Sunday 21 July 2019

'Love rival' trial: Victim's daughter thought her father had split with Mary Lowry days before he died

Robert Ryan (L) and Michelle Ryan, daughter of Bobby Ryan
PIC: Collins Courts
Robert Ryan (L) and Michelle Ryan, daughter of Bobby Ryan PIC: Collins Courts
Patrick Quirke
Evidence: Mary Lowry at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.
Robert Ryan and Michelle Ryan, daughter of Bobby Ryan, leaving court after they gave evidence in the trial of Patrick Quirke PIC: Collins Courts

Nicola Anderson and Eoin Reynolds

THE son of a man whose body was recovered in a farmyard tank two years after his disappearance, has told how he felt that the landowner seemed to want him "out of the yard as quick as she could get him out".

He knew "something wasn't right about the way she was acting," he said.

Robert Ryan Junior told gardaí how he had called to the house of Mary Lowry on the morning that his father, Bobby Ryan, first went missing.

Asked how she appeared, he replied: "Very shaken, very upset, emotional, very very upset, crying."

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

He told the Central Criminal Court how his parents had separated in early 2005 or 2006. His father had eventually obtained a council house at Boherlehane, outside Cashel. He and his partner, Leanne and their baby daughter - who were living in Ovens, Co Cork - would travel up and down to stay with him.

Evidence: Mary Lowry at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.
Evidence: Mary Lowry at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.

He described his father as a man who enjoyed life and had a number of interests socially. He had met Mary Lowry through his love of music and dancing, he told the court.

On June 2 2011, it was Robert's birthday and he spent the day with his friend out with his racing car. It was 11.30 pm when he got home, he said. His father was not home and his van was gone. When he got up the following morning, his father was not there but he noticed his work boots at the bottom of the stairs.

Pat Quirke. Photo: Collins
Pat Quirke. Photo: Collins

He again went to a friend's house and at around 10.30 am or 11am, went back to his father's house. Leanne told him that someone had called for his father and from the description of the vehicle, realised it was his father's boss at Killough Quarry.

He drove to Killough and noticed that his father's truck wasn't where it usually was. He tried to phone his father but it went straight to voice mail.

Testimony: Mary Lowry arrives at the Central Criminal Court where she has spent four days in the witness box. Photo: Collins
Testimony: Mary Lowry arrives at the Central Criminal Court where she has spent four days in the witness box. Photo: Collins

He then decided to go to Mary Lowry's house, having previously been given a rough description of where it was.

When he arrived, he didn't see anyone at the house and when he stopped, he looked in the rear view mirror and Mary Lowry was standing there.

He was beginning to ask if there was "any sign of him" and she replied.

He said she said something to him but he said that was lies. "Daddy never said anything to me about a f***ing river," he said.

Mary Lowry said she had not returned to her farm since the day Bobby Ryan’s body had been found. Photo: Collins
Mary Lowry said she had not returned to her farm since the day Bobby Ryan’s body had been found. Photo: Collins

He refused to give her his number and said that if she heard anything, to contact his sister, Michelle.

Under cross examination by Lorcan Staines, BL for the Defence, Mr Ryan agreed that he had told Michelle not to tell Mary Lowry that he was on his way over.

He said that on seeing Mary Lowry, he rolled down the window and Mary "mumbled something like I don't know where he is. We didn't have a fight."

"I asked her that she must know where he is, he must be somewhere," said Mr Ryan, adding that she said her father had mentioned something about a river when his mother had left.

Asked if Mary Lowry had mentioned a lake, Mr Ryan replied that he was 90pc certain she said river.

Put to him that he had said Ms Lowry had been shaking, Mr Ryan said: "The only way I can describe it is you have a bad car crash and you get out. It was very strange. I know something wasn't right about the way she was acting. She was visibly shaking and very upset."

Ms Lowry had said to him that she did not have his number and asked him to show it to her.

"I refused it," said Mr Ryan. Asked why, he said: "I just didn't want her having my number to be honest. I don't have an answer for it. I just didn't want her having it."

On the way out, Mr Ryan had asked his friend, Patrick, who was in the car with him, to have a look in the shed to see if his father's van was there. He did not get out of the car, he said. He saw a silver or light gold Toyota Corolla parked in the shed, which the court has previously heard was a 'field car' used by Ms Lowry's sons.

