Garda search team found nothing on land where Bobby Ryan last seen, 'love rival' trial hears

Landowner Mary Lowry gave “full permission” to gardaí to search her farm after the disappearance of her partner, DJ Bobby Ryan, a murder trial has heard.

A team of eight gardaí searched the farmyard at Fawnagowan, Co Tipperary, in the wake of Mr Ryan’s disappearance, which was initially treated as a missing person’s investigation, rather than a criminal investigation.

No direction was given to secure the farm as a scene of crime in the initial aftermath of his disappearance. However, nothing of any evidential value was found in any of the searches, the jury heard.

Farmer Patrick Quirke (50), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan, a DJ known as Mr Moonlight, on a date between June 3, 2011 and April 2013.

The trial at the Central Criminal Court has heard of bad weather, with heavy showers of rain, during the Garda searches.

The deceased went missing in June 2011 and his body was found in April 2013 in an agricultural run-off tank on the farm at Fawnagowan.

Sergeant Cathal Godfrey of Tipperary garda station told prosecution counsel David Humphries BL he was in charge of a search of the land and outbuildings on June 7 2011, some days after Mr Ryan’s disappearance.

Owner Mary Lowry had given full permission for a search, he said to the court.

Sgt Godfrey said he knew Mary Lowry had given a statement to gardaí saying that Mr Ryan stayed at her home the night before he disappeared and left at about 6.30am.

On June 7, 2011, Sgt Godfrey and several other gardaí searched a quarry, fields, tanks, ditches, hedges, farm buildings and sheds looking for anything that might assist in their investigation, which was at that time a missing person enquiry. They found “nothing of evidential value”, he said, adding he was satisfied every shed and outhouse had been checked.

After checking the outhouses, the gardaí divided up into teams to continue their search, said Sgt Godfrey.

He completed an official eight-page log of the search. Gardaí did find a slurry tank on the farm but Sgt Godfrey told Bernard Condon SC, defending, there was “very minimal” material in it.

Frequent heavy rain interrupted the search but Sgt Godfrey said that when it stopped, they searched the field, noting the grass was two or three feet high.

The eight gardaí walked the field, three metres apart, he said. They left the scene at 11.55pm, having arrived at 9.30am.

They then immediately went to a nearby quarry and resumed their search there, he said. However with a break for lunch, they left the quarry at 3.30pm.

The search was concluded that day, Sgt Godfrey told the court.

Asked if he had taken any photographs during the search, Sgt Godfrey said he had not but would have done if they had found anything of value.

Garda Michael Fitzgerald told the court he had also formed part of the search party and told defence counsel Lorcan Staines SC that in one of the sheds they found a gold-coloured Toyota Corolla.

It was dirty inside and out, including the windscreen, he said, and the boot was open. He looked through the car but found nothing.

The trial has previously heard that Bobby Ryan bought the Toyota Corolla for Mary Lowry’s sons as a “field car” – for driving through the fields.

Garda Tom Neville told Mr Humphries he was in Tipperary Garda station when Michelle Ryan, daughter of the deceased, came to report that her father was missing.

That afternoon Gda Neville was on his way with Detective Garda Kevin O’Keeffe to Mary Lowry’s home to make inquiries as part of the missing person investigation when he received a radio message in the Garda car to say Mr Ryan’s van had been found at a car park leading into the nearby Kilshane Woods.

He went to the scene immediately and did not go to the Lowry farm.

He and his colleague were the first gardaí at the scene and they saw the van parked under a tree on the right-hand side of the car park. The front driver’s door was open, he said.

Asked who was there, he told the court that as far as he recalled, Mary Lowry was there, together with Michelle Ryan’s aunt, Ann Stapleton and her husband.

The trial continues.

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