From the Golden Vale to a life in jail: Patrick Quirke found guilty of 'Mr Moonlight' murder


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11.50 4 May 2019


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Just after lunchtime on Wednesday, Patrick Quirke was enjoying some rare sunshine on the second floor terrace of the Criminal Courts of Justice when word began to filter through the building that a verdict was imminent.

He looked relaxed and unaware that his fate was about to be sealed. His wife Imelda stood loyally by his side.

The stampede to the court room two floors above his flat cap was more chaotic than a day at the mart as ‘trial tourists’ jostled for space in the packed public gallery.

Their numbers had grown over the months.

People came from all over the country. Some brought packed lunches, while others passed around boiled sweets to their new friends.

Lawyers, journalists and members of Bobby Ryan’s family took their seats. Decision time had arrived and the dock was noticeably empty.

Patrick Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Patrick Quirke is followed by photographers as he leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, 25-04-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The 'love triangle'

In his closing speech to the jurors, prosecuting barrister Michael Bowman SC told the jurors that Mary Lowry was a significant witness, but he said she alone wasn't the prosecution case.

The widowed mother-of-three became a household name during the trial.

She first took the stand on January 24th and remained there for a number of days before returning at a later stage for a brief cameo appearance to confirm her voice in an audio recording between her and ex-boyfriend Flor Cantillon.

The man in the dock over her right shoulder had secretly recorded them having a laugh about an agony aunt letter in the newspaper.

Mary Lowry Mr Moonlight trial Mary Lowry leaving the Central Criminal Court Dublin in Dublin, 28-03-2019. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Golden Vale

Mary Lowry came from a farming background.

Her father was a farmer and her late husband Martin was also a farmer. She met him in a nightclub in Emly, County Tipperary in the late 1980s.

They got engaged a few years later and were married in 1995. Martin inherited the family farm at Fawnagown, Co. Tipperary when his father died and they moved onto the land.

They had three sons. Sadly, Martin died from cancer in 2007 - leaving Mary to bring up the boys and look after 64-acres of land she didn’t know how to farm.

Bereavement

Ms Lowry told the jury that Patrick Quirke was very good to her after her husband died. His wife Imelda is a sister of her late husband and their families were close.

Under cross-examination, she disputed the extent of her husband’s friendship with Quirke; however, she accepted they farmed together and had some shared investments - two areas she knew nothing about.

She said they agreed a seven-year lease on the farm and he moved some dry cattle onto the land straight away.

They also had some shared investments. She coughed up the money and he managed the portfolio. They shared the profits 50:50 but she claimed he got into financial difficulty and was always asking her for money.

She agreed to give him a €20,000 loan at one point and later told him to keep it in lieu of compensation when he claimed her late husband’s cattle had infected his herd with Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

Patrick and Imelda Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Patrick Quirke with his wife Imelda leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin today, 30-04-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

“A seedy and sordid affair”

She said an “intimate relationship” developed a few months after her husband died.

Her voice dropped and the sound of wooden benches squeaking filled the courtroom as those packed into the public gallery moved closer in an attempt to hear all about what she described as a “seedy and sordid affair” with a man she knew was “happily married” to her sister-in-law.

“He crossed the line," she said.

"I was very vulnerable at the time. It’s embarrassing. It happened every Monday and Friday in my bedroom while the boys were at school. I had a lot of misgivings and felt a lot of guilt."

Bobby Ryan Mr Moonlight trial Family members of Bobby Ryan carried his picture to the Central Criminal Court to hear the verdict, 01-05-2019. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

'Mr Moonlight'

Not long after she finished things with Quirke, Ms Lowry said she met Bobby ‘Mr Moonlight’ Ryan at a dance hall. She broke into a big smile as she reminisced about the first time she danced with her soon-to-be boyfriend.

“We got on like a house on fire and exchanged numbers,” she said with an almost schoolgirl giddiness.

She described him as a “breath of fresh air.”

Their relationship soon became intimate and Bobby used to stay with her at her farmhouse in Fawnagown. They had an arrangement whereby he would arrive late after her boys went to bed and he would be gone before they got up for school.

She didn't want her boys knowing he spent the night.

