Sunday 24 March 2019

'Love rival' trial: 'My instinct was he didn't walk out of that house' - Quirke told gardai

The Mr Moonlight murder trial has heard what Patrick Quirke said in his Garda interviews, writes Maeve Sheehan

Patrick Quirke. Photo: Collins Courts
Patrick Quirke. Photo: Collins Courts
The farm in Fawnagown, outside Tipperary town, where the body of Bobby Ryan was found in a run-off tank
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Pat Quirke is a morning person and his wife, Imelda, is a night person. She was in bed but awake when he got home late from a meeting in the Tipperary village of Horse and Jockey.

He was in a property syndicate that had an interest in a building in Poland and some members wanted to sell it. The meeting had got quite heated.

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He may have chatted to Imelda about it before going to sleep. He was up at 6.15am to milk the cows.

He never set the alarm clock. His wife sometimes did, not to wake him but to get him to lie on longer in bed.

Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan

The dairy farmer from Breanshamore, three miles outside Tipperary town, was taking two detectives through his routine in the hours before Bobby Ryan disappeared on June 3, 2011.

He knew what he was doing because it was his wife's birthday and he was taking her to the Heritage Hotel in Laois that day. It was a surprise, although he added that "she knew we were going away somewhere but she didn't know where".

He was on the second last row of cows when Sean Dillon came to help him. Mr Quirke drove his jeep to Fawnagowan, the farm that he leased from Mary Lowry nearby, with a cow box to collect two bulls he kept in a shed there. "I wanted to get in and out fast," he said. He planned on leaving the bulls with his own cows while he was away for the weekend. They went for breakfast at 9.30am.

He was in Laois with Imelda when they got word later that day about the search for Mr Ryan back in Tipperary. They heard that the woods had been "combed". Mr Quirke said he didn't believe it was suicide because a body had not been found. "People who commit suicide want to be found. I said this in Laois to Imelda," he said.

Mary Lowry. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Lowry. Photo: Tony Gavin

Mr Ryan, a local DJ with the stage name Mr Moonlight, was Ms Lowry's boyfriend - comprising two corners of the love triangle that has taken centre stage at the trial of Mr Quirke (50) for the murder of Mr Ryan (52) at the Central Criminal Court.

The court has heard how Mr Quirke found Mr Ryan's body in a run-off tank on Ms Lowry's farm on April 30, 2013, 22 months after he disappeared.

The prosecution has put forward the motive that Mr Ryan was Mr Quirke's rival for Ms Lowry's affections and staged the discovery of his body. Mr Quirke has pleaded not guilty.

On May 16, 2013, Mr Quirke was in Tipperary garda station being interviewed voluntarily by Detective Inspector David Buckley and a colleague.

Over several hours last Thursday, the content of those interviews was read aloud to Court 13 by the prosecuting counsel, David Humphreys. Mr Quirke, dressed for court in a grey suit and striped tie, put on his glasses and leant forward, reading from a document in front of him.

"I think it is widely known you had an affair," it was put to him at Tipperary garda station during the interview.

"It would be widely known in here but it would not be widely known outside," Mr Quirke replied.

Earlier he told detectives that the affair was his "only crime", adding: "I don't know whether it was ye or her who went to the papers. My name is destroyed."

Mr Quirke said Martin Lowry was his best friend. They had bought machinery together, worked together and he was the best man at his wedding to Imelda - who is Martin's sister. When Mr Lowry died of cancer in 2007, he "left a void" in Mr Quirke's life that Ms Lowry filled. He had been helping her with finances and had leased the farm from her, when their affair began in January 2008.

It was "fifty fifty" who started it, Mr Quirke said. He could remember "exactly" what he told her. "'I have to pull back because I am falling in love with you'," he said. "Her exact answer was 'I am too'."

They met at her farm at Fawnagowan and went away together a couple of times, to the Lyrath in Kilkenny, and to the G Hotel in Galway.

When gardai asked if Imelda had an inkling of the affair, he replied: "Probably she did, but she didn't say anything to me."

Mr Quirke advised Ms Lowry on her late husband's investments: commercial property investments in Poland, investments with Davy Stockbrokers, investments in CFDs, contracts for difference, shares in banks and Ryanair.

Ms Lowry had loaned him money when he had to pay back a bank loan. He said she told him to keep the €20,000 sum as "compensation" for the bovine diarrhoea that the "stragglers" he had taken on from her late husband's herd had spread in his herd.

They gave no serious consideration to the future - "it wasn't practical," he said. He told gardai that he was "never going to leave" his wife and Ms Lowry had never asked him to.

In December 2010, he found out that Ms Lowry was seeing Mr Ryan and he was "angry" because she had been "untruthful" to him. When someone asked her at a family reception if she had had a good time in Cashel the previous evening, he "knew" that she had "lied" to him about where she was.

