Friday 24 May 2019

Jury tasked with piecing together 'strands' of evidence in 'forensically barren' love-rival trial

Pleaded not guilty: Patrick Quirke (50) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin during the 14-week murder trial. Photo: Courtpix
Pleaded not guilty: Patrick Quirke (50) at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin during the 14-week murder trial. Photo: Courtpix
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

After 14 weeks of evidence at the Central Criminal Court, the Tipperary 'love-rival' murder trial is finally drawing to a close.

In the coming days, a jury of six men and six women will retire to consider their verdict.

They will have to decide whether the case put forward by the prosecution proves beyond reasonable doubt farmer Patrick Quirke murdered Bobby Ryan, a well-liked part-time DJ known as 'Mr Moonlight'.

Mr Quirke (50), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, denies killing Mr Ryan, who disappeared after leaving his girlfriend Mary Lowry's home on the morning of June 3, 2011.

Mr Ryan's body was found by Mr Quirke 22 months later in a run-off tank on Ms Lowry's farm at Fawnagown, Co Tipperary, which the farmer was leasing at the time.

The prosecution claims Mr Quirke "staged" the discovery as his lease was about to be terminated. It alleges his motive for the murder was to get Mr Ryan off the scene so he could rekindle an affair with his former lover, Ms Lowry.

The affair with Ms Lowry, a sister-in-law of his wife Imelda Quirke, lasted between January 2008 and 2010, following the death of Ms Lowry's husband from cancer.

Ms Lowry ended the relationship in the summer of 2010, shortly before meeting Mr Ryan.

She told the court her affair with Mr Quirke had been "sordid" and "sleazy" and something she was "ashamed" of.

The case has a number of interesting features. No murder weapon was found and the place and time of death is unknown.

It is also, as prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC told jurors, based on circumstantial evidence and "forensically barren".

The case, he said, was made up of "strands" of evidence. On their own, each strand would amount to nothing more than suspicion or something uncannily coincidental.

But woven together, the strands left no room for doubt that Mr Quirke was guilty of murder, Mr Bowman has argued.

However, defence counsel Bernard Condon SC has countered that there is "no hard evidence" against his client and that the jury had to acquit him.

The jury, he said, were being asked to draw inferences which did not prove murder. Behind the prosecution case was a "crumbling edifice of almost nothing", he said.

Before the jury retires to consider the merits of the opposing arguments, it will first hear what is known as the judge's charge.

This will begin on Tuesday and will involve Ms Justice Eileen Creedon laying out the evidence for them. The judge may also advise jurors on issues of law that arise.

It is not clear exactly when the charge will be completed, but Ms Justice Creedon has informed jurors it will not take too long.

Once the deliberations begin, jurors will have much to consider, as evidenced by the lengthy closing statements of the prosecution and defence.

In his address to jurors on April 11 and 12, Mr Bowman discussed the various strands the prosecution case had been built on.

These included what Mr Bowman described as efforts by Mr Quirke to "sabotage" Ms Lowry's relationship with Mr Ryan.

He reminded jurors of one incident where Mr Quirke is said to have phoned Mr Ryan and told him he was "being played for a fool" by Ms Lowry.

According to Mr Bowman, a second attempt at sabotage came when Mr Quirke reported Ms Lowry to Tusla, claiming she was neglecting her children emotionally because of her new relationship.

The prosecution counsel also pointed to a letter Mr Quirke wrote to a 'Sunday Independent' agony aunt in 2011 saying he was "heartbroken and angry".

Mr Bowman said Mr Quirke was one of only four people who knew of the existence of the tank where the body was dumped and he had had exclusive access to it since 2008.

He also reminded the jury of evidence about Google searches for "DNA" and "human body decomposition timeline" on a computer in Mr Quirke's home in the month before the body was discovered.

But during Mr Condon's closing speech to the jury earlier this week, he said the prosecution case amounted to nothing more than suspicion.

They had been presented with "a forensically barren landscape" and many unanswered questions, he said.

Mr Condon said the jury's job was like that of a scientist. They had "a huge decision" to make and needed to approach things with scepticism and test the theories put forward.

The defence counsel said the jury could say Mr Quirke's call to Tusla was "badness", but there was evidence to support his client having some concerns for and interest in Ms Lowry's children.

Mr Condon urged caution over the 'Dear Patricia' agony aunt letter, saying Mr Quirke accepted in it that the relationship was over.

The barrister also told the jury they could not convict Mr Quirke on the basis of internet searches.

Mr Condon urged the jury to exercise "fairness" when considering the computer evidence.

He asked the jury what weight they could put on the searches. While they may have been "macabre", people do the strangest things on their computers, he said.

Mr Condon was critical of much of the evidence given by Ms Lowry.

He said a suggestion by her that there was something odd about Mr Quirke being in the farmyard around 9.30am on the morning of the disappearance was "a piece of the most devious, devious poison that has been delivered across the face of the Central Criminal Court for many a year".

He also urged the jury not to be "misled" by the suggestion by gardaí that Mr Quirke had been getting sex and money "on demand" from Ms Lowry.

Mr Condon said they were grown adults who had engaged in a sexual relationship which they both regretted.

Irish Independent

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