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Saturday 24 August 2019

'Hurry... there's movement' - but killer stayed calm even as life sentence was handed down

Bobby Ryan's family outside the court after Patrick Quirke was found guilty
Bobby Ryan's family outside the court after Patrick Quirke was found guilty

The days had dragged by. Spectators huddled in groups in the corridors of the circular mezzanine on the fourth floor. Reporters tapped on laptops.

Patrick Quirke and his wife, Imelda, mostly sat on a different floor, presumably for some privacy.

Yesterday they sat with their eldest son on the second floor, waiting, waiting.

Their son scrolled through his iPhone. Imelda sat beside him, legs crossed, holding a plastic bottle of water.

Beside Imelda was Quirke, sitting like a man under a great weight, bent forward, head down and arms resting on his knees.

Crammed

When the jury returned at 11am yesterday, it had been deliberating for 18 hours and 24 minutes.

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon told the jurors that she would accept a majority verdict rather than a unanimous verdict.

The expectation by seasoned court observers was this would help speed things up.

Four hours later, a frisson rippled through the corridors. "Hurry," said a woman, one of the "regulars". "There's movement!" Everyone crammed into Court 13.

At 2.25pm, Quirke's gowned defence team swept past them to their seats. Quirke followed, in one of the grey suits that he always wore, and a red tie.

For a man with features so inscrutable, and so apparently immovable, his hazel eyes betrayed a deep anxiety.

He took his place in the dock, sitting as he always did, straight backed, arms clasped in his lap, staring straight ahead.

Imelda sat in her usual seat. She was rarely accompanied by anyone other than their son.

Yesterday one of Quirke's sisters sat with her.

"All rise," the tipstaff called, as the judge returned to the bench.

Quirke touched his nose. At 2.37pm, the jurors were called. Quirke put his hand to his mouth, but otherwise he did not move, his eyes staring straight ahead. At 2.38pm, the jury returned.

The senior registrar, Michael Neary, asked if they had reached a verdict. "Yes," the jury foreman replied.

Had a majority of 10 agreed a verdict? "Yes."

Mr Neary read their decision from the paper handed him by the foreman. "Guilty," said the registrar, so quietly and without drama that many people strained to register his words: did he say guilty?

Perhaps Quirke hadn't quite registered the verdict either. He was sitting in his usual pose, still and staring straight ahead.

Except now he actually was the controlling, devious murderer the prosecution claimed him to be.

Imelda dropped her head and stared into her lap. She looked shocked.

Grief

In the bench in front of Imelda, Bobby Ryan's children, Robert Jnr and Michelle, and their mother, and his brothers and extended family, wept deep shuddering sobs, as though releasing years of pent-up, unfinished grief.

The court adjourned for a while to allow Bobby Ryan's family to prepare their victim impact statement.

Shortly before 3.30pm, Quirke was back in the dock.

Michelle Ryan, trembling slightly, passed the man who murdered her father on her way to the witness box to read a victim impact statement on behalf of Mr Ryan's family.

Ms Justice Creedon pronounced a life sentence for murder.

Quirke rose to his feet, quite calm, escorted from the dock into custody, two bright red spots on his cheeks the only giveaway of the turmoil beneath that implacable surface.

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