The jury heard he stayed with her on the night of June 2nd 2011 and got up bright and early the next morning.

They made love before he got ready for work and she waited to hear the familiar sound of his van rumbling across the cattle grid at the end of her driveway.

She noticed a delay that morning.

Michelle and Robert Ryan Mr Moonlight trial Bobby Ryan’s children Robert and Michelle talking to the media outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, 01-05-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Missing Person

According to Ms Lowry, Bobby left her home at 6:30am that fateful morning.

He was DJ ‘Mr Moonlight’ by night but worked as a truck driver at a local quarry by day - and his daughter Michelle became very concerned when her diligent ‘Daddy’ was a no-show that morning.

It was out of character. His boss thought so too. A missing person investigation was launched and the search for Bobby initially focused on Bansha Woods, which is located just over 2km from the last place he was seen alive.

While Ms Lowry drove them towards Fawnagown, Michelle said she got an “awful feeling” and asked Mary to take her to the public woodland. She said she couldn't explain why she thought of it.

She became visibly upset in the witness box as she told the jury about the moment she spotted her father’s distinctive DJ van in the car park. She ran to it and said she knew something wasn’t right when she found it.

“Daddy would never have left it unlocked like that with all his DJ equipment in the back,” she said.

Distraught, she remembered sitting in the van and bursting into tears. She put her head down on the steering wheel and noticed the driver’s seat wasn’t in its usual position. She told Gardaí her father was not the last person to drive that van.

Nothing of evidential value was found during extensive searches at Bansha Woods.

Nothing of evidential value was found during extensive searches at Fawnagown.

Bobby Ryan, a larger than life character, had simply vanished without a trace. Possible sightings led to nothing.

He was gone and nobody knew where he was - except for one person of course.

Patrick Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Patrick Quirke leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, 23-04-2019. Image: Leah Farrell /RollingNews

Circumstantial evidence

All of the evidence against Quirke was circumstantial. There was no smoking gun or blood-stained clothing linking him to the crime. The prosecuting barrister Michael Bowman SC described it as a “forensically barren landscape.”

The defence questioned Ms Lowry’s credibility and accused her of “sticking the boot” into their client at every opportunity - but there was no doubt she was a significant witness because she provided the jurors with a possible motive for her boyfriend’s murder.

She painted a picture of Quirke as a manipulative and controlling man who didn't take the break-up well.

she spent the majority of her time in the witness box being grilled by defence barrister Bernard Condon SC, who described her as an “unreliable and dangerous” witness.

At one point she felt she had to clarify who was on trial during one of the many testy exchanges with Mr Condon who accused her of learning off the statements she made to Gardaí and essentially regurgitating them word for word for the jury.

When he put it to her that she was “quite concerned” about her reputation, she snapped back.

"Of course I am. My life has been discussed in this courtroom and it’s not easy.

"I’m not the criminal. I am a witness. All I have said here is in my statement. It’s the truth and the whole truth. I’m not on trial. Patrick Quirke is on trial."

"Mary Lowry is not on trial," she repeated.

Mary Lowry Mr Moonlight trial Mary Lowry arriving the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, 01-05-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Throughout the trial, the prosecution claimed that Quirke’s insistence that he was fine with his ex-lover moving on with her life was all an act.

Ms Lowry supported that proposal in her evidence.

She portrayed him as a jilted lover who didn’t cope well after the break-up - especially after Bobby came into her life.

He wanted her back and the popular DJ, who he himself described as “happy go-lucky,” stood in his way.

By agreeing a seven-year lease with Ms Lowry, he had unlimited access to her land. He could come and go as he pleased.

Google searches

The Google searches carried out on Quirke’s computer were arguably the most damning pieces of evidence against him.

Why search for words like ‘Human Body Decomposition Timeline’ and ‘Rate of Human Decomposition’? Gardaí asked.

Quirke suggested it had something to do with the tragic death of his son in a farming accident.

Gardaí sympathised but subsequent inquiries revealed his son was alive and well when the suspicious searches first started.

Patrick and Imelda Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Farmer Patrick Quirke with his wife Imelda arriving the Central Criminal Court Dublin in Dublin, 05-04-2019. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

A staged discovery

Come springtime 2013, Quirke was under pressure.

