Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Mr Moonlight' was a brilliant father with a real zest for life, murder trial told

Court hears poignant evidence about slain DJ, writes Nicola Anderson

Gardaí at the scene where the body of Bobby Ryan was found near Tipperary town.
Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Gardaí at the scene where the body of Bobby Ryan was found near Tipperary town. Photo: Liam Burke/Press 22
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

For much of this trial, the focus has been fixed firmly on key witness Mary Lowry, her testimony and her relationships.

This week, however, the spotlight shifted, at last, to the silenced, and most important, person at the centre of these proceedings - the deceased man, Bobby Ryan.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

There were many witnesses called to courtroom 13 at the Central Criminal Court this week. The most poignant evidence, however, was that which focused on Bobby Ryan, the man.

For the first time, we heard what he was like - as a father, as a friend, as an employee, even as an ex-husband.

"Wow," was the simple word used by his daughter, Michelle Ryan, to best describe him.

"Happy ... always a bit of craic," was how his son, Robert Junior, summed him up.

To his former wife, Mary Ryan, he had remained a friend, despite the ending of their marriage.

Likewise, he had remained a friend to his former partner Mary Glasheen after the end of their three-month relationship.

Even his boss at Killough Quarries, Niall Quinn, recalled him as a punctual and "perfect" employee.

For each, their grief was palpable at what had happened to Bobby, that fun-loving man who had recovered his zest for life in the devastating aftermath of the break-up of his marriage.

The man whose joint passions for music and dancing had been a fulcrum.

Mary Lowry's son Tommy remembered him as being "a fun guy", always trying to crack a joke. He had bought them remote-control cars at Christmas. Bobby had made his mother happy - and her children were happy that she was happy.

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

On Monday last, Mr Ryan's children took to the stand to give evidence.

"He was a brilliant father with a great personality," Michelle Ryan told the court.

Her parents split up when she was around 18 or 19, she said, and she and her brother, Robert Jnr, lived with her father. She described her relationship with him as being "brilliant".

After her parents split up, she had concerns for his mental health because he was "very down" afterwards.

If he had a confidante in the family, it was probably her, she accepted. In those early months, she was ringing him "every 20 minutes", she told the court, explaining that it was just "a quick phone call".

It was about nine months before she could say: "Yeah, there's Daddy again."

She agreed with the lawyers that he had got his love of life back.

He had told her about a row he'd had with Mary Lowry on a trip away in Bundoran, the last weekend before he died.

Michelle told him to 'P45' her. "He didn't need that in his life," she said.

As far as she knew, the relationship ended on the Tuesday before he disappeared.

Robert Junior told the trial how he had called to Mary Lowry's farm in Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, on the day of his father's disappearance.

She was shaking, he said, describing her demeanour as if she had just walked out of a car accident.

"I don't know where he is. We didn't have a row," he claims she had "mumbled" to him.

She had mentioned something about a river but he said this was "lies" and told her: "Daddy never said anything to me about a f****** river."

He said he got a feeling "straight away something wasn't right" and added: "I knew something wasn't right about the way she was acting."

He refused to give her his phone number, explaining to the court that he didn't know why but that he "just didn't want her to have it".

Mary Ryan, the former wife of Bobby Ryan, told the court that she had married Bobby in 1986 and they had two children. After many years, differences arose between them and they grew apart, she said.

Eventually, they separated.

"We were more like friends than husband and wife at that point," she said.

She was aware of his relationship with Mary Lowry, saying: "I was happy for him, why wouldn't I be?"

Mary Glasheen told the court that she dated Bobby Ryan in 2008, they met at the Times Hotel in Tipperary town and would go to dances there and at Pat Fox's in Cashel.

They went out for three months and remained friends afterwards.

When Mr Ryan met Mary Lowry, she was happy for them. "They seemed happy," she said.

He invited her to come along with them on the trip to Bundoran to see showband The Indians play.

But she did not want to go, she explained to the court, saying that they were a couple, though she might have gone if other people had been going too.

The snapshot of Bobby shown by witness Eileen Barlow, a long-time friend of Mary Lowry, told of their first meeting in the Times Hotel in August 2010. Bobby had asked Mary to dance and Ms Barlow noticed she was "so alive" on the dance floor.

She asked Bobby to look after Mary because she needed "a refuge".

When she met them some months later, they seemed "very joyous", said Eileen.

Tommy Lowry told the court he and his two younger brothers had been happy when their mother, Mary Lowry, had met Bobby Ryan.

"We got on well - Bobby was funny, he'd always try and crack a joke," he said. "There was no problems - we were all happy that mam was happy and Bobby was happy too."

He conceded his younger brother Jack had given Bobby a "hard time, slagging him about being bald", but said he was young at the time and "it was all fun and games".

He also told the court he did not like spending time with Patrick Quirke.

The families had gone on holidays together, and asked how he had felt about that, Tommy replied: "I didn't like to spend time with him. I didn't like it one bit. It's just the way it was."

When Tommy's father died of cancer in 2007, the farm had been leased to Pat Quirke, he said.

"As time went on, I felt that he came into the house a lot more and made himself at home," he added.

"I didn't feel like he belonged inside my house but he was there."

Meanwhile, the court heard from two brothers of the deceased Martin Lowry.

Jimmy Lowry said he was happy that his sister-in-law Mary had met Bobby Ryan.

Asked how Pat Quirke and Martin had got on, Mr Lowry replied: "Quite well."

Asked who knew of the existence of the tank where Bobby Ryan's body was discovered, he said: "As far as I know, myself, my brother, Johnny and Pat."

Johnny Lowry told the court that he had met Bobby Ryan and found him "grand".

Asked about the relationship between Mary Lowry and Pat Quirke after Martin's death, Mr Lowry said: "They seemed to be close. Closer than normal." Asked whether he was aware of anything going on, he replied: "No, but I had my suspicions."

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News