Love triangle trial: Prosecution in Patrick Quirke case call for support of jury's common sense

The prosecution case against farmer Patrick Quirke, who denies murdering his love rival Bobby 'Mr Moonlight' Ryan, is "forensically barren" but calls on the support of the jury's common sense, lawyers for the State have said.

Love triangle trial: Prosecution in Patrick Quirke case call for support of jury's common sense

The prosecution case against farmer Patrick Quirke, who denies murdering his love rival Bobby 'Mr Moonlight' Ryan, is "forensically barren" but calls on the support of the jury's common sense, lawyers for the State have said.

Michael Bowman SC told the jury of six men and six women at the Central Criminal Court that while Mr Quirke retains the presumption of innocence, when they look at the evidence they will be compelled to find him guilty of murder.

Mr Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight.

Mr Ryan went missing on June 3, 2011 after leaving his girlfriend Mary Lowry's home at about 6.30am.

His body was found in an underground run-off tank on the farm owned by Ms Lowry and leased by the accused at Fawnagown, Tipperary 22 months later in April 2013.

The prosecution has claimed Mr Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so he could rekindle an affair with Ms Lowry (52).

Mr Bowman today reminded the jury that the prosecution case is based on circumstantial evidence and is "forensically barren". There is no weapon, no exact location or time of death.

The prosecution, he said, "prays in aid" the pathology, the extraordinary circumstances and the jury's common sense.

The human mind, he said, can take only so much coincidence before shaking its head and saying: "That's not coincidence, that's planned."

Before addressing the jury on the facts of the case he asked them to put themselves with Patrick Quirke and his family and think of him not as the jealous lover painted by the prosecution but as a much-loved member of his family, a loving husband and loving father.

This, he explained, is what he is entitled to as a man presumed innocent.

Bobby Ryan
Bobby Ryan

He went on to say that Bobby Ryan may have been lost over the three months of the trial and reminded them that the trial is not about Mary Lowry, although she is important.

Referring to evidence that came out during defence cross examination of witnesses he said the case is also not about the lid of the tank breaking or whether photos or videos were taken.

It's not about gardaí talking in a coffee shop or about gardaí following up a tip-off from a water-diviner. It is, he said, about Bobby Ryan, a man who loved life, his job, music, dancing. He loved his girlfriend and very dearly loved his children Robert Jnr and Michelle. He was, Mr Bowman said, universally loved and liked.

Who, counsel asked, would want to kill Bobby Ryan and strip him of his possessions, his clothes, his dignity, and leave his body to decompose for 22 months in a sealed chamber on a farm in Tipperary?

Murder, Mr Bowman said, was not Mr Quirke's first attempt to sabotage the relationship between Bobby Ryan and Mary Lowry.

His first attempt was when he took Mary Lowry's phone and texted Mr Ryan to say, "I'm the man" and in a follow-up phone call told him he was in a relationship with Mary and that Bobby was "being played for a fool".

Mr Bowman reminded the jury that the accused told gardaí that he wished the best for Mary in her new relationship and wanted to remain friends with her for the sake of his family, but, Mr Bowman said, "his actions speak contrary to that".

The second attempt at sabotage came, he said, when Mr Quirke reported Mary Lowry to Tusla, the child and family agency, claiming she was neglecting her children emotionally because of her new relationship.

Bobby Ryan, counsel said, had no chance if Tusla got involved and Mary Lowry was forced to choose between him and her children.

Mary Lowry
Mary Lowry

When that attempt failed, Mr Bowman said the accused now knew that she didn't want to continue the "seedy" relationship with him and Mr Quirke said so in a letter to an agony aunt in a Sunday newspaper.

He was "heartbroken and angry," he wrote, and Mr Bowman reminded the jury that he said he was still in love with his ex-lover.

Counsel added: "I don't think he accepts that relationship is over."

Mr Bowman asked the jury to compare the evidence of the Lowry family who said they were "delighted" and "happy" for Mary when they found out she was seeing Bobby Ryan with the statements of Patrick Quirke to gardaí in which he said the Lowry family was "disgusted" and that Mary had "some neck" showing up to a family function with Bobby.

Going into the facts of the case Mary Lowry, Mr Bowman said, told the jury that Bobby Ryan called to her home about 9 or 9.30pm on June 2, 2011.

They woke up about 6am, made love and he left at about 6.30am. She noticed it took longer than usual for his car to cross the cattle grid at the end of the driveway.

Later that morning she drove her children to school and brought her mother-in-law Rita Lowry into Tipperary town, as she did every Friday. Bobby would not be seen or heard from again.

Mr Bowman addressed a moment in Ms Lowry's cross-examination when the defence suggested she was lying when she denied staying with Patrick Quirke at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Waterford following the disappearance of Bobby Ryan.

Mr Bowman said this would be an "extraordinary lie to tell if it is a lie" and reminded the jury that Ms Lowry had "bared her soul" in the trial.

Why would she lie about this one thing and yet acknowledge everything else, he asked.

