Supreme Court reserves decision in Patrick Quirke murder conviction appeal

The DPP said internet searches discovered on a computer that was seized from Quirke’s home on foot of a search warrant were “absolutely crucial” to the prosecution’s case
Supreme Court reserves decision in Patrick Quirke murder conviction appeal

High Court reporters

The Supreme Court has reserved its decision in an appeal by Patrick Quirke against his 2019 conviction for the murder of Bobby Ryan.

On the second and final day of the hearing, the Director of Public Prosecutions said internet searches discovered on a computer that was seized from Quirke’s home on foot of a search warrant were “absolutely crucial” to the prosecution’s case.

Senior counsel Michael Bowman, for the DPP, said four internet searches relating to body composition and DNA that were made from the computer at times “pertinent” to the case timeline.

Previously, Quirke’s legal team submitted that the search warrant used to search Quirke’s family home was invalid because investigating gardaí did not provide sufficient information to the District judge who granted it.

The application for the warrant did not reference the gardaí's intention to seize computers and other electronic devices containing an entire family’s personal data.

Quirke (53), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, was convicted by a majority jury verdict of 10:2 at the Central Criminal Court of murdering Mr Ryan, a part-time DJ going by the name ‘Mr Moonlight’.

Mr Ryan had gone missing on June 3rd, 2011, after leaving his girlfriend Mary Lowry’s house at about 6.30am.

His remains were discovered in a disused run-off tank on a farm owned by Ms Lowry and leased by Quirke at Fawnagown in April 2013.

Love rival

At Quirke’s 71-day trial, the prosecution argued Mr Ryan was Quirke’s love rival and was murdered by Quirke so he could rekindle an affair with Ms Lowry.

The Court of Appeal dismissed all 52 grounds of challenge to Quirke’s conviction. While it found the lack of reference to computers was “suboptimal”, the omission was not fatal to the warrant’s validity.

Quirke maintains he had no part to play in Mr Ryan’s death.

When asked by Mr Justice Brian Murray on Tuesday if gardaí are obliged to identify in a warrant application any item they hope will be present at a premises they want to search, Mr Bowman said he did not believe they are legally required to do so.

Gardaí must satisfy the District judge there is a “reasonable suspicion” that an offence has occurred, he said. The judge has a discretion to engage with an applicant garda beyond what is in the application in order to be satisfied that the warrant should be granted, he added.

When searching a property, having secured a warrant, it would be “ridiculous” for gardaí to have to leave relevant items behind, and the law does not require that, Mr Bowman said.


The court also heard submissions on a second issue in the appeal, relating to the level of discretion afforded to the DPP in deciding to call witnesses, specifically in relation to her choice to select only one of four pathologists.

Lorcan Staines SC, for Quirke, submitted that the defence’s case was prejudiced by the DPP’s decision not to call Dr Michael Curtis from the State Pathologist’s office.

Although his team then engaged Dr Curtis and called him as witness, the prosecution went on to cross-examine Dr Curtis, with the intention of “seeking to undermine” him, counsel said.

He questioned why the DPP should be allowed to choose which pathologist to call in a case where there is “compromised pathology evidence”. Mr Staines said the DPP’s role in a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction, but to present admissible, credible and reliable evidence at trial.

He stressed there was no suggestion of “underhandedness” on the part of the DPP, but the “fairest” option for Quirke’s trial, which contained “unusual” pathology features and was based on circumstantial evidence, was for the DPP to call all four pathologists who had viewed the case.

Body in tank

The cause of Mr Ryan’s death was not known, and the pathologists that were not called as witnesses by the DPP thought blunt force trauma caused by vehicular impact was a more likely cause of death than the prosecution’s pathology witness, Professor Jack Crane, did, he said.

A body found in a tank two years after the person disappeared does not “automatically” mean the person was murdered, he added.

The DPP submitted, through its barrister David Humphries, that she has “absolute discretion” when picking witnesses.

Prof Crane agreed that vehicular impact was a possibility but that there was “no real evidence to support” this, said Mr Humphries.

Following submissions from both sides, and from the Attorney General and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Chief Justice Donal O’Donnell said the court would give its judgment at a later date.

The Chief Justice was joined on the bench by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley, Ms Justice Marie Baker, Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe and Mr Justice Murray.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more