18 Aug 2022

Tipperary murder trial: Accused had a "hunch" about missing DJ Bobby Ryan

Patrick Quirke

Patrick Quirke

A farmer accused of murdering his love rival told gardai he had a "hunch" about what happened to DJ Bobby 'Mr Moonlight' Ryan and found the things the deceased's girlfriend told him "strange" and "intriguing".

In interviews following the discovery of Mr Ryan's remains Patrick Quirke also told gardai that Mary Lowry, Mr Quirke's former lover and then girlfriend of the deceased, had a "couldn't care less attitude" about the disappearance of her boyfriend.

Mr Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Ryan - a part-time DJ going by the name Mr Moonlight - on a date between June 3, 2011 and April 2013. Mr Ryan's body was found in a run-off tank on the farm leased by the accused and owned by Ms Lowry at Fawnagown, Tipperary in April 2013.

The prosecution claims that Mr Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so that he could get back with Ms Lowry (52) with whom the accused had previously had an affair.

On April 30, 2013 gardai were alerted by Mr Quirke's wife Imelda to the presence of a body in a tank on Ms Lowry's farm.

Inspector David Buckley told prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman SC that he met Mr Quirke at the scene and asked him to accompany him to Tipperary Garda Station to make a cautioned voluntary statement.

Mr Quirke agreed to go and did not want to speak to a solicitor.

In the interview Mr Quirke detailed how he found the body, saying he was trying to empty a slurry tank and needed more water as the slurry was too thick.

An open tank that he would usually draw water from was empty but, he said, he knew water had been leaking into the underground tank beside the milking parlour.

He had not opened this tank since 2008, he said, but knew it was there because the previous owner of the farm, Martin Lowry, told him about it.

Covering the tank were two concrete slabs so he prised one of them aside using a shovel and put a suction pipe through the gap to draw whatever water was there.

As the water was being sucked up he noticed what he thought was a plastic dummy or an inflatable doll in the tank.

He turned off the pump and pulled off the second slab, which he said was easier to move.

He said: "I could see clearly it was a body."

He told gardai he could see the pelvis and "what seemed to be the private area even though it looked to be face down. It was confusing."

He was "shocked", he said, and phoned his wife Imelda who arrived, confirmed it was a body and phoned her friend Garda Tom Neville.

He said he called his wife rather than gardai out of "instinct" and because he wanted someone to confirm what he had seen.

Garda Buckley put it to the accused that he was "fairly clean for a man doing a dirty job".

The accused replied that he was "only getting into it" when he made the discovery.

On the day Mr Ryan disappeared Mr Quirke said he was on the farm at about 8.40 that morning to let two bulls in with his cows.

He was going away for the weekend with his family and left a short time later.

He said he didn't see anyone at the tank, adding: "It was a case of get in and get out."

He said he was not jealous of Bobby Ryan and didn't take issue with the relationship he had with Ms Lowry.

He didn't disapprove of it and there was no animosity between him and Mr Ryan.

He said he had to "take it on the chin" and denied ever having heated words with Mr Ryan.

He told gardai that he chose to meet him and Ms Lowry socially, something he wouldn't have done if he had a problem. He met Mr Ryan three times in total, he said and had never been alone with him.

The first time was at Hayes's Hotel in Thurles.

He later attended a Brendan Grace gig with Imelda, Ms Lowry and Mr Ryan and met him on another occasion at Killough Quarry where the deceased worked.

While the relationship with Ms Lowry ended badly he said he wanted to keep it friendly as she was family, having been widowed by Mr Quirke's brother-in-law.

He said he did not meet Mr Ryan the morning of his disappearance and when Inspector Buckley asked him if he knew the body was in the tank all along, he said: "No. These are nice questions now lads."

He denied having any role in Mr Ryan's body being in the tank and said the only things he knew about Mr Ryan's disappearance were the things Ms Lowry told him, like how she couldn't be clear about whether it took ten minutes or two minutes for Mr Ryan's van to leave her driveway the morning of his disappearance.

He also asked how she found Mr Ryan's van so quickly later that day in the car park leading into Kilshane Woods.

He wondered why, when she was looking for Mr Ryan, she did not travel along a route he would normally have taken but instead drove to the local beauty spot where she found the van.

The deceased's daughter Michelle Ryan has previously told the trial that it was her idea to travel to Kilshane Woods as she had a "terrible feeling" she was going to find her dad's van in a woods.

Mr Quirke also asked about how she saw Mr Ryan's van as it would not have been visible from the road.

"I found it strange," he said and later said he found it "intriguing". She had a "couldn't care less attitude about it," he added and recalled an incident when he urged her to speak to someone he believed had evidence relating to Mr Ryan's disappearance but she didn't. 

He added: "I asked questions and like everyone else I had a hunch what happened. Everyone had notions he was attacked. Did he leave for Spain? I asked questions and I thought the answers strange and I read too much into it."

He accepted that he still had feelings for Ms Lowry in 2011 and when Inspector Buckley put it to him that it couldn't have been easy seeing her with Mr Ryan he replied: "No more than it was for her to see me with my wife."

Gardai also asked Mr Quirke why he did not tell them about the tank in 2011 when they were searching for Mr Ryan. He said he didn't think of it and thought it was "laughable" when gardai asked him to empty tanks on the land as part of the search. 

Firefighter Bernard O'Brien told David Humphries BL for the prosecution that he and nine colleagues retrieved the body from the tank by sliding a sheet of tarpaulin underneath it. Those getting into the tank used breathing apparatus and a chemical suit.

The witness told Lorcan Staines SC for the defence that it was more complicated than taking a body from a river or lake because of the confined space. Looking into the tank he said he could see the rib cage with no clothing covering it.

He added that there was no pathologist present when they removed the body.

The trial continues in front of Justice Eileen Creedon and a jury of six men and six women.

To continue reading this article for FREE,
please kindly register and/or log in.

Registration is absolutely 100% FREE and will help us personalise your experience on our sites. You can also sign up to our carefully curated newsletter(s) to keep up to date with your latest local news!

Register / Login

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.