Mr Ryan told Mr Staines that after this, his car broke down just past the entrance to the woods. He did not look in the direction of the woods at all, he said. Some hours later, his father's van was later recovered in the wooded area.

Asked about his father's relationship with Ms Lowry, Mr Ryan told the court how he recalled an occasion when he and his partner were watching a match at his father's house and his father and Mary were in the kitchen.

His father kept coming in watching bits of the match and "he kept asking Mary to come in and watch it with them but she wouldn't," he said.

He told the court that he knew "something bad happened in Bundoran" between them.

On another occasion, he recalled how they were walking out of his father's house and Mary Lowry was in front. His father and a friend, Mary Glasheen, were still in the house. When Mary Lowry noticed, she went "straight back into the house," he said.

Mr Staines put it to him that he had told gardaí Mary Glasheen would always have called to the house and Mr Ryan said: "We could never tell Mary Lowry that. She used to be very jealous."

Leanne Hallissey, partner of the previous witness, Mr Ryan, told the court that she recalled the evening before Mr Ryan's disappearance. They were watching television together and Mr Ryan was cooking his dinner. His phone was "going off and off and off", she said, and he was "kind of giving out" because he kept having to go over to check the phone.

"He said, 'I'd better go across and see what's wrong with her,'" she recalled.

The next morning, she noticed that Mr Ryan's lunchbox was still there.

Michelle Ryan, daughter of the deceased, told the court that she was around 18 or 19 when her parents separated by mutual agreement.

Her relationship with her father had been "brilliant", she said.

After her parents split up, her father was "very down" for about six months afterwards.

Her concern for his mental health would have been great, she said, but said she did not have concerns he would do anything drastic.

At this time, she would give him a "quick phone call" every 20 minutes, she told the court. Asked if Mr Ryan had a confidante in the family, she said it was "probably myself."

Put to her that she may have been aware of other things that Robert Junior had not, she agreed that this was correct.

She said it was around nine months before her father got back to being his old self, after the breakup and agreed that he got his love for life back again.

He was always "precise" when it came to his work, she said. "He never missed a day and was always down at the weekend, playing his music, putting on a smile. He was just... one of a kind," she said.

"You could set your clock by him, that's the type of man that he was," said Ms Ryan. In circumstances where he did not stay at home but possibly stayed at Ms Lowry's, Ms Ryan said that he would "still religiously be back home and on time for work."

Detailing the day her father disappeared Ms Ryan said she became extremely concerned when he failed to show up for work and then didn't answer his phone. This was out of character for him.

She said she started searching for him with her aunt, contacted gardai and a local hospital. She told her aunt she had a "terrible feeling" that they were going to find her father's van in a woods. She couldn't explain why she thought this, she said.

After contacting Ms Lowry the witness told Mr Bowman she met her in Tipperary Town, got into Ms Lowry's car and they drove towards Ms Lowry's home. Along the way she remembers Ms Lowry, who was upset, said: "I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry."

As they drove the witness decided she wanted to go to Bansha Wood, also known as Kilshane Wood. She added: "I have no explanation as to why I thought of it."

Ms Ryan began crying at this point and left the witness stand for ten minutes.

When she returned she described arriving at the woods where Ms Lowry pulled into the car park. They immediately saw her father's Citroen Van. The witness noticed that the van was unlocked with her father's DJ equipment inside, it was parked in second or fourth gear and the seat was in an unfamiliar position.

She told gardai that her father would not have left the van like this and he was not the last person to drive it.

She spent the rest of that day and night searching the woods for her father.

The witness agreed with defence counsel Bernard Condon SC that her father often talked about Ms Lowry from the time he started seeing her.

When her father asked Michelle for her opinion of Ms Lowry she said she told him to "P45 her" or give her a "dismissal".

She also thought that her father's relationship with Ms Lowry had finished on the Tuesday before he went missing following the trip to Bundoran.

Following her father's disappearance she said she put up missing person posters all around Tipperary and agreed that she was upset when Ms Lowry attempted to remove one that had been erected in front of Ms Lowry's gateway.

The trial continues in front of Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of six men and six women.

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