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Thursday 22 August 2019

Mr Moonlight murder: Echoes of OJ Simpson lawsuit as Bobby Ryan's children take civil case against Patrick Quirke

Seeking damages: Robert and Michelle Ryan, with a photo of their murdered father, Bobby. Photo: Collins Courts
Seeking damages: Robert and Michelle Ryan, with a photo of their murdered father, Bobby. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

It was a trial that gripped the nation during the 15 weeks it played out in the Central Criminal Court.

Now the Tipperary "love-rival" murder case, as it became widely known, is set to have a sequel in the civil courts.

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The son and daughter of slain quarry worker and part-time DJ Bobby Ryan have initiated personal injury proceedings against his killer Patrick Quirke in the High Court.

The full details of their cases have yet to be fleshed out, but it is thought the siblings will seek damages from farmer Quirke for the suffering and distress caused by their father's disappearance and murder.

While there is plenty of precedent in Ireland for loved ones to sue a healthcare provider for failings which had fatal consequences, civil actions against killers are rare enough.

The practice is certainly nowhere near as common as in the US, where the most high-profile example was the civil suit brought against former American football player and actor OJ Simpson.

Although Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in a criminal trial, a civil trial jury found him "responsible".

Millions of dollars in damages were awarded to his children and the victims' families.

More recently, a wrongful death civil suit over the murder in North Carolina of Limerick man Jason Corbett by his wife Molly Martens and father-in-law Thomas Martens was settled with the result that $750,000 (€669,000) will be paid into a trust for his two children.

While quite rare in the Irish courts, lawsuits against killers are not unheard of and can result in significant damages being awarded.

In 2012, for example, Margaret Madden, whose husband Terence was the target of a contract shooting outside his Co Sligo home, was awarded more than €700,000 against his killers. She sued four men involved in the murder.

A court heard she herself suffered a heart attack as her husband bled to death.

The largest component of the award, some €550,000, was for loss of income as a result of the death of her husband. A further €150,000 was awarded for nervous shock.

While the perpetrators of the murder did not defend the civil action in the Madden case, it would appear likely Quirke will fight the lawsuit being taken by his victim's children.

He has always denied killing Bobby Ryan and is currently seeking to appeal his conviction.

However, if the precedent set by the Madden case is anything to go by, Robert Ryan Jr and his sister Michelle could expect to be awarded substantial damages against Quirke if they are successful.

Whether they would be able to recover such an award from him is another question though.

Quirke received legal aid to cover the costs of his trial, which heard of alleged financial difficulties.

The precise state of his finances when he was jailed is unknown.

Although he had 120 cattle and farmed 160 acres, just 50 acres were his own, with the rest leased or rented.

And while at one point he made money gambling on shares, it has been suggested he also lost considerable sums speculating on the stock market and in foreign property investments.

Irish Independent

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