08 Aug 2022

Tipperary Murder Trial: Forensic anthropologist identifies human bones found alongside Bobby Ryan's body

Tipperary Murder Trial: Forensic anthropologist identifies human bones found alongside Bobby Ryan's body

The late Bobby Ryan (left) and Patrick Quirke (right)

A forensic anthropologist has told the Patrick Quirke murder trial that he identified human and animal bones and an animal's tooth found in the tank alongside Bobby Ryan's body.

Dr Rene Gapert also told the court he was "doubtful" that a fracture of Mr Ryan's femur could have been caused by pieces of concrete falling onto it when gardaí removed a slab covering the top of the tank. 

Dr Gapert was giving evidence in the trial of Patrick Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary who has pleaded not guilty to the murder of part-time DJ Bobby Ryan. 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 claims Mr Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so he could rekindle an affair with Ms Lowry (52).

Dr Gapert told prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC that he was asked in January this year to examine bones, nails and a tooth retrieved from the tank by gardai to establish if they were human or non-human remains. He was presented with two cylinders containing the fragments. Inside the first there were 49 bones, a tooth and one toe or finger nail that possibly belonged to a human. Of the 49 bones only one was human. The tooth was non-human.

The human bone was the middle bone of a finger and most likely belonged to an adult. He couldn't identify the gender or age. The nail could have come from a finger or toe. The second cylinder contained 19 bones, eight of which were human and three possibly human finger or toe nails.

The human bones consisted of different parts of the left and right hands. He identified bones from the tips of the thumbs, middle part of the hand and the tip of a toe, possibly from the left foot.

In his overview and summary he said the bones were most likely from a single adult of undetermined age, gender or height. He saw no evidence of physical trauma and on examining what tissue was present he found that the person had died at least a year before the remains were found in the tank and possibly more than two years before.

Under cross examination Dr Gapert told defence counsel Lorcan Staines SC that he was not requested to attend the scene in 2013 when Mr Ryan's body was found. He said he would have attended had he been requested and has attended scenes in the past. He previously helped identify victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, bodies found in Berlin dating back to World War II and at a house fire in Derrylin, Fermanagh in February 2018 that claimed the lives of four people.

He said it is normal for forensic anthropologists, pathologists and police to work together to form a plan when recovering bodies. He agreed with Mr Staines that in the case of Bobby Ryan, where his body was found in a tank, he could see no reason why there would be time pressure on investigators to remove the body.

Looking at a photograph of a fracture identified to Mr Ryan's femur - the upper bone in the leg, he said he was "doubtful" as to whether that could have been caused by pieces of concrete falling onto it when gardai used a digger to remove a concrete slab covering the top of the tank. He said the femur is the strongest bone in the body and without examining the debris that fell onto the body he could not say for certain if the pieces he saw were capable of causing the fracture..

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

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