Shocked community say Julia Holmes seemed to arrive out of the blue more than two years ago, writes Midwest Correspondent Jimmy Woulfe
As in life, Julia Holmes’ death was shrouded in mystery.
Her body, along with that of her partner, Thomas Ruttle, was discovered at around 2am on Monday by a person who broke into Mr Ruttle’s two-storey cottage at Boolaglass about five miles from Rathkeale on the Askeaton road.
Afraid they might be connected to the deaths, the intruder notified the gardaí that there were two bodies in the house.
Gardaí at the scene in Boolaglass where the bodies were found. Julia Holmes was on the run from the FBI and was also wanted by the PSNI and An Garda Síochana in connection with fraud offences.
The gardaí came on the crime scene at around 3am and found the bodies in an upstairs bedroom with gunshot wounds.
Julia Holmes had gone by the name Julia Holmes Ruttle since moving to live with Thomas Ruttle over two years ago.
If opposites attract, this could certainly be said of the couple. Julia Holmes, 63, a native of Co Down, was a quick-talking conwoman whose fraudulent activities had brought her before courts in the US and in the north. The gardaí also wanted to interview her about scams carried out in a number of areas.
Thomas Ruttle, 56, was a quiet-spoken member of the Church of Ireland community in West Limerick.
His parents, Bill and Eileen, lived in the cottage where they brought up their three children, Thomas, Edward and Claire.
Bill Ruttle ran an agricultural contracting business with combine harvesters and worked long hours during the harvest season.
Edward and Claire emigrated to England and after the death of their father, Thomas cared for his invalid mother at the family home. He worked at the Alcan plant in Aughinish and was good at repairing boat engines.
Locals say Julia seemed to appear on the scene out of the blue about two years ago.
She left the US a wanted person, on the run from the FBI. On returning to Ireland, she left a trail of fraud north and south of the border.
She first came to the attention of the FBI over a property scam she ran while living in Texas when using the name Julia Parrish.
She was jailed at a court in Athens, Texas, in 2005 for over two years for tricking people into buying non-existent properties in Ireland.
Over the years, Julia used more than 40 aliases to try and cover her tracks.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland was looking for her after she failed to turn up for a fraud trial in 2011. It is not clear if Ruttle was another alias, or if she and Thomas had actually married since meeting.
Locals yesterday said they did not know.
From her new base in West Limerick, she set up a company, Irish Bee Sensation, which, she said, produced organic honey from bees fed on elder flowers. The product won a Bord Bia award. However, what would turn out to be Julia’s last scam came to light. The honey was in fact being bought from local supermarkets and repackaged as organic.
She organised a major renovation of the old Ruttle family home, estimated to have cost up to €50,000.
The building was fitted with a new roof and totally redecorated, but builders have been left unpaid.
One source said: “She kept fobbing them off with stories that she had a serious form of cancer.”
Thomas Ruttle’s next door neighbour, Liam Madigan, like the rest of the community, was in shock yesterday after learning of the grim double deaths.
Liam, 51, said: “I knew Thomas all my life. We live just down the road. The Ruttles are lovely people. Thomas worked down in Aughinish Island for years when it was being built. He then started doing work on repairing the engines of boats in his yard. He was into boats and very good with his hands. He was working with FÁS in Askeaton for a while.
“Thomas minded his mother for years after his father Bill passed away. We are all sad; this is very sad.
My brother John, who lives with me in the house, heard some sounds at around three o’clock in the morning and on looking out I could see blue flashing lights near Thomas’s house. I thought there might have been a crash or something.
“It is a while since I met Thomas. I met her a few times and she enjoyed a laugh and had a good sense of humour. Nobody knows if they were married. Somebody told me that she told them they held a wedding somewhere in West Limerick.”
A friend of Thomas said he had been in a number of relationships over the years.
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