Mary Lowry was “unhappy and upset” rather than angry at being told that she could not sit in on the Garda interviews of her three young children, the Tipperary murder trial has heard.
However, once correct procedure was explained to her, she acquiesced and allowed the interviews to take place without her, the two gardaí who went to her house told the trial.
Garda Fiona Conneely, who is trained in taking statements from children, said she was asked along with colleague Garda Sharon Moloney to attend Ms Lowry’s rented house in Dundrum, Co Tipperary, in mid-July 2013.
The children were aged 15, 11 and nine at the time.
Patrick Quirke (50), of Breanshamore, Co Tipperary, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Bobby Ryan (52), a part-time DJ known as Mr Moonlight, on a date between June 3, 2011, and April 2013.
When they arrived at the house, they explained the procedure to Ms Lowry, who had previously been informed that she would be allowed to be present during the interview.
However, they explained that this was not best practice that a parent would be present and she was unhappy about that. After they explained correct procedure, however, she gave her written consent, Gda Conneely said.
Under cross-examination by Lorcan Staines SC, for the defence, she explained that they interview children by first trying to speak to them about sport and general conversation to try to build a rapport.
The gardaí had a conversation with the two younger Lowry children and nothing of value emerged, so they did not proceed to interview level.
They did take a statement from Tommy, the older of the three children, she said.
Mr Staines asked Gda Conneely about Ms Lowry’s reaction to being told that she could not be in the room – and of the use of the garda’s description of her as being “angry”, in a report she had subsequently filed.
Gda Conneely said that she would not describe her as being angry, adding: “I know I did say she was angry.
“In hindsight it was the wrong word to use.
“Upset would cover it,” she said.
Asked why she had used the word “angry” if it was not right, she again said it was the wrong word to use.
“She was flustered, she was red in the face. She didn’t express anger,” said Gda Conneely, adding that she would describe anger as “shouting and roaring”, and that was not Ms Lowry’s reaction.
Mr Staines put it to her that she had now changed from saying in “an important report” that a person was angry and a number of years later, had come to court saying “angry wasn’t fair”.
“Angry wasn’t a fair description of Mary Lowry,” Gda Conneely said.
She said that had been the word she had used that day and “to be fair, ‘upset’ would have been a better word to use”.
Mr Staines asked when she knew she was coming to court to give evidence, and she replied “last Thursday”.
He asked her if media reporting of the evidence had “consciously or subconsciously” fed into her view that angry was the wrong word, but she said it had not.
Asked when she had decided it was unfair, she replied, “When I recalled my day” at Ms Lowry’s house.
Mr Staines put it to the garda that she had not put Ms Lowry’s reaction in her statement and that Ms Lowry was in the witness box for four days in January, and it was not traversed because nobody was aware of it.
Gda Moloney told the court the purpose of speaking to the Lowry children was to find out if they were aware of anything relevant to the murder investigation.
Asked how Ms Lowry had received them, she said she had welcomed them into the house. “There was a bit of an issue because she had been misinformed that she would be present when we were speaking to the boys but we said we’d prefer to speak to them on their own,” she said, adding that she had become “a little bit upset”.
“She was put out – a little bit flustered because she’d been given information and when we turned up we gave her different information,” Gda Moloney said.
Asked if she was privy to the report Gda Conneely had filed, Gda Moloney said she was.
She had “not put too much weight” on her use of the word “angry”, she said, adding: “But in hindsight, it was a little bit of a strong word.”
Ms Lowry had never raised her voice, she added.
Put to her that a list of questions had been furnished to her before interviewing Tommy Lowry, Gda Moloney said she took it as “a guide”.
Meanwhile, Detective Garda Fiona McGuire told the court she had analysed finger marks found on a black diary and the driving licence found in Mr Ryan’s van.
She found five marks on the diary and two palm marks on the licence.
Four of the prints on the diary belonged to the deceased’s daughter Michelle Ryan, but she was not able to identify the other. It did not match the suspect, nor did it match records in the national database.
Detective Garda Ernie Fraser said that in 2012, as part of the missing persons investigation, he took fingerprints from a bottle of aftershave from the van and also from a panel from the rear driver-side door.
He searched them against the national fingerprint database and the result was negative.
They also did not match those of Mr Quirke, he said.
The trial continues.