Monday 21 October 2019

'Love rival' trial: AI technician tells of seeing Quirke 'milking cows' on day DJ vanished

Evidence: Witness Breda O’Dwyer outside the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Evidence: Witness Breda O’Dwyer outside the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It was a week in which the jury sat for just two days - but during which it learned the earthy, practical, background information on the day-to-day running of a farm.

It learned of the everyday chores - milking and feeding cattle, of how slurry is mixed and spread on the land. They even learned of the method used to artificially inseminate cows to ensure a good replacement crop for next year.

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For a jury in a court complex in the capital city, it was, no doubt, illuminating stuff.

Artificial insemination (AI) technician Breda O'Dwyer told the court she knew Patrick Quirke independently.

"We're around the same age and he went to school with my sister,' she explained.

She had been doing AI work for him for around 15 years, she said.

There was a moment of amusement in court as prosecution counsellor Michael Bowman SC asked her to outline, in general terms, what she would ordinarily do for any farmer, adding hastily: "In general terms. In anatomical terms, I think we can figure that out."

Ms O'Dwyer explained that during 'AI season' she would drive around to farms with frozen bull semen, which would be pre-ordered by farmers from companies or even as far afield as New Zealand, and which would be held in a straw "maybe the size of a knitting needle", she said.

"All the farmers are into big breeding - it's all about the best milk… you get more money from the highest yielding cows," she said.

The companies would put the straws in her tank and when AI season starts, around April 20, she would choose her route and after dropping her children to school, would drive around to the farms.

She later explained that she did not wish to go "zig-zagging around the country, wasting diesel. This is all about making money" and so would have her route worked out.

Most farmers would do AI for six to eight weeks and the majority would have around 100 cows, expecting to get 20 to 25 replacement heifers the following year, she said.

When doing her rounds, Mr Quirke would normally be "first or second" on her list, she told the court.

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

Asked by the prosecution if Mr Quirke would usually be there when she called to his farm at Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, in the mornings, Ms O'Dwyer replied: "Normally not. He'd have cleaned up and gone. The dairy would be washed out, the whole place would be spotless."

Asked if she had any specific recollection about June 3, 2011 - the day Mr Ryan went missing - she said Mr Quirke was still in the pit in the milking parlour when she arrived and she assumed he was still milking cows.

She said she had no idea what time she arrived but said "it would have been 9.30am anyway".

Asked if they had ever discussed that particular morning, she said they had.

"He said Sean Dillon was there and I said I didn't see him," she said, adding: "He asked did I not remember Sean Dillon was there milking with him - I said I didn't see him."

Sean Dillon told the court he had worked on Mr Quirke's farm for many years, starting at the age of seven or eight. His father was a first cousin of Imelda Quirke, Patrick's wife, he explained.

He was 14-years-old in June 2011 and could not remember if it was June 3 when he was at Mr Quirke's farm but he knew it was the day after his school holidays began.

He remembered moving bales for Mr Quirke and it was possible he had helped with milking. Asked if the AI woman was there, he said he could not recall.

And when asked if he had known about the tank before the body was found, he said: "Not really, I knew it was there because the leg of the calf got stuck in the tank. I wasn't sure it was a tank but I knew there was concrete there."

Farm workers Gary Cunningham and Emmett Kenny told the trial they had each worked on Mr Quirke's farm and were involved in the day-to-day running of it, feeding and milking cattle.

Mr Cunningham was asked if he was working on the day the body was recovered, on April 30, 2013. He said that he was not, as he had got a kick from a cow the Friday before and was out for about two or three days.

Asked if the run-off tank in which the body was recovered had ever been mentioned to him by Mr Quirke, Mr Cunningham said no. He also said he had not been asked by Mr Quirke to fence around that tank.

David Humphries BL, for the prosecution, asked if he recalled any conversation touching on the matter of Mr Ryan in the few days after the body discovered.

Mr Cunningham replied that Mr Quirke had asked him if he had heard any rumours about what had happened, before telling him he had heard there was a rumour a "Polish group" had been involved.

Mr Kenny told Mr Humphries he started working on Mr Quirke's farm in 2009 and continued to work there annually during calving season. He was asked if he had ever been requested to fence around a tank after a heifer had damaged her hind leg in it.

He said he knew it had been damaged in the septic tank because Mr Quirke told him after he had been asked to erect fencing around it one of the first years he was there.

Asked if he was aware of a different tank at the back of the farm, Mr Kenny agreed that he was.

Under cross-examination, he agreed it was "quite possible" the heifer had been injured at the run-off tank.

Irish Independent

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