Tuesday 20 August 2019

Sex tapes and Joe O'Reilly internet searches: the evidence the 'love rival' jury didn't get to hear

Pleaded not guilty: Patrick Quirke departs the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Pleaded not guilty: Patrick Quirke departs the Criminal Courts of Justice. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

“SEX tapes” of Patrick Quirke and Mary Lowry, as well as of Quirke and his wife, Imelda, were discovered by gardaí on Quirke’s computer.

However the three intimate audio recordings were not put before the jury because they were deemed potentially prejudicial since the judge said they touched on Quirke’s “strange proclivity.”

A garda reconstruction of the discovery of Bobby Ryan’s remains in the tank was also ruled out by the judge, on the grounds that the evidence it offered was “frail.”

While the jury was prevented from hearing evidence that Mr Quirke had visited a blog with the title: “Why Joe O’Reilly thought he had committed the perfect murder,” on the basis that it could be ‘prejudicial.’

The recordings of Quirke’s sexual activities were amongst the evidence found on his computer hard drive taken from his house in a garda search.

However they were not heard by the jury after Judge Eileen Creedon decided they offered no benefit, since there was “very little dialogue” between the parties involved.

She said she had been persuaded by the defence that the tapes touched on the sexual behaviour of the accused and his “strange proclivity”and therefore might be prejudicial.

The prosecution told the judge they had provided the court with four recordings but the judge said that when she had played the memory stick provided to her, she only heard two.

She was told three were of an intimate nature.

Detective Garda Paul Fitzpatrick of the National Cyber Crime Bureau told the court in the absence of the jury that he associated the recordings with a Nokia mobile phone.

The defence argued that the computer evidence, including the searches for human decomposition, should be excluded in full as it could not be established that Quirke was operating the computer.

They also sought to have the tape of the conversation between Mary Lowry and Flor Cantillon, secretly recorded by Quirke, ruled out, claiming the matter had not been properly investigated.

They described the tapes as “highly prejudicial” and “proved nothing.”

Bernard Condon SC said the jury must be instructed that they could draw no inference on how the material ended up on his client’s computer, “if not we are into the realm of speculation because it has never been investigated.”

Mary Lowry. Photo: Collins
Mary Lowry. Photo: Collins

He argued the recordings had never been put to Pat Quirke in interviews.

However Michael Bowman SC for the prosecution said: “The tapes described as sex tapes were dealt with on two separate occasions and on each occasion, the defendant chose to exercise his rights.”

Mr Bowman said the fact that there was a recording between Mary Lowry and Flor Cantillon taken out of Mr Quirke’s property would be established by facts.

“We can’t say how it came to happen,” he said.

He said the court would warn the jury not to speculate on any element of the case.

And he said the recording was important since it ‘clearly communicates’ the interest Mr Quirke had regarding Mr Cantillon and Ms Lowry.

Judge Creedon ruled the material in - however said internet searches for Jo Jo Dullard, Siobhan Kearney and Joe O’Reilly could not be put before the jury since these were “notorious cases about which many people could conduct searches and could be prejudicial.”

The prosecution had sought to have the two rectangular concrete lids of the run-off tank brought into the courtroom to be shown before the jury.

However the defence counsel objected strenuously to this suggestion, with Bernard Condon SC describing the exercise as “entirely unnecessary”.

“This is a piece of theatre - the doors of this court will open and these enormous slabs will be rolled into court and guards will huff and puff as they bring them in,” he said.

The jury would be urged: ”Have a look at these, look at these massive slabs,” he added.

He dismissed the bid as: “a piece of rank theatre, it adds nothing to this case, a piece of high theatre.”

David Humphries BL for the prosecution objected to Mr Condon’s remarks, saying: “This is a matter that can be organised so that there is no huffing and puffing.”

“This is not a piece of theatre, not for titillation,” he said, adding: "This goes to a real issue in the case. It goes to the ability of various persons with access to the farm to move these slabs.”

However Judge Eileen Creedon in the end decided that the introduction of the slabs into the courtroom was “not necessary.”

In a ‘voir dire’ or trial within a trial conducted in the absence of the jury, the Judge heard that in June 2014, the team investigating the murder of Bobby Ryan staged a ‘tank reconstruction’ at the scene at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary.

