Saturday 21 September 2019

Quirke's 'macabre' Google searches not evidence of murder, jury is told

Court arrival: Patrick Quirke and his wife Imelda yesterday. Photo: Collins
Court arrival: Patrick Quirke and his wife Imelda yesterday. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The jury in the Tipperary 'love rival' murder trial has been told it cannot convict someone on the basis of online computer searches.

Bernard Condon SC, for the accused Patrick Quirke, said there was "no hard evidence" his client murdered Bobby Ryan, a part-time DJ also known as Mr Moonlight.

Mr Condon asked the jury to apply "fairness" when considering Google searches which were conducted on Mr Quirke's computer for "DNA" and "human body decomposition timeline".

The searches took place months before Mr Ryan's body was found in an underground tank at a farm in Co Tipperary in April 2013.

On the third and final day of his closing statement at the Central Criminal Court, Mr Condon told the jury of six men and six women they should be aware of the "substantial limitations" of the computer evidence.

He said they could not say the searches were linked to the murder case.

The barrister also said there was "a great risk of an enormous leap being made" by the jury, when the height of the prosecution's case was that the searches were suspicious.

Mr Condon said there was nothing in the searches about bodies decomposing in water or an airtight container.

He asked the jury what weight they could put on the searches and said that while they may have been "macabre", people do the strangest things on their computers. This was just a fact of life, he said.

If Mr Quirke was the killer and wanted to know what condition the body was in, he could have lifted the lid on the tank to look, Mr Condon said.

The defence barrister also played down the significance of searches of the RTÉ website for news about Mr Ryan.

"I don't think there was a person in Tipperary who didn't look up Bobby Ryan," he said.

Mr Quirke (50), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of his alleged love rival Mr Ryan (52) on a date between June 3, 2011, and April 2013.

The prosecution alleges Mr Quirke killed Mr Ryan so he could rekindle his affair with Mary Lowry, the widow whose farm Mr Quirke was leasing.

She was Mr Ryan's girlfriend at the time of his disappearance. The trial heard Mr Ryan left her house at Fawnagown, Co Tipperary, at 6.30am on the morning of June 3, 2011, and his body was discovered in an underground tank on the farm 22 months later.

Mr Condon finished his eight-hour closing speech yesterday. The court will not sit again until next Tuesday when Ms Justice Eileen Creedon will deliver her charge to the jury before it begins deliberating.

In his closing speech, Mr Condon said a note found in Mr Quirke's house was "of very little relevance" to the case.

The prosecution has suggested the note was written prior to Mr Quirke being questioned by gardaí in April 2013 and some of it was consistent with answers given in the interview. But Mr Condon told the jury it was more likely it was written afterwards.

The note contained questions about Ms Lowry.

"Why wouldn't Mr Quirke be suspicious of Mary Lowry?" Mr Condon asked jurors.

"You might say he is a nosey parker," he said.

But this "was a very long way away from finding he was a killer", said Mr Condon.

He pointed out Mr Quirke told gardaí he was "inquisitive by nature".

Mr Condon said where there were two versions of events possible on the evidence, the jury had to accept the one favourable to the defence.

Earlier, Mr Condon told the jury there was "no hard evidence" against his client and also raised questions about the Garda investigation.

The barrister said the jury had been presented with "a forensically barren landscape" and many unanswered questions. He likened the jury's job to that of a scientist. They had "a huge decision" to make and needed to approach things with scepticism and test the theories put forward.

Mr Quirke claims to have found the body when he was going about agitating slurry, but gardaí believed this was a "staged" discovery.

The defence counsel criticised the investigation, saying prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC had said gardaí could have done better when the body was found as there was a failure to video its removal from the tank.

Mr Condon said there was no search of Ms Lowry's house at the time of the disappearance. The house was only searched 22 months later after being redecorated.

The barrister said the Garda sub aqua team should have been used to recover Mr Ryan's body and not the fire brigade team that did.

He criticised the failure of gardaí to keep the water from the tank which had been collected in a vacuum tanker.

Mr Condon also pointed out the pathologist who conducted the post-mortem examination, Dr Khalid Jaber, did not go to the scene.

Professor Jack Crane, the former state pathologist for Northern Ireland, who appeared as a prosecution witness, "had difficulty reading Dr Jaber's notes", while Dr Michael Curtis, the acting State Pathologist, said the approach taken on the day was "suboptimal", Mr Condon told the jury.

Irish Independent

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