Sunday 15 September 2019

Patrick Quirke found guilty: The key players in the 'Mr Moonlight' trial

Patrick Quirke. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Patrick Quirke. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Robert Ryan Jnr. and Michelle Ryan the children of Bobby Ryan pictured leaving the CCJ after Patrick Quirke was convicted of his murder. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Mary Lowry leaving the CCJ. Photo: Mark Condren
Imelda Quirke pictured leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The key players:

Pat Quirke

Murderer was described as forceful and controlling man who manipulated widow

At Bobby Ryan's funeral in May 2013, his daughter Michelle told the congregation: "God didn't take daddy from us, someone else playing God did that."

That person was Pat Quirke.

It is an irony of most murder trials that of all the people involved in the proceedings, we probably know least about the person who is actually on trial - unless they actually give evidence.

Quirke (50) was a talented dairy farmer and, among the agriculture industry, was considered one of the top 50 dairy farmers in the country.

In 2001, he was awarded a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, a prestigious programme that saw him travel to New Zealand and the United States as well as throughout Europe to study dairy co-operative movements. At that time, he was also chairman of the IFA Dairy Committee in South Tipperary.

In 2005, he gave an interview to the 'Farming Independent' talking about his investments, saying he had grown the farm from 67 acres to 115 acres over the preceding decade.

He was also heavily involved in off-farm investment, and remortgaged the family home to buy three houses.

Quirke was described by Mary Lowry during the trial as a forceful, controlling person who manipulated her ever since her husband died.

He was jealous of her new relationship with Mr Ryan and sought to break them up, even urging Ms Lowry's brother to 'have a word' with her.

Quirke sought medical advice from his GP because he wasn't sleeping following his breakup with Ms Lowry. He also had counselling.

Ms Lowry's son Tommy described Quirke as "a very overpowering guy who told us to keep away from his stuff".

"I didn't like to spend time with him. I didn't like it one bit. It's just the way it was," he said.

Tommy's brother Jack, however, recalled how he always got on well with him in the early years, and particularly with his son, Alan.

Artificial insemination technician Breda O'Dwyer painted Quirke as a man who was meticulous and precise.

He would always be "washed up, the place spotless and on his way to breakfast" when she would call to his farm at Breanshamore, in springtime.

Married to Imelda Lowry, the couple had three boys.

However, 14 months after the disappearance of Mr Ryan, their son Alan (11) died in the family's farmyard at Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, in August 2012 - tragically and accidentally struck by his father's 4x4.

The accident happened as his father was leaving to travel the short distance to his dairy farm for the routine evening milking.

Alan had been with his friends at the house when he attempted to jump on to his dad's 4x4 and livestock trailer as it pulled away from the house, but he lost his footing.

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Patrick Quirke

Bobby Ryan

'Wow... He was a brilliant father with a great personality'

The longer the trial went on, the more poignant became the photograph of Bobby Ryan with his kindly round face and twinkling eyes.

Not a single bad word was uttered about him.

He was a truck driver at a quarry, a part-time DJ on the side, who delighted in the pleasures of playing to a crowd.

"Wow," was the word Michelle Ryan used in court to describe her father.

He was "one of a kind", she said, "a brilliant father with a great personality".

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.

They would still go out for a meal or a drink "if he was up to nothing", she told the court, describing him as "bubbly, kind, liked dancing, happy".

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

Michelle described how her parents had split up when she was around 18 or 19 and she and her brother, Robert Jnr, lived with her father.

She described her relationship with him as "brilliant". After her parents split up, she had concerns for his mental health because he was "very down" afterwards.

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

Put to her that over the course of that time, he had got his love of life back, Michelle said: "Correct."

In terms of work, he was "precise", she said. "You could set your clock by him, that's the type of man that he was," she said.

"If he was running late he would ring but that man would make sure he was never running late," she added.

Then, at the weekends, he would always be "playing his music - putting on a smile. He was... one of a kind," said Michelle.

As DJ Mr Moonlight, he would play local venues, mostly Pat Foxes Pub in Cashel, Co Tipperary. She got into being a DJ through him.

"He was Mr Moonlight and I was Shelley Moonlight," she told the court.

Her brother Robert was asked to describe Bobby Ryan generally, he said: "Happy, yeah, yeah, always a bit of craic."

His father had had a few girlfriends or friends since his marriage had broken up a number of years before.

He said it was around Christmas 2010 that he noticed it seemed to be serious between his father and Mary Lowry.

Mary herself spoke glowingly of Bobby, saying: "I loved him to bits. He made me laugh. He made my children happy. What more could you want?"

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Patrick Quirke left the body of Bobby Ryan (pictured) in a run-off tank after killing him

Mary Lowry

'I was led to have an affair - I was a vulnerable young woman with three small children, lost'

All eyes were on Mary Lowry over her four days of evidence during which she "bared her soul" for the benefit of the prosecution.