On December 3 2012, Mr Bowman said, the accused was "well and truly rumbled" when he was seen on CCTV in Mary Lowry's shed interfering with her clothes line and her post box and using a key to open her front door, setting off the house alarm.

This set in chain the events that meant he would have to leave the farm at Fawnagowan.

Later that same day, his computer revealed that he carried out google searches for "rate of decomposition of human body" and visited sites relating to how bodies decompose.

"There's a limit to how much coincidence human affairs can tolerate," Mr Bowman said. Logic, counsel said, "screams" that it was Patrick Quirke sitting at that computer.

The accused man's reaction to being caught on CCTV, Mr Bowman said, is to once again take control. He starts looking for a slurry tanker and sets in motion the "staged" discovery of the body.

Mr Bowman also addressed issues he said were "lurking in the background" of the case.

A number of witnesses were cross-examined about a Toyota Corolla that was used by Ms Lowry's sons as a "field car" when they were in their early teens.

Mr Bowman said it seemed to be suggested that the Toyota was connected to the case and he reminded the jury that Acting State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis told them that if a road car such as this had caused the injuries to Bobby Ryan it would have sustained damage to the roof, windscreen or bonnet but gardaí saw nothing when they came across it in 2011 and 2013.

Mr Bowman went on to address evidence that a recording of a conversation between Mary Lowry and her boyfriend Flor Cantillon was retrieved from the computer in Mr Quirke's home.

Ms Lowry started seeing Mr Cantillon in March 2012 and the computer was seized in May 2013. The recording, Mr Bowman said, suggested "somebody who has a curious interest in the comings and goings at Fawnagowan".

Mr Bowman accepted that some criticism of the prosecution is justified.

He noted that fingerprints taken from Bobby Ryan's van were not examined against the accused man's until the trial had already begun. This should have been done, he said, and it fell on the prosecution team and the gardaí to spot such an oversight and remedy it.

On the fact that gardaí searching for Bobby Ryan in 2011 didn't find anything Mr Bowman suggested that may be because the person responsible took the time to make sure that no forensic trace was left.

He further suggested that person could have planned and executed it in a way that would "afford them the comfort and belief that they would avoid justice and had gotten away with murder".

Counsel suggested that in his interviews with gardaí Patrick Quirke was trying to suggest that Mary Lowry knew more than she was letting on.

Mr Quirke told gardaí she knew about the tank because of an incident in which a calf got its leg stuck between the slabs of concrete.

However, Mr Bowman said the evidence from other farm hands Sean Dillon and Emmet Kenny was that the calf got stuck in a septic tank in another part of the farm and that there is no evidence Mary Lowry knew about the tank.

The suggestion by the accused that Mary Lowry knew about the tank "communicates something that I think is quite extraordinary," Mr Bowman said.

Mr Bowman also reminded the jury of the evidence of artificial inseminator Breda O'Dwyer, who he said was compelling in her evidence that at 9.30am on the day Mr Ryan went missing, Mr Quirke was milking his cows.

This was, she said, unusual as he would usually be finished milking and have the parlour cleaned by the time she would arrive.

Mr Bowman further reminded them that she had been visiting Mr Quirke's farm regularly for 15 years at that point.

On the day that Mr Ryan's body was recovered, Mr Bowman told the jury they should look at the clothes the accused man was wearing.

He told gardaí he was planning to agitate slurry, a dirty job, yet he was wearing a jacket, shirt and pants rather than the overalls he wore on other days.

"Does he know there's no agitation going to happen that day?" counsel asked.

He further questioned why Mr Quirke decided to draw water from that tank to agitate slurry. The tank had never been used for that purpose and, according to the evidence of engineer Michael Reilly, it was porous and incapable of holding water.

The discovery, Mr Bowman said, was "staged from pillar to post".

He said the accused's claim that the tank was half to two thirds full when he started emptying it didn't make sense when only an estimated 100 litres was recovered from the suction tanker.

"Where did the rest of the water go?" Mr Bowman asked.

Once he had opened the tank and emptied it, what business did he have investigating further when he thought he saw something like a piece of rolled up carpet or a plastic doll in the tank.

He was "out of there in a couple of months" Mr Bowman reminded them. Once he discovered the body, he told gardaí he was in shock and afraid and so, called his wife.

Mr Bowman reminded the jury that he also called his vet and his voicemail during this time. Mr Bowman added: "I don't think he was shocked or afraid for one moment."

An entomologist told the jury that fly larvae found on the body showed that there had been a single infestation of the body at least 11 days prior to the discovery.

This, he said, suggested the tank was opened once at least 11 days before the discovery.

He accepted under cross-examination that if water leaking from a pipe had eroded a 3 to 5mm gap in the soil that sealed the tank, flies could have gotten through.

Mr Bowman said that if such a hole did open up it would have remained open and therefore there would have been multiple infestations of different types of insect at different stages of development.

There would also, he suggested, have been evidence of vermin, which was ruled out by pathologists who examined the body.

Mr Bowman will continue his closing speech tomorrow in front of Justice Eileen Creedon.

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