He was caught on camera peering into Ms Lowry’s windows a few months beforehand.

Clearly unaware she had installed CCTV cameras, he plucked a pair of knickers from her clothes line. She was horrified and decided to end his lease early. He agreed to leave, but bought himself some time. He needed it.

He made his move on April 30th 2013.

Clearly aware that another farmer was likely to move onto the land after he left, he must have been worried about the prospect of someone else finding Bobby’s body in the underground run-off tank near a disused milking parlour.

An insect expert gave evidence during the trial. Following an analysis of a maggot found on Mr Ryan’s body, he concluded that somebody accessed the tank less than a fortnight beforehand.

Patrick Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Patrick Quirke arriving at the Central Criminal Court Dublin in Dublin, 25-03-2019. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Slurry

Quirke claimed he discovered Bobby’s remains while preparing to spread slurry on the land.

He said he needed water to agitate the thick slurry in the pits so he went to this tank - which he conveniently didn't tell Gardaí about during the initial searches on the farm almost two years beforehand.

He said he figured there would be water there because there had been a leak from the mains the previous month.

By trying to maintain control of the situation, Quirke left himself exposed.

Questions were asked: Why was he wearing a jacket, shirt and a pair of pants to do such a dirty job? Why was he so clean? Why was he attempting to do a two-man job on his own? Why did he call his wife before he rang Gardaí?

The heavily-crusted slurry wasn't the only thing that stank on the farm that day. The finger of suspicion soon pointed squarely at the married father-of-three.

He was eventually charged with murder and first took his seat in the dock at the Central Criminal Court last January for what would become the longest murder trial in the history of the State.

Patrick and Imelda Quirke Mr Moonlight trial Patrick Quirke with his wife Imelda leaving the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin today, 30-04-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Guilty

At some point last Wednesday while basking in the sun-soaked terrace on the second floor of the courthouse, Quirke got word that the jury was coming back.

They were given the option to return a majority verdict earlier that day.

Quirke moved upstairs and assumed his position in the dock, while Imelda returned to her preferred spot directly behind Bobby’s children Michelle and Robert Jr.

It had been fifteen long weeks since the Ryans first took their seats and they had been waiting over twenty hours for the jurors to make their minds up.

The next few minutes must have felt like a lifetime but the jury foreman soon put them out of their misery and brought some sort of closure to their eight-year nightmare.

Ten of the twelve jurors believed Quirke murdered their father. That was enough.

After a short break, Quirke returned to the dock for his sentence hearing. His tie had been removed and he looked like he had been crying.

To his left, Michelle Ryan bravely delivered a victim impact statement on behalf of her family to the packed courtroom.

She didn’t need to tell the court how much she loved and missed her father. Everyone knew. She finished on a poignant but beautiful note by addressing her father directly from the stand.

Michelle and Robert Ryan Mr Moonlight trial Bobby Ryan’s children Robert and Michelle leave the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin after Patrick Quirke was jailed for life for murdering their father, 01-05-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

"Daddy, I described you as 'WOW' when I was asked because that’s what you are; such a wonderful caring father and grandfather," she said.

"We will carry you in our hearts everyday in everything we do for the rest of our lives.

"So until we meet again Moonlight, just know how much you are loved and sorely missed by us every day. So spread your beautiful wings and fly high with the angels. You are gone but will never be forgotten."

Michelle and Robert Ryan Mr Moonlight trial Bobby Ryan’s children Robert and Michelle speak to the media at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin after Patrick Quirke was jailed for life for murdering their father, 01-05-2019. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

She seemed unsteady on her feet as she walked past her father’s killer.

One can only imagine the emotion that was charging through her body. Robert Jnr was quick to his feet to collect her. They walked out of court the same way they walked in – together and doing their ‘Daddy’ proud.

Prison officers then swarmed around Quirke and led him away to begin his mandatory life sentence for murder.

Reporting by Frank Greaney


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Bobby Ryan Guilty Love Triangle Mary Lowry Michelle Ryan Mr Moonlight Mr Moonlight Trial Patrick Quirke Robert Ryan Waterford

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