THE EVIDENCE against Patrick Quirke amounts to no more than suspicion and is not enough to convince a jury that he killed Bobby Ryan, a defence barrister has told the love rival murder trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Bernard Condon SC also criticised the garda investigation and told the jury they had been given substandard evidence due to failures in the investigation.
He asked them to imagine themselves or a person they love in his position, having done what he can to assist gardai and then having had everything he said interpreted in the worst possible way and be accused based on what Mary Lowry said and "a couple of internet searches".
Mr Condon completed his eight-hour speech to the jury of six men and six women this Tuesday by asking them to acquit his client.
The jury will return next Tuesday to hear the judge's charge from Justice Eileen Creedon before they begin their deliberations.
Mr Quirke (50) of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight. 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 has claimed Mr Quirke murdered Mr Ryan so he could rekindle an affair with Ms Lowry (52).
Mr Condon reminded the jury that his client told gardai he was a "curious and inquisitive" person. He suggested that much of what the prosecution sought to use against him could be explained by these traits. You might say he is a "nosy parker," Mr Condon said, adding, "nobody would like to be called nosy but we all have flaws and personality quirks but that's not murder."
He asked the jury to look fairly and with nuance at the evidence that Mr Quirke's computer was used to search for information on DNA and "human body decomposition" while Mr Ryan was still a missing person. You could not, he said, convict based on those searches. Mr Quirke told gardai he was "inquisitive by nature" and Mr Condon warned the jury of the "great risk" of making a leap based on those searches alone.
He said: "If they move you, they will move you to no more than suspicion."
They were general searches, he said, with no specific detail relating to this case, carried out in circumstances where Bobby Ryan was missing and Mr Quirke was following the disappearance in the news. There was, Mr Condon said, reference in the news to Trace Ireland and cadaver dogs having been used to try to find him.
There is nothing in those searches to do with bodies decomposing in water or in an airtight container, which would be specific to this case. He asked the jury what weight they could place on the searches and whether they can be relied on.
Counsel further reminded the jury of Mr Quirke's garda interviews in which he said that if he knew where Mr Ryan's body was and wanted to know what condition it was in all he had to do was open the tank and look. He noted that in interview Mr Quirke had referenced his deceased son when asked about the decomposition searches. Mr Condon said it may be "macabre" but people do the strangest things on their computers.
"You are invited to weigh the evidence but you are not entitled to start and jump all the way to the end," he said. "You can't go straight to guilty on the basis of some searches on the internet over a couple of minutes in December."
He described the prosecution as requiring "enormous leaps" and stated that the height of the prosecution case is suspicion. He told the jurors they don't know anything about what happened on June 3, 2011. All the jury has, Mr Condon said, is "this little piece which does not achieve what the prosecution wants it to achieve which is to convince you with certainty that this man, who has denied, denied, denied, actually killed Bobby Ryan." He said there is no hard evidence and this search alone is not enough to convict.
Counsel called on the jury to start from the position that Mr Quirke is innocent and to imagine themselves or a person they love in his position having done what he can to assist gardai and having had everything he said interpreted in the worst possible way. To be accused based on what Mary Lowry said and a couple of internet searches. He concluded: "I ask you to acquit this man."
Earlier Mr Condon criticised the garda investigation telling the jury they had been given substandard evidence due to failures in the investigation. He urged the jury to approach the prosecution's claims with "great care and skepticism".
Mr Condon told the jury that gardai should have searched Mary Lowry's house at Fawnagowan, the last place Mr Ryan was reported alive in 2011. They should also have video taped the removal of Mr Ryan's body from the tank in 2013. They had failed to tell a pathologist that a concrete lid covering the tank cracked, dropping debris onto the body, he said.
They should have used the garda sub aqua team to recover the body rather than the fire brigade. They had failed, he said, to record the finding of a hair clip in the tank beside the body, something Mr Condon suggested the prosecution was trying to "airbrush" out of the case. He said prosecution counsel Michael Bowman had "pooh poohed it". When senior investigating officer Inspector Patrick O'Callaghan was asked about the clip, counsel said he "jumped to" the suggestion that it could have belonged to the Lowry sisters who grew up on the farm. Mr Condon said the "more obvious" person would be Mary Lowry who had been living on the farm for the previous 15 years.
Dr Khalid Jaber, the former deputy state pathologist, did not attend the scene where the body was found, something that Acting State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis and former Northern Ireland State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane said they would have done. Dr Jaber retained only one maggot from the body to be analyzed by an entomologist and did not note if it was alive or dead when he found it, Mr Condon said. He also failed to retain any of the adult flies seen on the body.
Counsel said it was "extraordinary" that gardai emptied onto the ground the contents of the vacuum tanker which Mr Quirke said he used to draw water from the tank before discovering the body. A sixth class student, Mr Condon suggested, could have come up with the idea to empty the contents into buckets or bringing the tanker to another location to be measured and analysed.
He said the prosecution was now seeking to draw inferences against Mr Quirke based on the assertion of one garda who estimated that only a small amount of water came out of the tanker. Mr Condon asked the jury if they were satisfied that gardai at the scene had maintained evidence with such "robustness" that they would have no criticism and no sleepless nights. He further asked if they could be satisfied that the hair clip had been excluded and does not amount to a reasonable doubt.