Tuesday 16 July 2019

Mary was 'hysterical', searcher tells love-rival murder trial

Dog walker spotted 'strange van' in the car park of Bansha Woods

Catherine Costello. Photo: Collins Courts
Catherine Costello. Photo: Collins Courts
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A woman involved with an organisation that assists in searches for missing persons has told how Mary Lowry was "severely distressed" and "hysterical" as she told of her previous relationship with murder-accused Patrick Quirke.

Catherine Costello, of the organisation Searching for the Missing, said she became involved in efforts to find missing DJ Bobby Ryan after being contacted by his daughter Michelle. The family was "desperately seeking help" after his van was found abandoned in a wood, said Ms Costello, adding "it was a potential suicide".

The trial also heard from a courier who told of seeing a van with the word 'Moonlight' on it parked in a wooded area on the morning of Mr Ryan's disappearance.

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

Ms Costello told the Central Criminal Court she met Ms Lowry at Bansha Woods after she became involved in the search, "possibly within seven weeks of Bobby vanishing".

"She was very pleasant, very polite. She was upset. She had a tissue in her hand and would be dabbing her eyes," said Ms Costello, adding Ms Lowry had said 'please God he'll be home and was gone away for a few days'.

Michelle Lovelock. Photo: Collins Courts
Michelle Lovelock. Photo: Collins Courts
Eddie Hogg. Photo: Collins Courts
Jim Cully. Photo: Collins Courts

They exchanged phone numbers and some weeks later, after Ms Costello had spent the day searching in the woods, Ms Lowry contacted her and asked to meet. Ms Costello offered to drive to her house but under cross-examination said that Ms Lowry had told her she "wanted to get out of the house".

They arranged to meet at a petrol station in Bansha village.

This time, Ms Lowry was "severely distressed", she said.

"She was so hysterical I'd have been worried about her driving on the road," Ms Costello told the court, adding that "tears were flowing".

Upset: Mary Lowry was described as ‘severely distressed’ when she revealed the history of her relationship with the accused, Patrick Quirke. Photo: Collins Courts
Upset: Mary Lowry was described as ‘severely distressed’ when she revealed the history of her relationship with the accused, Patrick Quirke. Photo: Collins Courts

They had a discussion and Ms Lowry confided in her about the history of her relationship with Mr Quirke.

Ms Costello advised her to go "urgently" to gardaí.

Under cross-examination by Bernard Condon SC, for the defence, Ms Costello said there had been some discussion about a "bean garda" because Ms Lowry "didn't want to walk into a front counter and encounter a male garda".

Mr Condon put it to Ms Costello that female Garda members are no longer called bean gardaí, but she replied that she still uses the term.

Denial: Patrick Quirke has pleaded not guilty to murder. Photo: Collins Courts
Denial: Patrick Quirke has pleaded not guilty to murder. Photo: Collins Courts

Some 24 hours later, Ms Costello contacted Ms Lowry to see if she had been in touch with gardaí, and when told she had not, Ms Costello herself contacted gardaí at Tipperary and advised them to "speak to Mary Lowry".

Courier Joe McLoughlin was among a number of witnesses who told the trial of sightings of a van on June 3, 2011.

In the early morning of Friday, June 3, 2011, Mr McLoughlin's work had taken him to Bansha and around Golden in Co Tipperary, with a route past the car park at Kilshane or Bansha Woods, he said.

He recalled passing the woods at around 7.45am or 8am, having left his home in Wexford at around 5am.

When passing the woods, he saw a maroon-coloured car with the back end facing out over to the right, and also spotted a van parked parallel to the road.

Asked to describe the van, he said he only saw the roof through a gap in the hedge and saw the word "Moonlight" written on it.

One week later, Mr McLoughlin said he was passing the junction of Cordangan and Bansha Road when he saw "a young lad" who seemed "uneasy and anxious" as he looked into a bag.

A number of dog walkers told the trial how they had spotted a van in the car park of Bansha Woods that morning.

Michelle Lovelock said she noticed a 'strange van' on the right-hand side of the car park at around 8.10am or 8.15am. It was a light coloured, silver van she said.

She took her dogs on a walk in the woods and when she came back to the car park at 8.50am, it was gone, she told the court.

Eddie Hogg said that he arrived at Bansha Woods at approximately 8.15am to exercise his dogs.

He also noticed a 'white or silver van' parked 'lengthways rather than nose in' in the circular car park. The vehicle was on the left-hand side near the barrier, he said.

Mr Hogg agreed that he had given a second statement to gardaí and was shown a photograph of a silver van and he agreed it was a similar van to that one.

Cross-examined by Lorcan Staines SC, for the defence, Mr Hogg said he had not noticed any markings on the van.

Meanwhile Jim Cully, a self-employed hackney driver and former next-door neighbour of Mr Ryan and his wife Mary, told the trial that he had driven a regular school run from Cashel to Cappawhite village, collecting a number of youths in the morning, leaving at 8.25am.

He had got to know Mr Ryan well as his next-door neighbour, he said.

On Friday morning, June 3, 2011, he had left Cashel, carrying five or six youths on an eight-seat transporter bus, and had driven out on Dundrum road into Dundrum village and then driven the Annacarty road.

At around 8.40am, he said he was "almost certain" he saw Mr Ryan's van travelling back towards Dundrum village.

He noted 'Mr Moonlight' written on the front windscreen of the van, with black designs on the side.

"I'd be familiar with Bobby's van," he said. "I was not certain who was driving the van but whoever it was saluted me by raising his right hand," he said.

He said the van appeared to be travelling at a normal speed.

Meanwhile, Siobhán Kinnane told David Humphries BL, for the prosecution, that she lives at Cordangan, a townland close to Fawnagowan, where Mr Ryan's body was found two years after he disappeared.

On the morning of June 3, 2011, Ms Kinnane was driving her children to school at about 8.50am when she saw a man walking by the side of the road near her home. He was bald and wearing a navy or dark-coloured tracksuit with "a splash of white somewhere" which may have been on the clothes or possibly was a bag.

He didn't make eye contact with her and she found this peculiar.

She told the court she was looking at him waiting for him to look up, but he did not do so.

Under cross-examination she agreed with Lorcan Staines SC for the defence that in a statement she made to gardaí in June 2011 she said he "looked like a man who was out walking, sweaty and red-faced". When gardaí showed her a photo of the deceased she said the man she saw was not "athletically built" but also wasn't "extremely fat" like the man in the photograph.

However, she was "80pc sure" that a photo on the RTÉ website of the missing man Bobby Ryan was the same person she saw that morning.

Ms Kinnane added that she "only saw him for a second but that it looked like him".

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

Irish Independent

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