The aim was to recreate, with the aid of photographs, the scene at the run-off tank on the day the body was discovered – April 30, 2013.

Gardaí were interested in testing Patrick Quirke’s theory that he could see a ‘foreign object’ or ‘plastic dummy’ through the wedge gap that emerged as he pushed a pipe into the tank to draw water.

Mr Quirke had claimed he had prised one of the concrete lids aside using a shovel and put a suction pipe through the gap to draw whatever water was there.

As the water was being sucked up he noticed what he thought was a plastic dummy or an inflatable doll in the tank. He turned off the pump and pulled off the second slab, which he said was easier to move. He said: ‘I could see clearly it was a body.’

Gardaí were keen to test this claim and so on June 11 2014, Inspector Patrick O’Callaghan went to Fawnagowan to inform Mary Lowry that they would be carrying out a reconstruction.

He then went to the local hardware store and bought some insulation slabs and heavy duty plastic.

The following morning, at around 7.30am, he met with a team of gardai, organised by Sergeant Deborah Walsh.

The area around the tank was overgrown, he said, with half of the roof still on. This was taken off to carry out the reconstruction.

Insp O’Callaghan said it was a ‘sunny day’ with the sun was high in the sky.

At 10.45am Detective Garda John Grant, the scenes of crime manager, who attended at the scene on April 30, arrived with Garda John Kavanagh, the original scenes photographer.

As Insp O’Callaghan supervised the reconstruction, Garda Kavanagh took photos and several short videos.

The insulation slabs were placed on top of the tank, replacing the concrete slabs that were on it the day the body was found.

A white, life-size, training dummy, provided by the fire service, was dressed in a crime scene suit and placed in the tank.

"We pulled back the nearest lid and put a pipe down, similar to the pipe Patrick Quirke used on the day of the discovery," said Insp O’Callaghan in court.

The inspector said he looked down into the tank and could see "absolutely nothing."

“It was dark. The pipe disappeared into it. You could see nothing else,” he said.

After the second slab was lifted he said that he could see the ‘head of the dummy and light trace of remainder.’

The exercise finished at 1pm.

Insp O’Callaghan told that court that prior to the reconstruction, he had received Pat Quirke’s account, in which he stated that he looked in and saw what he thought was a plastic dummy.

“I could see nothing,” said Insp O’Callaghan of his own reconstruction.

In his statement about the exercise, Insp O’Callaghan said that given what he had been able to view during the reconstruction, he had “no hesitation in saying Pat Quirke could not have seen the actual remains of Bobby Ryan and furthermore could not say he was naked.”

Lorcan Staines, SC for the defence, put it to Insp O’Callaghan that the transcript of Mr Quirke’s description of what he said he saw was incorrect.

Investigators had incorrectly typed ‘I hadn’t taken the second lid off,’ instead of ‘had.’

This had resulted in the Inspector wrongly assuming that Pat Quirke was describing what he saw through the triangular wedge gap when in fact he had also taken the second lid off, giving a better view underneath.

Inspector O’Callaghan said he accepted that but added, ‘that’s that part but go back to the other disclosure at the start. He said dummy…my view is that he couldn’t have seen that.’

Detective Garda John Grant, who also attended the reconstruction, told the court that he ‘could see nothing’ when he looked through the opening created by the pipe.

Once the second slab was removed, ‘there was an outline’ but he could not definitely say it was a body.

Several short videos of the reconstruction, each about 30 seconds long, were played in court.

They showed Garda Conor Ryan in the tank, being told were to put the training dummy and a pipe being placed down in between the plastic slabs.

Mr Staines challenged the reliability of the reconstruction, saying there had been “an utter lack of scientific thought” put into a process that should have been a scientific exercise, taking into account the time of day, the shadows created by the sun and the size of the wedge angle.

He said that the ‘tomfoolery’ seen in the videos would never have happened if gardai had enlisted an engineer to assist.

Judge Creedon found in favour of the defence and ruled out the reconstruction, based on the ‘frailty in the evidence of the witnesses.’

Meanwhile the jury also did not hear Michelle Ryan’s claim that her father, Bobby, had informed her that Pat Quirke had warned him to “stay away from Mary Lowry” at a Brendan Grace concert they had all attended.

The defence objected to this being put before the jury on the basis that it was hearsay.

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