Patrick Quirke verdict: ‘He’s got his comeuppance anyway’

In Bansha and Cashel, where many suspected Quirke’s guilt, the talk is of little else

The family of Bobby Ryan spoke to the media following the sentencing of Tipperary farmer Patrick Quirke for the murder of their father. Video: Colm Keena

 

It is a walk of just a few hundred metres from Bobby Ryan’s home on Upper Friar Street in Cashel to the pubs on Main Street where some of the most important events in his life unfolded.

It was in Pat Fox’s pub that Ryan made his name as the Saturday night DJ, Mr Moonlight, with a reputation for being easygoing enough to play anything that was asked of him, and so chatty that it sometimes took him an hour to leave after his set ended.

He made that short trip for the last time eight years ago. And it is coming up to six since he was buried in the sprawling, windswept cemetery near the M8 junction 1½km out of town, with many questions still unanswered.

The most crucial of those questions, however, was answered just after 2.30pm on Wednesday in Court 13 of the Central Criminal Court, when Patrick Quirke of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, was found guilty of Bobby Ryan’s murder. He is now planning to lodge an appeal, according to legal sources.

The day after the verdict, in the Brian Boru, one of several pubs on Cashel’s Main Street where Ryan DJed, memories of him were so fresh, it was as if he had dropped in the previous evening.

“Nobody in the town would have a bad word to say about him,” said his friend Tom Murphy, who was sitting at the bar with three others on a quiet Thursday afternoon.

We were afraid that verdict could go the other way, because it was also circumstantial and it went on for such a long time

Horseracing was on two TV screens behind them, but Ryan’s murder was the only thing they were interested in discussing. “He loved a bit of craic. I don’t think I ever met Bobby in bad form. I’d be shocked if you could find a single person in Cashel who’d have a bad word to say about him,” Murphy said.

The “other fella”, he added, in a reference to Quirke, “now, I wouldn’t know him.”

In Cashel during the week, people didn’t much want to talk about “the other fella”. If they knew him at all, it was mostly by reputation, as a man who was “cocky”, “callous” or, as one well-connected source locally put it, “a kind of a fella who all his life behaved in a hubristic, arrogant fashion”.

Another local said there was a story going around that Quirke was so sure he’d get off, “he had a marquee already booked for his homecoming”.

Rumours involving Quirke – or “Bobby’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend” as he was known back then in Cashel – began to circulate almost as soon as the DJ inexplicably vanished.

“The general consensus was that [Quirke] was guilty,” said Danny O’Dwyer, who was standing on outside the Cellar Bar on Main Street, smoking a cigarette. “People were sure that he did it. I haven’t met anyone who thought he didn’t do it.” But, he adds, “all the evidence was circumstantial, so people were worried.”

On Wednesday, he said, there was a feeling in the town that “justice has been done”.

Ryan’s friends in the Brian Boru said they suspected foul play from the beginning. “It was hard to believe a man like that would just disappear into thin air,” said John.

Another man, who also only wanted to be identified by his first name,Tom, added that “everyone has their problems and things like that, but this was too hard to believe. He used to do his music and go to work and then he just” – he clicked his fingers – “vanished”.

In the Cellar Bar, owner Dermot Delaney has a newspaper open on the table in front of him. He followed media reports of the trial every day of the past 13 weeks. He knew Ryan well, both socially and through his work as a haulier for Killough Quarry. Delaney has a construction business, and Ryan sometimes delivered building materials to him. “He was a great character. A bubbly, funny guy. Full of life,” he said.

When Ryan went missing after leaving his girlfriend Mary Lowry’s home in Fawnagowan in the early hours of June 3rd, 2011, nobody who knew him thought he had disappeared of his own volition, Delaney said.

This seems to have included Lowry herself, who used to frequently call Tipp FM, the local radio station, to complain that the Garda weren’t doing enough to investigate his disappearance.

Fawnagowan is a 22km drive out of Cashel along a road that is strikingly beautiful, winding and densely wooded. It brings you near Kilshane House, a wedding venue popular with couples from Dublin, and the woods where Ryan’s van was found.

It is here that Lowry lived in a substantial bungalow with her husband Martin and their three children on top of a hillside, surrounded by rich farmland. After her husband’s death in 2007, Lowry leased the farm to Quirke, whose wife Imelda was Martin’s sister. It was shortly after, in January 2008, that what she would later call their “seedy” and “sordid” affair began. The affair ended after she met Ryan in 2010.

