The Murder of Mr. Moonlight, Catherine Fegan

Catherine Fegan‘The Murder of Mr. Moonlight’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Father of two, truck driver and part-time DJ Bobby Ryan, also known as ‘Mr Moonlight’ disappeared on the 3rd of June 2011 never to be seen alive again. The discovery of his body by Patrick Quirke 22 months later in a tank on Mary Lowry’s farm in Tipperary, led to the longest-running murder trial in Irish criminal history. In May 2019, Patrick Quirke, who was also Mary Lowry’s brother-in-law, was convicted of his murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Catherine Fegan, chief correspondent for the Irish Daily Mail was at the Central Criminal Court to cover the trial and her latest book is a detailed account of the case. In addition to court reporting, Catherine has conducted additional research and interviews and the book includes previously unknown details, as she told Seán O’Rourke today.

Most of the painful details of this case were laid bare over the months of the trial. The doomed affair between Mary Lowry and her brother-in-law, her subsequent relationship with Bobby Ryan and his ultimate murder and concealment by Patrick Quirke. One of the lesser known chapters of the story played out in a hotel in Thurles, when all three parties found themselves in the same room together for a meeting. This gathering was called by Bobby Ryan to ‘clear the air’, as Catherine describes it, but he was also there to take a stand.

“The book reveals for the first time that during that meeting Bobby actually said to Quirke, ‘We’re doing nothing wrong here, I’m single, she’s single – you’re the married man. If you don’t back off, if you don’t leave her alone, I’m going to tell your wife about what’s been going on here’.”

Catherine also expands on the story of the two psychics consulted independently by Mary Lowry and Michelle Ryan, Bobby Ryan’s daughter, after he went missing in June 2011. The predictions of the psychic visited by Michelle that Bobby was still alive and in the vicinity of a local quarry, led nowhere. Mary Lowry heard a very different story.

“A few days after Bobby goes missing, Mary goes to a well-known psychic in Nenagh. This psychic tells her that Bobby’s been struck from behind, that he’s dead, but she can’t tell Mary where his body is and that he has met her husband Martin on the other side and there’s no animosity between the men.”

Not everything in this case was concealed from view. Much was hidden in plain sight, according to Catherine. She says the authorities were treading a delicate path between what they actually knew, and what they officially knew, about the affair between Mary Lowry and Patrick Quirke.

“They all knew about the affair. But they all knew also that to go into family like the Lowrys and the Quirkes, to start poking around about this secret affair, maybe revealing it to certain members, or going into Mary with the revelation of the affair rather than her going to them, would have created potential issues for them.”

You can hear Seán O’Rourke’s full interview with Catherine Fegan here.

The Murder of Mr Moonlight: The Definitive Story Behind the Trial that Gripped the Nation, How Sexual Obsession, Greed and Arrogance Led to the Killing of an Innocent Man is published by Penguin.

© The Listener 2019

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