Wednesday, 8 Feb 2023

Murder trial jury visits farm where body of accused's 'love rival' found

The judge suggested that the jury of six women and six men wear Wellington boots, as they planned their trip to the farm to view the relevant buildings and surrounding land.

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon told them that they travelled to Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, not as investigators but as observers. They were not to take photographs or carry out their own experiments, she warned.

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The visit took place yesterday, on day three of the trial of Patrick Quirke (50), the farmer who stands accused of murdering a man alleged to have been his love rival, and of concealing his naked body in a run-off tank.

Mr Quirke, of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, denies the murder of Bobby Ryan (52), a DJ known as Mr Moonlight, on a date unknown between June 3 2011 and April 2013.

Prosecutors claim Mr Quirke did this in the hope of rekindling an affair with Mary Lowry, the widow of his deceased best friend and brother-in-law Martin Lowry – the brother of his own wife, Imelda.

Michael Bowman SC opened the trial, saying the prosecution will use circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of the accused.

There would be no “smoking gun evidence or act caught on CCTV”, he told the jury.

Instead, they would be presented with a range of evidence that, when put together like strands of a rope, would “logically communicate the guilt of the accused”, he said.

Mr Bowman said the accused started an affair in 2008 with Mary Lowry after her husband’s death. She had inherited the family farm but had no interest in farming it so Mr Quirke leased about 63 acres from her. He had offered her help on the farm and their friendship had deepened.

They continued the relationship in secret until she ended it in 2010. The jury was told that Mr Quirke was allegedly unhappy because the relationship had ended, though he continued to have access to the farm under a seven-year lease agreement.

In August of that year, Mary Lowry met Bobby Ryan, a quarry worker and local DJ who went by the name Mr Moonlight.

“It is manifestly clear to Patrick Quirke that he could not compete with Bobby Ryan for Mary Ryan’s affection and he was going to lose that,” said the barrister. “He [Mr Ryan] could offer her a conventional, open, normal relationship and he could not compete with his love rival,” Mr Bowman said.

On the night of June 2, 2011, Mr Ryan spent the night at Ms Lowry’s house but left at about 6.30am so that her children would not know he had stayed over.

Ms Lowry was in the habit of waiting to hear his van cross the grate at the end of the drive so that she could relax, knowing he had gotten away unnoticed.

However, that morning she noticed he took longer than usual to drive away.

Mr Ryan failed to turn up for work that morning at a local quarry. His family was alerted and his silver van was subsequently found abandoned near a wooded area.

His daughter, Michelle, had noticed the van was left unlocked, despite the fact that his DJ equipment was still inside. The vehicle was left parked in fourth gear and the seats had been moved into an unfamiliar position.

Mr Ryan was not found and in his absence the relationship between the accused and Ms Lowry started up again but, Mr Bowman said, nothing would ever be the same again – and Ms Lowry again put an end to it.

By April 2013, Ms Lowry had decided to terminate Mr Quirke’s lease on her land and he agreed to leave by July 1 of that year.

Mr Bowman said it was the prosecution’s case that Mr Quirke had “carefully managed, orchestrated and staged” the discovery of Mr Ryan’s body on his own terms, knowing that he would have to hand over control of the land.

On April 13, two years after the disappearance of Mr Ryan, Mr Quirke claimed he had been pumping water from a disused tank on the farm when he came across the body of the former DJ lying inside, covered with a concrete slab.

He was naked and his personal belongings, including his phone and car keys, have never been found.

A post-mortem showed that he had died from blunt force trauma, with fractures to his skull, to his ribs and to one leg.

Mr Bowman told the jury that the “innocent” explanation for Mr Quirke finding the body at that time would not stand up to scrutiny.

The trial is expected to last for eight weeks.

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