The body of a murdered German tourist was so deeply hidden in dense undergrowth the Garda who discovered it thought it was a roll of old kitchen lino dumped in the bushes, a jury heard at the Central Criminal Court today.
Garda Pat Kelly spoke of his shock at finding the body of Ms Bettina Poeschel in dense undergrowth as he searched a field for her at Donore, Co Meath on 17 October 2001.
"I had to beat my way in with the stick I had, I had to force my way in" he said.
"I continued along and suddenly I saw something there that didn’t go with the vegetation in the area. I didn’t know what it was at first, I thought it was a roll of old kitchen lino initially.
"I got about 6-8 ft further in and I realised it wasn’t lino. I stopped and gathered my thoughts and realised it was human remains. It was the bottom half I saw, feet stretched," he said.
Garda Kelly then noticed there was a blue jacket: "I backed off immediately having noticed the jacket. It was then I knew it must be Bettina," he said.
He told the jury that the top half of the body was concealed under a bush and was scarcely visible.
"That’s the scene that faced me when I saw the body," he added visibly shaken.
Garda Kelly was giving evidence on the second day of the murder trial of Mr Michael Murphy (aged 42) of Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, Co Meath. He denies the murder of the 28-year-old journalist at Donore, Co Meath on a date between 25 September and 17 October 2001. Ms Poeschel disappeared on 25 September as she travelled alone towards Newgrange on the last day of her holiday in Ireland.
The accused showed no emotion as pictures of the deceased’s body were shown in evidence, only lowering his head each time they were held up.
Earlier, video footage of the last hours of Ms Poeschel was played for the jury by prosecution counsel Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC.
She was filmed on CCTV at Connolly train station in Dublin standing in a queue for the Belfast Enterprise train wearing a blue rain mac, dark jeans and carrying a black shoulder bag.
Footage was then shown of the deceased passing an auctioneers in Drogheda town as she walked from the train station towards Donore and Newgrange.
The accused sat forward and stared intently at the video footage of Ms Poeschel while it was played in the courtroom.
Earlier, Ms Mary McCabe testified she saw Ms Poeschel walking along the road in the vicinity of the quarry near Donore on the day of her death: "She was on her own. She had browny/blonde hair and she was wearing a mac jacket," Ms McCabe told the court.
"She had a shoulder bag and glasses. I was thinking she didn't have an umbrella with her and it was raining and I was thinking 'she'll get wet'," she said.
Ms Poeschel was allegedly last seen alive at 11.35am by local businessman Mr Kenneth Martin who claims to have seen her walking on the road "heading towards Donore".
Student Siobhan Byrne gave evidence that on the night of Tuesday 25 September she was sitting on a wall near the quarry with two friends when she noticed a car pull up outside McWeeney's lane, known locally as 'Mad Joe's Lane'.
"One particular vehicle stopped at the laneway and we were wondering if we knew the person" Byrne told the jury.
"It was a black Honda Civic and it stopped there at about 8 o'clock," she said.
"It came from the Drogheda direction. It just stopped there for about four or five minutes and drove off into Donore. About ten minutes later the car drove back in the direction of Drogheda. About ten minutes later it came from the Drogheda direction and stopped at Mad Joe's Lane," she said.
"A lorry drove by and its lights shone on this figure which we presumed was a man from his build," she added.
"We saw a man going up into the laneway, he was running up it. Then we heard the car drive off in the Donore direction. We never saw it again," said Byrne.
Video footage of the accused driving into a nearby petrol station on 25 September was also played for the court. Mr Murphy was filmed entering the station five times, getting out to buy credit for his phone at one stage.
The trial continues tomorrow before a jury of seven men and five women.