The head of a children’s charity and the manager of a Galway-based company have told of their encounters with conwoman Julia Holmes, who is believed to have been found dead with her partner Tom Ruttle in their home in Askeaton, Co Limerick, on Monday morning.
Tony Heffernan of the Saoirse Foundation recalled how Ms Holmes, using an alias, offered to help raise funds for the Bumbleance — an ambulance for sick children, but lost interest once it was established that she would not handle the money from the event.
“She contacted me directly as Croen Ruttle from Irish Bee Sensations, a company which does artisan honey. She introduced herself as a friend of [celebrity chef] Neven Maguire’s and she came up with a fundraising idea to get Neven to do a fundraising cookery demonstration for us,” Mr Heffernan told Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1.
“The minute the event looked attractive to us we approached friends of ours in Our Lady’s School in Terenure to see would they would host the event for us, because we needed a venue. Our charity has a fundraising registration process, so we sent out the fundraising registration pack to Croen and then we started getting involved in developing the event.”
Mr Heffernan said he met the couple in person and that they promoted the fund- raiser using Mr Maguire’s name to drive ticket sales.
Suspicions arose, said Mr Heffernan, when the charity attempted to get registration details from Ms Holmes.
“There was a couple of requests to get the fundraising pack back, to sign off on a lot of the paperwork, just so we have an event registered correctly and everything is above board. It was not coming so then we had to step in ourselves.”
Mr Heffernan said Ms Holmes seemed genuine, and that the wig she wore was apparently related to cancer treatment she had received.
The charity’s insistence that ticket sales be managed through its website and via the venue was met with “resistance”, he said.
The charity then assumed full responsibility for the event and did not hear from Ms Holmes again.
“Shortly after the event we got a bit of information,” said Mr Heffernan.
“It was sent to us discreetly, privately in a message. It was a newspaper clippling from an article on the BBC which highlighted her as Julia Holmes, she was Croen Ruttle to us, and that she was on the run from the PSNI. That’s when I walked into Tralee Garda Station immediately and made a report,” he said.
Luke Anthony, general manager of McCambridge’s Delicatessen, Galway, told the programme Ms Holmes was extended credit which she never paid back.
She first visited the shop last December, offering to show a number of products from her Bee Sensation range . It was upon renewing their negotiations last January that Mr Anthony’s suspicions were raised.
“I have an interest in bees, and we didn’t take in her honey because we stock a number of local honeys, but I was asking her about her hives and she was telling me the different areas they’re in, where they have the hives and how many.
“I could see some of the information was a bit sketchy. We were taken in. Luckily we were contacted by someone in the Irish Honey Association who said there were suspicions about her and we did some further research.”
She had bought hampers for which she was forwarded a small amount of credit.
“I was last in contact with her on March 10, and so we had never received payment for that. By that stage all relationships had broken down,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved