'Love rival' trial: Bobby Ryan may have died in Mary Lowry's house, court hears
A senior garda gave instructions for Mary Lowry's house to be checked for blood spatter, believing the naked state of Bobby Ryan's body meant it was possible he had died indoors.
The jury in the Tipperary murder trial has heard that a post-mortem found "multiple injuries" which may have been the result of "an accident, a traffic collision or serious assault".
The trial also heard that then deputy state pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber had indicated to gardaí that he was not willing to travel to the scene.
Superintendent Patrick O'Callaghan told the jury that Ms Lowry's house at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, was not searched in the days after Bobby Ryan went missing in 2011.
However it was searched 22 months later, when his remains were found in a tank on the Lowry farm, he said.
Patrick Quirke (50) has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a truck driver and part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight, on a date between June 3, 2011, and April 2013.
Cross-examining for the defence, Lorcan Staines SC asked Supt O'Callaghan if he had any role in the decision not to search Ms Lowry's house in 2011, putting it to him that she had been "co-operative at all times".
The superintendent said the house had not been searched.
Mr Staines put it to him that it was the last location Mr Ryan had been seen and Supt O'Callaghan replied that while Mary Lowry was the last person to see him, his van was located at Kilshane Woods.
Asked why the farm outhouses had been searched, he said it was to "rule them out more than anything else, in case there was an accident".
"So why not rule out the house?" asked Mr Staines, to which the garda replied: "It just wasn't done."
Mr Staines said the superintendent was present when Dr Jaber carried out a post-mortem, finding "multiple injuries that could be the result of an accident, traffic collision or serious assault".
Supt O'Callaghan agreed that at this point, the searches of out-buildings and the farm were ongoing and had not been concluded.
Mr Staines put it to him that he had given "certain instructions" to gardaí examining the scene and told them that "as far as you were concerned, the body was found naked and there was a possibility he had died in the house" and so the house "should be examined properly to assess if there was any blood spatter".
Supt O'Callaghan agreed and Mr Staines then put it to him that gardaí had also paid attention to any vehicles at the scene.
The superintendent again agreed, saying: "Yes...blood in the sheds, all that stuff was examined."
Mr Staines suggested that the Lowry house had been redecorated between 2011 and 2013 but the superintendent said he did not recall and could not stand over it.
Supt O'Callaghan was also asked about a mention in his notes of Mary Lowry's elder son Tommy, with a note that it was "unusual she putting Tommy out of house" and to "interview Tommy Lowry ASAP".
He told the trial they were aware that Tommy Lowry was not present in the house on the night of June 2, 2011, saying it would have triggered an inquiry to "bottom out" the fact of whether Tommy was out of the house that night.
"It would've been Mary saying 'Tommy wasn't here'," he explained.
Meanwhile, he told the trial that gardaí did not rush into a decision to take the body of Mr Ryan from the run-off tank at the farm.
However Dr Jaber had indicated to gardaí that he was not willing to travel to the scene and Supt O'Callaghan said that was why the decision was made to remove the body from the tank.
Questioned later by Michael Bowman SC for the prosecution, Supt O'Callaghan told the trial that the farm at Fawnagowan was held as a crime scene for a total of five days.
He agreed the decision to examine the sheds was taken in consultation with other senior gardaí in the search for evidence, such as blood or any sign of assault in the sheds or in the house because the body was recovered naked, adding: "Every eventuality was considered."
Meanwhile, Supt O'Callaghan said, they had contacted the pathologist and also the Forensic Bureau in Dublin to discuss their course of action at the scene. Later, a decision was made with fire officers to take the lid off the tank in order to bring the body out of the tank in "the best possible condition".
He told the trial that when the body was taken out and laid on plastic sheeting on the ground, he realised that one of the arms had become detached from the body.
He was not sure if this had happened in the tank or in the process of removal, he said.
Asked by Mr Staines if he was satisfied, with the benefit of hindsight, that he would do things the same way again, Supt O'Callaghan said he would.
Everything at the scene had been discussed and there had been no rush, he said.
The body had been found at 1.30pm and was taken out of the tank "well after 6 o'clock", he said. "It wasn't as if we rushed into the recovery of the body - we didn't. We took the best options open to us at the time."
Asked about the discovery of a ladies' hair clip in the tank, Supt O'Callaghan agreed that it had been among a number of items recovered from the tank, including buttons and "a number of bits and pieces".
None of the "bits and pieces" were of any "major interest", he said, adding that he did not think he had a reference to a hairclip anywhere in his notes.
All four of the Lowry sisters had grown up on the farm, he told the trial, saying "the clip could have washed in there from the milking parlour" or the Lowry family "could have been using the tank for rubbish over the years".
A photograph of the gully in the milking parlour was put up on screen, with Mr Staines putting it to the garda that it was a normal-sized gully.
Asking about the breaking of the concrete lid of the tank at the scene, prior to the removal of the body, Mr Staines put it to Supt O'Callaghan that in over 1,000 pages of the Book of Evidence, there had been no mention of this.
The superintendent said photographs had been supplied to the DPP office and were available in court, saying: "There's nobody hiding the fact that the lid broke. It's there for everybody to see."
Put to him that it had been "one of the most significant events of the day", Supt O'Callaghan replied: "The most significant event of the day was the body being found at Fawnagowan, not the lid being broken."
Asked if there was not surprise and shock that the lid had broken, he said, "To me, it wasn't, because I didn't note it. It wasn't a stand-up moment of shock and horror. You just got on with it," adding that their job was to get the body out of the tank "in the best possible condition".
Mr Staines put it to Supt O'Callaghan that he took it that gardaí had made an effort to secure Dr Jaber's attendance at the trial and asked: "Is it correct to say he is refusing to attend?"
"I don't know is he refusing to attend," he replied, saying he did not know what the present position was.
He also said he was aware that a peer review by pathologists Professor Marie Cassidy, Michael Curtis and Linda Mulligan had been sought of Dr Jaber's findings.
Later, Mr Staines handed an email from Dr Jaber to Supt O'Callaghan to read, asking if it was not fair to say that he was refusing to attend.
The superintendent agreed the letter said he was "unwilling" to come.
However, he said they were aware prior to this email of January 2019 that there would be difficulties and that was why they had organised the peer review in advance of this.
Meanwhile, engineer Michael Reilly, under continued cross-examination, told the trial that as well as the tank, he had also examined the milking parlour at Fawnagowan.
When washed down, "everything" would go into the tank, he said.
Asked by David Humphreys, BL, for the prosecution, what would happen to any items of plastic present, he replied: "Anything that would be there would be washed down."
The trial continues.