An appeal by Tipperary farmer Patrick Quirke against his conviction for the murder of Bobby Ryan will be conducted remotely next month and could be completed in less than four days, the Court of Appeal has heard.
Lawyers for the State also told the three-judge court this morning that legal submissions from the prosecution and defence "run to over 100 pages" each and there would be a lot of paperwork in the upcoming hearing.
Quirke's full appeal hearing is due to begin on October 13 and was previously expected to last four days. However, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, last week expressed hope that the parties might be able to conduct the appeal in a shorter time frame.
The judge adjourned the matter for mention until today to allow both sides to consider each other’s legal submissions for the appeal.
Edward Doocey BL, for Quirke, informed Mr Justice Birmingham this morning that the appeal could be conducted remotely. In reply, the judge said he would discuss with his colleagues as to what the feasibility of that would be and noted that another mention date could be convened if there were any issues.
"For the moment we will operate that the case will proceed on that date," he said.
Mr Justice Birmingham pointed out that the case had been called on for four days and asked Mr Doocey if it could be done in less time than this. "It is certainly hoped it will be," replied Mr Doocey.
David Humphries BL, for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), pointed out that the State was in agreement that the matter could be dealt with remotely and did not think it would take four days. However, he said this was a matter for the defence rather than the prosecution.
The barrister also said they are awaiting further legal submissions from the defence regarding interviews and the prosecution will need time to deal with these. Mr Doocey said the defence hoped to have these submissions delivered by next week.
Mr Justice Birmingham said he imagined that the court would want "soft and hard copies" of the legal submissions if the case was being dealt with remotely and asked each side to work towards that.
Mr Humphries said the legal submissions on each side ran to over 100 pages. "I'm just letting you know there is a lot coming," he added.
In summary, Mr Justice Birmingham said it was "all systems go" for the defendant's appeal hearing to begin on October 13, which is expected to be conducted remotely.
Quirke (aged 50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, had denied murdering Bobby Ryan (aged 52), a part-time DJ going by the name ‘Mr Moonlight’, who went missing on June 3, 2011, after leaving his girlfriend Mary Lowry’s house at about 6.30am.
The body of Mr Ryan was subsequently found in an underground run-off tank on the farm owned by Ms Lowry and leased by Quirke at Fawnagown, 22 months later, in April 2013.
It was the prosecution’s case that Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so he could rekindle a love affair with Ms Lowry and that he subsequently “staged” the discovery of the DJ’s body after Ms Lowry tried to terminate his lease at Fawnagowan.
Quirke’s lawyers contended that the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond mere suspicion. They pointed to “inconsistencies” in Mary Lowry’s evidence, and claimed she was “not a reliable witness”.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court found Quirke guilty of Mr Ryan’s murder by a 10-2 majority verdict after deliberating for almost 21 hours following a trial that lasted 13 weeks. The farmer was given a mandatory life sentence by Ms Justice Eileen Creedon.
In evidence that was frequently interrupted by legal argument, the jury learned that Quirke started farming the land at Fawnagowan following the death of Ms Lowry’s husband, Martin, in September 2007. Martin Lowry had been best man at Quirke’s wedding.
In early 2008, Quirke and Ms Lowry began a sexual relationship that she subsequently described as "seedy" and "sordid" and something she regretted.
In August 2010, Ms Lowry met Bobby Ryan at a dance, who she described as “fun”, “funny” and “a breath of fresh air”.
When Quirke found out about their relationship, he told gardaí that he was angry and hurt. He took Ms Lowry's phone and texted Mr Ryan to tell him that he was in a relationship with Mary and she had not been honest.
He then called Mr Ryan and told him: "I'm the man.” On June 2, 2011, Bobby Ryan called to Ms Lowry's home some time after 9pm. He stayed the night and left around 6.30am.
Ms Lowry, who waited to hear his van cross the cattle grid at the end of her drive, later told gardaí that he took longer than usual to drive away. He was not seen alive again.
Quirke claimed his affair with Mary Lowry resumed in August 2011 and that the following month, they stayed in the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Co Waterford, something Ms Lowry said she couldn’t remember.
In December 2012, Ms Lowry’s solicitor sent a letter to Quirke asking to terminate the lease at Fawnagowan. He agreed to leave that June.
In April, Quirke called his wife Imelda to say he had found a body in a disused waste tank at Fawnagowan. Imelda arrived shortly afterwards and called Garda Tom Neville.
Quirke gave a voluntary statement to gardaí and denied knowing how Ryan's body ended up in the tank.