Gardaí are expected in South Africa later this month to take double murder accused Ruth Lawrence into custody and bring her back to Ireland to face trial.
A spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of Justice and Correctional Services has confirmed that an extradition request to have the Dubliner returned to Ireland has finally been signed by its minister, Ronald Lamola.
Ms Lawrence (42) has spent the last six-and-a-half months behind bars in a police station’s holding cell in Bloemfontein in the Free State Province, after local law enforcement were tipped off last year that she was hiding out in one of the town’s suburbs.
After Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Ms Lawrence in late September 2022, a South African police unit known as the Hawks arrested her at her residence on October 4th. The Clontarf native had been working as a tattoo artist in the town when the authorities finally tracked her down.
Ms Lawrence and her co-accused, South African Neville van der Westhuizen, fled Ireland in 2014 following the double murder of Eoin O’Connor (32) and Anthony Keegan (33), who were last seen on April 22nd of that year in Co Cavan.
The men from Coolock in Dublin told their families on the day they went missing that they were going to a meeting. Their bodies were found a month later wrapped in plastic sheeting and buried in a shallow grave on Inchicup Island, Lough Sheelin, in Co Meath.
The Irish authorities reportedly followed the two suspects to the UK but their trail went cold after that.
Following her arrest Ms Lawrence waived her right to making a bail application at her first court appearance last year and agreed to voluntarily return to Ireland. It is unclear why the extradition process took so long to finalise under these circumstances.
Department of Justice and Correctional Services spokesperson Crispin Phiri confirmed to The Irish Times that Ms Lawrence’s extradition had been finally approved, and that arrangements to send her back to Ireland were being finalised.
“Justice minister Ronald Lamola signed the extradition request over a month ago and the logistics of the process are now being finalised,” he said.
Van der Westhuizen is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence in a South African prison for the culpable homicide of a young man in his home country. He must complete this sentence before his extradition to Ireland can be considered by local courts.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said that Irish detectives are due to arrive in Johannesburg on May 21st and that Ms Lawrence was due to leave for Ireland with them three days later, on May 24th.
“As far as I am aware all the arrangements [for the extradition] are in place,” he said. When asked why the extradition process took so long to execute, Mr Shuping responded he did not know what caused the delay.
South African police are expected to drive Ms Lawrence to Johannesburg from Bloemfontein where they will hand her over to Gardaí. From there the Irish detectives will escort her on a flight to Dublin where she will be taken back into custody.