Julia Holmes moved to Co Limerick in 2012 after making contact with Thomas Ruttle on the internet.
In his innocence, he was not to know of the trail of fraud and criminality she had left behind in Canada, Texas, and Australia after leaving Northern Ireland.
Over a 20-year period, she had used up to 40 aliases and, at the time of her death, the PSNI had secured an arrest warrant for her.
She reportedly found Thomas an easy target. A quiet countryman from a highly respected Church of Ireland family, he worked as a mechanic and kept beehives.
Julia moved into his two-storey home at Boolaglass, about 8km from Rathkeale.
They put the word out of having been married abroad and Julia organised a blessing of their non-existent marriage vows at St Mary’s Church of Ireland in Askeaton. A party was held in a pub about 24km away.
Julia had been married before she left Co Tyrone and, during a colourful life in the US, married a wealthy Texan businessman.
At the time, she had been going under the name of Julia Parish.
She conned her husband and a group of his Texan fiends out of more than €440,000 in a property scam. A major investigation by the FBI led to her arrest and a court in Athens, Texas, sentenced her to two years in jail, followed by deportation.
A life of fraud continued on her return to Ireland. She told many of her victims a blonde wig she wore was to conceal her loss of hair due to chemotherapy for cancer.
As soon as she settled and moved in with Thomas , she began to tap into his honeymaking enterprise.
Julia’s major marketing exercise under the Irish Bee Sensation brand created such a demand for her organic honey, she began to buy honey from supermarkets and brand it as her own home-produced product.
She won a national Bord Bia food award for the product.
The PSNI, meanwhile, had a warrant for her arrest dating back to 2011.
Meantime, she conned a number of builders into carrying out renovations, estimated at €50,000, to the house in Boolaglass.
The fact that people he knew very well had been conned by Julia began to bother Thomas.
His parents, Bill and Eileen, were highly respected and raised their three children, Thomas, Edward, and Claire as churchgoers. Bill, along with his farming operations, had an agricultural contracting business using combine harvesters.
Edward and Claire moved to the UK and, after their father died, Thomas cared for their invalid mother at the family home. He had worked on the construction site on Alcan land at Aughinish and was known to be handy with mechanical matters such as repairing engines.
Julia and Thomas died after inhaling fumes from a charcoal barbecue placed next to them in a sealed bedroom. Their badly decomposed bodies were discovered by burglars on May 18, 2015.
After their bodies had been released by the coroner for burial, the Ruttle family arranged for Thomas to be interred at the family plot in Askeaton.
However, the Holmes family made it clear they did not wish to have anything to do with Julia’s funeral arrangements and it had looked likely she would be buried in in a pauper’s plot.
Eventually, a relative of Thomas’s engaged a west Limerick undertaker to have her remains brought to Little Island in Cork for cremation. It is not known what happened her ashes.
The funeral service for Thomas took place at St Mary’s Church of Ireland in Askeaton on June 3, 2015.
Among the mourners were two sons Thomas had from a previous relationship. Addressing the congregation, Rev Ken Scott said: “Let our grief be a grief without bitterness of blame. Carrying all that was unfinished away from here today will drag us into the darkness and become a burden which will hamper us and all that we do for the rest of their lives.”
Rev Scott said their sorrow was all the more intense due to the almost incomprehensible events surrounding the Thomas’s death.
He said there was often a sense that those who knew a deceased may have felt they failed them, “that, somehow, there was something we should have done, something we missed, or something that we wish we could not take back, that we did or said which we should not have done or said”.
“Hindsight is 20/20 vision,” said Rev Scott. A”fterwards, we see clearly and then comes the blame, contempt and anger, the deep regret for things done or left undone, words said or left unsaid. The truth is we have little real power to change how events unfold themselves in the world. The little we can do will always be messy and ambivalent, and there is always something left hanging unfinished.”
Gardaí suspect that, prior to her death, Julia had been considering one last throw of the dice — to get a cash buyer for Thomas’s home with the intention of relocating to Spain, knowing the PSNI were closing in on her fast.
However, it is not known if she had arranged for Thomas to be part of a planned new life in Spain.
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