Later that week, Mr Quirke took Ms Lowry's mobile phone. "I texted him through her phone, more or less pointing out that she hadn't been honest with him, that she had been seeing me for the past three years," he said.

"He rang back on her phone and I answered it. I said: 'Sorry, I am the man'. That's all I said, and I hung up."

After that, he and Ms Lowry had a "heated" verbal argument. She told him they were "finished" and he left. She was fiery and had a temper, he said. Did he have a temper, gardai asked. "I think everyone has a temper," he replied.

The following month, Mr Quirke met Mr Ryan and Ms Lowry at Hayes Hotel. Mr Quirke said he apologised for the "shock" of his telephone call to Mr Ryan and he said Mr Ryan talked to him generally about the break-up of his marriage. They left on good terms and Mr Quirke said he wished them well.

"I was happy enough with the meeting because he didn't see me as someone who had it in for him," he told gardai.

Once he took Imelda to a Brendan Grace concert with Mr Ryan and Ms Lowry - at his suggestion, he told gardai. He wanted "harmony" and remember, he said, there was also a family connection. "I thought we got on well. Mary was tense. Bobby was tense but he did all the talking," Mr Quirke added.

After Mr Ryan's disappearance on June 3, 2011, Mr Quirke said he got back with Ms Lowry three or four times, but it was not "the same". They went away for a couple of nights, once to the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford, in September 2011 and also to the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney, Co Dublin, the following year. In her evidence to the trial, Ms Lowry denied going to Cliff House with him and said nothing happened in Killiney.

Mr Quirke wanted to discuss Mr Ryan's disappearance with her but he found Ms Lowry "quite indifferent" to it, but he was different. "I am inquisitive. I am curious," he told gardai.

The end of the affair came in March 2012. Ms Lowry told him "face to face" that she had met someone in Killarney. Mr Quirke said he "put a stop to it" this time. He had been in love with Ms Lowry up to the end, he admitted to gardai.

Mr Quirke told his wife that same month and went for counselling. Asked if his wife confronted Ms Lowry, he replied: "She has never spoke to Mary Lowry since I told her."

On April 30, 2013, Pat Quirke arrived at Fawnagowan with a shovel and his suction tank intending to draw water from the run-off tank to agitate or stir thick slurry before spreading it on the land.

The court had previously heard that three people knew about the tank, including Mr Quirke, but he told gardai that Ms Lowry also knew it was there.

He said he had never drawn water from this run-off tank before but had once looked inside in 2008, when a calf got its leg caught between the concrete slabs.

There was another open water tank on the farm but that was empty, he said. He believed this tank would have water inside, because he had seen water from a leaked pipe in the milking parlour running into it.

Mr Quirke said he prised the slab open with his shovel wide enough to fit his hosepipe down. When he looked in to check on the hose, he saw what he at first thought was plastic or a roll of carpet. He pulled off the slab to "get a better look and "I saw for sure what I was looking at, a body face down, head facing towards me. That's it." He saw "ribs", the pelvic area and the "private area", no sign of clothes.

His instinct was to ring his wife, Imelda. The detectives wanted to know why her and not the garda. "I know what Imelda is like in a crisis. I know that she'd know what to do," Mr Quirke said.

They persisted. "This is what I did. You can pick holes in it if you want. I needed her," he said at one point.

They asked him why the discovery was a crisis? "I considered it a crisis. I considered who I found straightaway. My first instinct was this was Bobby Ryan," Mr Quirke replied.

Asked why he did not tell Ms Lowry, he said he was "afraid".

"I was afraid what I would say. I didn't want to meet her. I wanted to avoid her," Mr Quirke added.

He was "concerned" the body was naked. "My first instinct was he didn't walk out of that house, I was afraid for myself," he said.

Someone had told him that removing clothing was "standard to get rid of the forensics," and that "you would get someone professional to do that".The whole thing "frightened him", Mr Quirke said.

Why was he afraid of Ms Lowry, gardai asked.

"I am always afraid of Mary Lowry. She is vicious. She had already abused me the previous evening in the yard," he said, and recounted how he ran into her when he returned to get his tractor keys. "I said: 'Are you all right there?' and she basically let fly verbal abuse. She knew she was caught snooping and she didn't like being caught…" he added.

Why was it his "instinct" that this was Mr Ryan?

"Sure, who else would it be? It was a dead body. I never believed he had taken his life. I always believed something sinister had happened," Mr Quirke said.

As the interview concluded, Mr Quirke told gardai: "I did not kill Bobby Ryan. There is somebody out there who did do it and he is laughing at the moment because you are looking at me."

The trial continues this week before Ms Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of six men and six women.

Sunday Independent

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