An attractive and articulate woman, she had people flocking to the courtroom in a hope of catching a glance of her.

"Look, it's not easy talk - it's embarrassing," she admitted in her first day on the stand but she stood courageous, laying everything out in the open to be picked over by the lawyers.

A series of robust exchanges with Bernard Condon SC, for the defence, marked her third day in the witness box as he accused her of telling lies and of painting Pat Quirke in as bad a light as possible.

He claimed she had made up the detail that she thought it "unusual" he was on her farm at 8.30am on the morning of Bobby Ryan's disappearance and that he looked "hot, sweaty and bothered looking".

"I've bared my soul in this court case and it's the truth," she insisted.

Born Mary Quigley, she was the third of six children, her father a small farmer with 15 acres in the Newport area of north Tipperary.

She worked for a meat company for 14 years, doing accounts and reception, and then met her husband, Martin, in a nightclub in Limerick. There was no "big romantic proposal," she told the court. "He didn't get down on one knee."

The couple built on an extension to Martin's family home at Fawnagown and had three children, Tommy, Jack and Michéal.

In 2007, Martin was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in September of that year.

His death notice described Mary as his "loving wife and best friend".

She was left in a good financial situation thanks to a life insurance policy and she inherited the family farm.

Her relationship with Quirke began in January 2008. She described it as a "sordid" and "seedy" affair of which she was "ashamed".

"I was led to have an affair. I was a very vulnerable young woman with three small children, lost," she told the trial.

"I'd loved my husband to bits - he died of cancer, I went to every appointment. My life had fallen apart. Pat Quirke tried to come in and control everything. They were the facts."

In 2010, she met Bobby Ryan and their relationship developed.

"We were having a very good time. He was good fun. I loved him to bits. He made me laugh. He made my children happy. What more could you want?" she asked.

When Bobby disappeared, her affair with Quirke resumed but it wasn't the same as it had been before, she said.

She began seeing Flor Cantillon in 2012 and was unaware one of their conversations at her home had been secretly recorded by Quirke.

On the day Bobby's remains were discovered in a tank on her farm, Mary left her home at Fawnagown for good and never returned.

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Mary Lowry leaving the CCJ. Photo: Mark Condren

Imelda Quirke

Trial took a physical toll on long-suffering wife Imelda

The long-suffering wife of defendant Patrick Quirke, Imelda, accompanied him faithfully to court every day.

The couple travelled up and down from Limerick Junction by train - a gruelling ordeal, even without the daily trauma inflicted upon her by the evidence she heard mounting up against her husband, the open discussion of his affair and the mention of the tragic death of their son Alan (11) in 2012.

Having already been through so much in recent years, since the loss of her son and the fallout of the discovery of Bobby Ryan's remains in 2013, the trial took a marked physical toll upon her.

Already small and slight, Ms Quirke lost a considerable amount of weight and appeared frozen and sometimes bewildered by what she was hearing.

But she never lost her composure throughout the 13 long weeks of evidence, and she was attentive to her husband in the courtroom, passing him bottles of water and checking to see how he was. Sometimes, she was accompanied by her eldest son.

The couple ate lunch together and, at least once, took a lunchtime stroll in the Phoenix Park.

At one stage, Ms Quirke had a good relationship with her sister-in-law Mary Lowry, who was married to Ms Quirke's brother, Martin.

When Martin passed away, Ms Lowry and her three boys would join the Quirke family for holidays abroad, staying in luxury villas in Spain and Portugal.

Her husband began an affair with Ms Lowry in January 2008 and, asked about it by gardaí, he said he thought his wife "probably" knew, but she never said anything to him about it.

On the day of Mr Ryan's disappearance, Quirke took his wife away for the weekend for her birthday, staying in the Heritage Hotel in Portlaoise. They were "getting on well", he told gardaí.

Ms Quirke was the first person he told about the presence of Mr Ryan's body in the tank.

When a garda put it to Quirke that if it had been his wife, he would not have wanted her to see the body in the tank, Quirke replied that his wife always knew what to do.

In 2012, after Ms Lowry began to see Flor Cantillon, Quirke told his wife about the affair and Ms Lowry sent Ms Quirke a card saying "sorry".

Quirke told gardaí his wife was "furious" and tore up the card.

Explaining to gardaí why he had told his wife about the affair, he said: "I needed to know if our marriage could survive it. I needed to be honest."

In his letter to agony aunt Patricia Redlich, which formed part of the evidence, Quirke wrote: "My wife has been a tremendous support and loves me deeply. Ironically, this almost makes things worse."

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Patrick Quirke leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice with his wife Imelda. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Irish Independent

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