Thursday 24 October 2019

Nicola Anderson: 'For the first time in the love rival trial, we heard the voice of murder accused Patrick Quirke'


Patrick Quirke leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins
Patrick Quirke leaving court yesterday. Photo: Collins
Mary Lowry. Photo: Tony Gavin
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Up until this week, it had been a case of setting the scene. We learnt of the landscape, of the events as they had transpired, and the narratives of key witnesses.

It had almost been easy to forget the presence of the man seated on his own in courtroom 13 - the person at the centre of these legal proceedings, Patrick Quirke.

But for the first time, he came into sharp focus and we heard the voice of the Tipperary farmer himself, through the viewfinder of his initial Garda interviews.

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

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

Inspector David Buckley told the trial that as one of the first gardaí called to the scene on April 20, 2013, after the discovery of Mr Ryan's remains, he had invited Mr Quirke to accompany him to the station in Tipperary Town to take a "cautioned memo of interview" regarding what had occurred on the farm.

He had informed Mr Quirke that he was not obliged to go and stressed upon him that he was not under arrest.

Mr Quirke said he was happy to accompany them and he sat into the back of the patrol car.

At the Garda station, they proceeded to the interview room and Mr Quirke was handed an article on the regulations regarding the recording of interviews.

Insp Buckley unwrapped some fresh tapes in Mr Quirke's presence. He was asked if he had a mobile phone and agreed to hand it over by consent, to have it downloaded and examined. And then the interview got underway.

"You discovered a body on back of Mary Lowry's land earlier today," Inspector Buckley began, and Mr Quirke replied, "Yes."

He was asked how he came to find the remains.

"I went to empty the slurry tanks to spread the slurry," he said, explaining that he had borrowed a tractor with an agitator from a neighbour.

"The slurry was very thick and I needed more water," he said.

"I knew there was water in the old septic tank," he added, telling the garda about a leak in the milking parlour pipes which serviced that tank.

He went there to suck out water but when he opened the lid, noticed that there was something down there.

"I could see plastic," he said, adding that he thought at first it was "a dummy or an inflatable doll".

"The water was all sucked up at this stage so I turned off the tanker and opened the other lid. I could see clearly it was a body. I was shocked," he said.

He rang his wife Imelda but it took three calls to get through to her. He knew she was at her sister-in-law's and did not want to panic her. She asked him if he wanted a lift and he said he did.

"I wanted to wait for her 'til I did anything else," he told gardaí.

She got there in about 10 minutes and he went down to the gate to meet her, explaining: "I just wanted to meet her as quick as I could, I just panicked."

"When she got over the shock, she rang Tom Neville," he said, of the garda she had contacted that day.

"We waited, then ye all came out."

Asked if he was on his own on the farm that day, he said that he was supposed to have a student with him but he was sick. "He got a kick from a cow last Friday and he's out since," he explained.

Put to him that it was late in the year to be spreading slurry, Mr Quirke replied: "Yes but the year is late."

Insp Buckley told the trial that he distinctly recalled looking Mr Quirke up and down and noticing "no sign of dirt".

He put it to him that he was "fairly clean for a man doing a dirty job", and Mr Quirke replied that he was "only getting into the dirty part, mixing the slurry".

During the course of that interview, he spoke of his relationship with Mary Lowry, the owner of the farm at Fawnagowan.

Asked if he knew Bobby Ryan, he told gardaí he had met him three times - the first time at Hayes's Hotel in Thurles, the second at a social night in Clonmel when he and his wife Imelda went out with Bobby and Mary, and the third time was "just a chance meeting" at the office in Killough Quarry.

At this point in the interview, Mr Quirke asked if he thought he would be able to get his tractor back this evening, and the garda replied: "That I don't know at the moment."

Asked if he approved of the relationship between Mr Ryan and Mary Lowry, he said: "Well, I'm sure you know I had an affair with Mary Lowry. But I didn't disapprove of it," adding that there was "no animosity between me and Bobby Ryan".

He described the DJ as "happy-go-lucky".

Questioned as to whether the relationship had ended "good or bad", Mr Quirke said it had been "mixed", explaining that he had wanted to keep it "friendly" as they were "family as such".

Asked if he had been "jealous", he said no.

"You just took it on the chin," gardaí put it to him, and Mr Quirke replied: "No," adding, "What else could I do but take it on the chin."

He had never exchanged heated words with Mr Ryan.

Asked if he had met Bobby Ryan leaving Mary's house that morning, Mr Quirke said no, and asked if he had known his body was there all along, Mr Quirke replied: "No. These are nice questions, now, lads."

Mr Quirke said that "like everyone", he had "hunches" about what had happened to Mr Ryan.

"Everyone had notions, was he attacked, did he leave for Spain," he said.

He described Mary Lowry as having a "couldn't-care-less attitude" about it that he found "intriguing".

She gave "strange" answers to questions about it.

He said he had asked her "on and off on different occasions" if she had heard any car drive in to the yard that morning but she said she was certain a car didn't drive into the yard.

"I found this answer strange because on several occasions I was in the bedroom with her and the doorbell would ring and you couldn't be certain if a car had driven into the yard," Mr Quirke said.

Asked why he didn't show gardaí the tank in the search of 2011, he said: "I didn't think of it. I thought it was laughable to be emptying the slurry tank." Asked if this was because he knew the body was there, he said no.

He described the tank as one that he "wouldn't pay attention to".

"It couldn't have been easy to see her carrying on with Bobby Ryan - it has to have bothered you," gardaí put it to him.

"No more than it was for her to see me with my wife," Mr Quirke replied.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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