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Parents' pain as Manuela's last days are relived

HANS-PETER Riedo broke down in tears as he heard the horrific injuries his daughter suffered when she was killed on a barren piece of waste ground near Galway city. His wife Arlette hugged him tightly. It was his 53rd birthday.

His only child, 17-year-old Manuela, was in Galway with her classmates for an intensive English course when she was killed on October 8, 2007, only three days after arriving in Ireland.

Her semi-naked body was found in bushes a short distance from a railway track at Lough Atalia. She had been strangled and a patch of skin two inches by three had been removed from her groin. A clean edge to the wound indicated this was the work of a knife, rather than wild animals.

Her coat had been put over her face and upper body, held down by a large stone. Items of her clothing formed a trail from the footpath to the clearing where her body lay. A used condom was hanging from a nearby bush.

DNA analysis of the condom and its contents matched the profile of the accused, Gerald Barry. Samples taken from the outside of the condom showed a mix of male and female DNA profiles which matched those of accused and Manuela Riedo.

Mr Barry, 28, with an address at Rosan Glas, Rahoon, Galway, denies murdering Manuela Riedo at Lough Atalia on October 8. He has pleaded guilty to stealing her mobile phone and digital camera at the same place and time.

Chief State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy told the court last week that Manuela had died from asphyxiation. Someone had pressed down so hard on her neck that the thin gold chain she wore with two small gold crosses had bitten in and left a lasting mark.

Her attacker had probably pressed down on her neck with his forearm, overpowering her. There were no telltale scratches on her neck to indicate a struggle. She had four separate injuries to her head, possibly the result of punches and slaps.

Manuela has arrived in Galway with 42 of her schoolmates and two teachers on Saturday, October 6. This was the third year her school in Berne had sent a group to take an intensive English course. They were to stay for two weeks.

Photographs taken from the memory card of her camera show a smiling Manuela. In one, she is standing beside her close friend, Azaria Maurer, outside a traditional Irish pub. Another photograph, taken by Manuela the day she died, shows the classroom she was to be spending most of her time in, a souvenir of the trip. Azaria told the court that they had learnt of the shortcut into town along the railway from "someone in the school".

She and Manuela, as well as other students staying in the Renmore area, had used the route, known locally as "the line", several times in those few days.

She said that they had walked into town that way when they had gone to the King's Head Pub to meet their classmates on the Sunday evening. The following morning, they met at the barracks in Renmore to take the same route in to the language school for 9am lessons.

After classes, they headed back to the King's Head and, as the two girls walked back to Renmore together at around 5pm, they arranged to meet back in the pub following their evening meal.

Azaria wept as she told the court she had not arranged to meet her friend at the barracks in Renmore that evening. They were due to eat at different times, so were planning to meet in the pub. It was to be the last time she saw her friend when they parted to go back to their respective hosts.

Martin Tierney, the father of the house where Manuela was staying, told the court he had warned the teenager about taking the shortcut alone. He had been watching television with his two sons that Monday evening when Manuela stuck her head round the living room door, sometime between seven and eight o'clock, to tell him she was going out. It was the last time he saw her alive.

Mr Barry told gardai he got up at around 3 or 4pm that day. According to mobile phone evidence, he sent a text message to Melissa Curran from Flannery's Hotel in Renmore just before 7pm. Ms Curran is the mother of one of his three children.

At around 7.20pm he made another call, which was bounced off a mast at Lough Atalia, near where Manuela's body would be found the next morning.

The next call made from his mobile phone to Melissa Curran, an hour later, was routed through the same mast, according to Fergus O'Toole, an engineer with Meteor. A few minutes later, according to evidence given by his brother-in-law Dennis Ward, Mr Barry called him and they arranged to meet outside Supermacs on Shop St in the centre of Galway City.

In his initial interviews with gardai, Mr Barry denied being in town that evening. He said he had been driving around with his brother and Mr Ward for most of the evening. They had gone back to Mr Ward's house and watched Banged Up Abroad on TV. He had got a lift back to his sister's apartment, where he was living, and was in bed by around 11.30pm.

Mr Barry denied being in Galway city that evening and said that he had no knowledge of the dead girl.

He said that the last time he had walked along "the line" was around three weeks previously, when he had gone to visit his mother in Mervue.

On October 17, he sold his sister's boyfriend, Mark Kealy, Manuela's Sony Ericsson mobile phone. He deleted some numbers from the phone before handing it over but there were still some text messages written in German in the memory. The next day, when gardai searched his house and arrested him, Manuela's digital camera was found under the mattress in the room he stayed in. The trial will continue after the St Patrick's Day holiday.