One theory that was speculated about locally in the days after the trial was that the real reason for Ryan’s murder was not actually thwarted love, but land – specifically Quirke’s fear that Ryan would get his hands on the land he leased. “Around here,” said John in the Brian Boru, “land is everything.”

On the same day as Ryan’s body was found in a slurry pit on the Fawnagowan property in April 2013, Lowry moved out. She now lives in a large, newly-built home just outside Bansha. During the trial, she was forced to go into what she called “embarrassing” evidence about her personal relationships.

Fran Curry, a musician and the presenter of Tipp Today on Tipp FM, said there was nothing secretive about Lowry’s relationship with Ryan, and they would often go to social dances together.

“They were a lovely, fun couple. There was no hiding anything. They were out and they didn’t give a hoot who knew. And they seemed very happy together, to be honest,” he said.

“One woman made an interesting point to me,” said Curry. “She said, ‘Whose life could take the sort of scrutiny that Mary Lowry’s did? If forensically we went through everybody’s phone records and their dating records, nobody’s life would really stand up to that’.”

Lowry’s new home

Bansha is a typical, small Irish village with one long street of a few shops and small businesses, surrounded by some of the country’s richest farmland. This is Lowry’s home now, and it is also one of the villages closest to the Quirke homestead. So it’s perhaps not surprising that people are reluctant to give their names when asked for their reaction to the trial.

In Bansha, during the time she was on the stand, there was a sense that “the trust that people would have had in Mary, that was gone,” said one person who knows Lowry personally. “When her husband died, she had three young children at that time, and to go off with Quirke? What was she thinking of?”

But by last week, the pendulum seemed to have tilted towards sympathy.

After the verdict was delivered, Lowry went into one local business, not to buy anything, but just to say hello. She was embraced by the owner.

“I gave her a hug,” the owner said. “You would have to have sympathy for her. She is shattered. She’s as thin as a rake now.”

There was sympathy in the village, too, for Imelda Quirke and the fact that she – as one person put it – “only got the full truth out of him [about the affair] in court”.

In Nellie’s Bar, a small, traditional place with a distinctive red façade, two men having a pint said they were “very happy” with the verdict. They both knew Ryan a bit, and remember him as a “lovely, lovely man”.

For the past 13 weeks, the conversation both in the pub and locally has been of nothing else. “’Twas the talk of the county and further afield. If you said you were from Bansha, they’d say, ‘Were you any place near where Bobby Ryan was killed?’. And when we’d say we were, we were a couple of kilometres from the house, that was all they’d talk about,” said one man.

“We were afraid that verdict could go the other way, because it was also circumstantial and it went on for such a long time. Most people I would have talked to during the trial said this man is going to get away with murder. That’s what we were afraid of.”

The Quirkes do not seem to have been particularly well-known locally, having preferred to shop and socialise in Tipperary town, but one of the men in Nellie’s said he knew Patrick Quirke through farming. “A very brainy man,” he said. “Very well spoken. But at the time when Bobby Ryan went missing, as far as I was concerned, the dogs on the street knew what happened to him.”

Quirke, it is fair to say, is not a popular figure in the locality. Last week, it emerged that his mother, Eileen, had phoned Joe Duffy’s Liveline radio programme in 2005 to complain that her son had inherited the family farm and refused to sign the family home over to her. Versions of that story have been known locally for years. “This is a ruthless man. Life isn’t long enough for him because he will be out in 10 years. This is a man who planned everything he did,” said one of the men in Nellie’s.

During the trial, Quirke “was walking around Tipp town every evening with his three Jack Russells, proud as a peacock”, the man said.

“He had 100 acres of land. He could have walked 3km or 4km on his own land in the evening with the dogs. Instead he wants to come in to Tipperary town. It was a defiance thing,” his friend added. “He’s a strange man. He’s got his comeuppance anyway.”

Back in Cashel, there is a feeling of relief that the trial is over, but also concern about the prospect of an appeal and a lingering shock, even eight years on, that it was Ryan, of all people, who found himself caught up in this nightmare.

He was, said Curry, “the last person that would cause hassle or be the cause of hassle. If ever there was a person I met who loved life, it would have to be Bobby Ryan”.