Tipperary farmer Patrick Quirke has won a significant issue in his appeal against his conviction for the murder in 2011 of Bobby Ryan, the DJ known as Mr Moonlight.
Quirke, of Breanshamore, Co. Tipperary, is serving a life sentence imposed after his conviction in 2019 after a 15-week trial. He had denied any involvement in the murder.
The consequences of the court’s finding that a computer was unlawfully seized from Quirke’s home will be decided later.
The Supreme Court on Monday declared that the seizure of a computer at Patrick Quirke’s home, as part of investigations into the 2011 murder of Bobby Ryan, was unlawful. The court will meet next week to hear legal argument on the ramifications of the ruling.
The prosecution said during the appeal that the computer was used for internet searches on the rate of decomposition of human remains and on the limitations of forensic DNA. Further legal argument is required regarding the effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell said on Monday.
A seven-judge court unanimously found that while a physical analysis of a computer device is allowed, its use as a “portal into the digital world” where a more significant intrusion onto the privacy rights of the accused occurred, was unlawful in the absence of sufficient judicial analysis prior to authorisation of the search, the court said.
This analysis could have been obtained through a “clear reference” to computer devices in the sworn information gardaí provided to the District Judge and a sworn statement indicating why such a digital search might be reasonably needed.
The court rejected Quirke’s second ground of appeal, which related to the prosecution’s discretion in calling certain witnesses.
Quirke (53), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, was convicted of the 2011 murder of Mr Ryan by a majority jury verdict of 10:2 following a 15-week trial at the Central Criminal Court.
The remains of Mr Ryan, a part-time DJ going by the name of Mr Moonlight, were discovered in a disused run-off tank on a farm owned by his girlfriend Mary Lowry and leased by Quirke at Fawnagown in April 2013. He had gone missing nearly two years earlier, on June 3, 2011, after leaving Ms Lowry’s house at about 6.30am.
Quirke had staged the discovery of the body as he was about to give up his lease on the farm, the prosecution argued at the 2019 trial. It was the prosecution’s case that Quirke had murdered his love rival Mr Ryan so he could rekindle an affair with Ms Lowry.
In November 2021, the Court of Appeal rejected Quirke’s appeal against his conviction. The Supreme Court heard his appeal, containing two grounds, over two days in December.
On Monday, Chief Justice O’Donnell, Mr Justice Charleton, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, Ms Justice Marie Baker, Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe and Mr Justice Brian Murray unanimously allowed the section of Quirke’s appeal which related to the computer.
They scheduled the case for further case management next Wednesday.