and confusion.

Ms Justice Creedon also said evidence of misconduct by Mr Quirke could not be used to conclude he was guilty of murder.

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