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Garda tells murder trial that accused told him there were only two tanks on his farm

Garda Conor Ryan was giving evidence today in the trial of Patrick Quirke, accused of the murder of Bobby Ryan.

Patrick Quirke at the Criminal Courts of Justice
Patrick Quirke at the Criminal Courts of Justice
Image: RollingNews.ie

FARMER PAT QUIRKE told a garda investigating the disappearance of DJ Bobby ‘Mr Moonlight’ Ryan that there were only two tanks on his farm, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Garda Conor Ryan told prosecution counsel Michael Bowman SC that he visited the farm at Fawnagowan in June 2011 where Bobby Ryan had last been seen. He met Quirke by arrangement and watched as the farmer used a vacuum tanker to empty two tanks on his land.

One was a tank that collects waste through a slatted floor in a cattle shed. It had no slurry in it, Garda Ryan said. The other was an open tank which contained a “small quantity” of slurry.

When they found nothing of value to the search Garda Ryan asked Quirke if there were any other tanks on the farm. He said the accused told him those were the only two tanks.

Under cross examination the witness told Bernard Condon SC for the defence that he could have asked Quirke if there were any other “slurry tanks”, rather than “tanks”.

Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ryan – a part-time DJ going by the name Mr Moonlight – on a date between 3 June 2011 and April 2013.

Ryan’s body was found in an underground run-off tank on the farm leased by the accused at Fawnagown, Tipperary in April 2013.

The prosecution claims that Quirke murdered Ryan so that he could rekindle an affair with Mary Lowry (52), the deceased’s girlfriend.

Garda Ryan further told Bowman that he attended the scene on the day Ryan’s body was found. When he arrived he saw a tractor attached to a vacuum tanker that had a pipe running from it into the tank.

He noticed that the vacuum pump handle was in the neutral position which, he said, would indicate it wasn’t sucking at the time. When he looked into the tanker he noticed there were no fresh markings on the inside.

He then went to the nearby cow shed with the slatted floor. Garda Ryan said he noticed that the slurry in this tank was “heavily crusted”.

As Garda Ryan is from a farming background he was asked to move the tanker from the area where Ryan’s body lay. He did this and then emptied the contents onto the ground. He told Bowman that about 100 litres of soiled water came out.

Under cross examination Garda Ryan told Condon that he can’t be sure but he is “nearly certain” that he emptied the tank under the direction of his superintendent.

Condon asked him if it struck him as odd that a senior member of An Garda Siochana would ask him to empty a tank at a crime scene. He replied: “No judge”.

Condon continued: “You were not at all surprised at a crime scene where a body had been found?”

The witness replied: “The tractor was pulled away from where the body was found.”

Counsel further asked if anyone had thought to collect the contents, pass it through a sieve or film the emptying of the tank on a mobile phone.

The witness confirmed that none of these things had happened. He said he doesn’t know if the superintendent was watching while this happened and couldn’t remember if anyone was wearing a forensic suit. He did not take notes, he added.

Tony Chearnley told Bowman that he went to the scene where Ryan’s body had been discovered on the afternoon of April 30, 2013. He used an excavator to pull a large piece of concrete away from the underground tank to allow gardaí to access the body.

He told defence counsel Lorcan Staines SC that while pulling away the concrete the lid broke where there had been a pre-existing crack and a lot of “small pieces” fell into the tank. He said he didn’t hear any loud noises and didn’t see any dust but accepted that the concrete breaking up was “not ideal”.

He added: “We don’t live in an ideal world. It wasn’t ideal but that was the best I could do.”

Under re-examination, he told Bowman that he did not see any “pandemonium or panic” among gardai at the scene when the pieces fell into the tank.

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

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Eoin Reynolds

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