Wednesday 20 February 2019

Mary Lowry's four days on the witness stand in the love rival murder trial: 'I have bared my soul here'

Mary Lowry insists to the court that she has revealed 'everything in my whole life', writes Nicola Anderson

Witness Mary Lowry
Witness Mary Lowry
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

For four days on the witness stand, Mary Lowry "bared" her soul.

She told the murder trial at the Central Criminal court "everything in her whole life". Some of it, she was "ashamed of", she admitted, but said she had put "everything in" to try and solve this case.

And so, we heard forensic detail about her relationships and about her life.

Of how she had been born the third child of a small farmer in Newport, Co Tipperary, where her brother, Eddie, still lives. Her maiden name had been Quigley.

After school, she got a job doing reception duties and "a small amount" of accounts with a meat company in Limerick, where she spent 14 years. She had also had other jobs, she told the court, working in a credit union and also in a co-op, as well as with another large meat processors.

Ms Lowry became visibly emotional as she recalled how she had been introduced to Martin Lowry, her late husband, by a woman she worked with, in a night club in 1986 or '87 - it was where lots of people met in those days, she explained.

Accused man Pat Quirke
Accused man Pat Quirke

At several times during her testimony, Mary Lowry mentioned her great love of dancing throughout her life.

"I think anyone that knows me knows that I love dancing," she told the court at a later point.

Martin had farmed all his life on the family's 50 acres at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, and he had a bit of land in Bansha as well, she explained.

It had been his father's farm before he passed it on - she wasn't sure at what stage this had occurred.

Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan

Martin was the eldest boy of the family and had two brothers, Jimmy and Johnny, as well as four sisters, Mary, Ann, Catherine and Imelda - who is married to Pat Quirke, she told the court.

After three or four years together, she and Martin decided they would get engaged and she started to put money away in the credit union.

Choosing to get married had not been a "big romantic gesture", she explained at one point, saying Martin "did not get down on one knee".

Financially, they did not have much at first.

In 1995, they got married and she worked full-time until their three children were born.

Afterwards, "the children were my job and Martin ran the farm", she explained.

But in 2007, her husband was diagnosed with cancer, after suffering ill health for a year and a half before that.

Their children were just 10, eight and three and a half when he died in September of that year.

It was a difficult time, she said. But she tried to be a good mother and she always put her children first, she told the court.

Financially, she was good. After her husband's death, she inherited the farm - but claimed she knew little about the financial operations of some of the investments Martin had made.

Martin and Pat Quirke, both being dairy farmers, had some investments together and had shared machinery, she said.

But she wouldn't describe them as great friends, she said.

Pressed on this during cross-examination by Bernard Condon SC, for the defence, Ms Lowry claimed that while Martin had been Pat's best man when he got married, "Pat was not Martin's best man."

Pat Quirke was a great help to her at that time, she said, explaining that she knew nothing of the online selling of shares, for example. However, she claimed he was "constantly" looking for money.

In January 2008, her relationship with Pat Quirke became a sexual one.

She believed he "crossed the line. I was very vulnerable at the time," she said.

She found him "overpowering", she claimed. If she was ever late on a day she was supposed to meet him, "he would not be pleased", she said.

She felt guilt over their relationship, knowing that he was a "happily married man", she said.

On many times over the four days, she described it as a "seedy affair" - denying claims by defence counsel that she was doing this to "rewrite history".

She tried to finish it "many times", she said.

In the summer of 2010, she broke it off, saying she wanted to enjoy her life. "There's nothing nice about having an affair, nothing," she told the court.

That August, she met Bobby Ryan and they "got on like a house on fire".

But Pat Quirke seemed "very down", she said.

Bobby thought he could be of help, having gone through a hard time when his marriage split up and he "nearly became an alcoholic", said Ms Lowry.

The three of them had a meeting at Hayes's Hotel in Thurles - "the famous one", Ms Lowry confirmed. It was amicable and ended with the two men shaking hands.

But her relationship with Mr Quirke deteriorated, she said.

On Valentine's Day 2011, she had a letter from Social Services claiming they had a report she was not taking care of her children properly. She said they had received an "anonymous phone call".

That same February, she read a letter on the problem page of the 'Sunday Independent' and instantly recognised her own situation. Confronting Mr Quirke, he admitted having written it, she told the court. He said he had no one else to turn to.

At the end of May 2011 - the weekend before his disappearance - she went for a night away with Mr Ryan in Bundoran.

She was anxious to spend "quality" time with him - but was later questioned about whether she told gardaí she was "raging" when she had spotted him dancing with another woman.

She told the court she had been annoyed he had been talking to another woman and they had rowed on the journey home and decided to end things.

But things resolved themselves and on June 2, Mr Ryan spent the night with her at her house. The next morning, he awoke some time between 6am and 6.20am and dressed.

She thought he took a while longer than usual to leave the house, she told the court.

As usual, she said, she listened for the sound of his van going over the cattle grid at the gate but, again, thought there was a delay.

At 8.30am, Pat Quirke came up the driveway and she told the court she thought this was usually early for him. She denied a suggestion by Mr Condon that this was "a very obvious lie".

Later that morning she met up with Mr Ryan's daughter, Michelle, and Ms Lowry drove in the direction of her home. Michelle was crying, saying: "I think he's in a wood."

Ms Lowry missed the turn, she told the court, and ended up at Kilshane Wood - where they spotted Bobby Ryan's van.

On December 3, 2012, the court heard, CCTV footage on the farm captured Mr Quirke walking around Ms Lowry's yard and near her clothes line. Ms Lowry decided to terminate his lease on her land and on April 29, 2013, made a comment to him about "stealing knickers" off a clothesline.

The following day, gardaí came to her property and told her they had discovered a body in a tank on her land. Ms Lowry has not returned to her house since, she told the court.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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