Daughter of ‘Mr Moonlight’ left ‘angry and disgusted’ over bombshell Supreme Court ruling
Evidence: Gardaí discovered the computer had been used to search for articles about decomposition of human remains
Twenty-four hours on from the Supreme Court ruling, Michelle Ryan was still in a state of shock, anger and disgust.
The seven-judge court found on Monday that the seizure of a computer from the home of farmer Patrick Quirke (54), the man convicted of murdering her father Bobby Ryan (52), was unlawful.
In an extensive interview with the Irish Independent yesterday, she said it didn’t take her long to realise the potential implications of the ruling.
Gardaí discovered the computer had been used to search for online articles about the decomposition of human remains.
It was a compelling piece of evidence in the circumstantial case against Quirke, who the prosecution alleged had dumped his victim’s body in an underground tank on a farm at Fawnagown, Co Tipperary in June 2011 and staged the discovery of the remains 22 months later.
The prosecution’s case was that Quirke killed Mr Ryan, a lorry driver and part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight, so he could rekindle an affair with Mr Ryan’s girlfriend Mary Lowry.
Michelle Ryan said she was absolutely convinced of Quirke’s guilt, having sat through his 15-week trial in 2019.
In her view the computer evidence was crucial as it “tied Quirke” to the murder and the case against the killer was “thin” and far from clear cut without it.
“Don’t get me wrong. I am not standing up for Patrick Quirke, not one bit. He is where he deserves to be,” she said.
“But if you take the computer away, what do you have? All you have is that things went sour between him and Mary Lowry and he found daddy.
“You have him [Quirke] in clean clothes lifting the lid of a tank. Now is that enough to put anyone behind bars for life? No, it isn’t.
“Is the fact he robbed the knickers off Mary Lowry’s line, God help us all, is that enough to put him in prison? No.
“The fact that she felt threatened to go to a hotel with him. That is not enough to say he killed Bobby Ryan.”
While the ruling has put Quirke’s conviction in doubt, for now he remains behind bars.
The court will hear argument from the DPP and Quirke’s legal team before deciding on the consequences of its ruling. The case is due for mention next week and a further hearing will take place at a later date.
“We could be looking at weeks, maybe months. So yet again we’ll have this mental torture hanging over us,” said Ms Ryan.
She said the ruling had “torn” and “shattered” her family, describing the level of shock felt by her and her brother Robert as “full scale”.
Ms Ryan had been “fairly confident” the Supreme Court would swat away Quirke’s appeal, just as the Court of Appeal had in 2021.
“I was saying to myself: ‘He is going no place’. We had this argument about the computer during the trial,” she said.
“Then he had his appeal. He went into the Court or Appeal with 52 grounds of appeal, including the computer, and lost.
“Then the third time [in the Supreme Court] he struck lucky.
“It might be lucky for Patrick Quirke, but it is very unfortunate for the investigators and the family.”
Asked how she felt about the ruling, Ms Ryan said: “Am I angry? Yeah, I am angry. Am I disgusted? Absolutely, I am disgusted.
“I hope those seven judges realise what exactly they did to us.
“I think the last time the wind was knocked out of my sails like that was when I saw a picture of my father’s body inside in Courtroom Number 13 during the trial. The picture of him in the tank.
“I was not prepared for that day and I was not prepared for that ruling on Monday.”
The court found the seizure of the computer was unlawful as computers were not specified in the application for the warrant used to search Quirke’s home at Breanshamore, Co Tipperary.
It found that the potential seizure of computers should have been specified in the warrant application made to the District Court so a judge could decide whether the intrusion into privacy rights was justified.
Ms Ryan now fears Quirke may ultimately end up being freed after spending just four years in prison.
While Quirke’s legal team is likely to push for an acquittal or a retrial, the DPP may seek to rely on a previous Supreme Court ruling that unlawfully obtained evidence can be deemed admissible if the illegality in obtaining it was inadvertent.
“I would be sincerely hoping that this was just a small oversight [by gardaí] given the volume of work they had to do to compile this case. I sincerely hope it was just an oversight on their behalf,” said Ms Ryan.
“These guards, they are human, and they had an awful lot to put together.
“But this shouldn’t have happened. We shouldn’t be going through this today, but unfortunately we are.”
Her hope now is that the computer evidence, though illegally obtained, is ultimately found to be admissible.
“I am still holding on. There is only a slim chance now, but I am holding on to hope,” she said.
“I will never give up hope, because if I give up hope I will be giving up on daddy. I will fight for justice for him no matter how long it takes. I’ve been doing it for 12 years.
“If Patrick Quirke walks away from this, there will be hell to pay, because Bobby Ryan’s life mattered.
“If he walks, there will be answers to be had and I can assure you of one thing, I will get them.”
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