Lawyers for Tipperary farmer Patrick Quirke have told the Court of Appeal he was stigmatised and prejudiced by irrelevant evidence in an unsatisfactory trial for the murder of DJ Bobby Ryan.

On the opening day of his appeal against his conviction for murder, the court heard there were 52 individual grounds of appeal.

Quirke was convicted of murdering his love rival - a DJ known as Mr Moonlight - after a 15-week trial last year. He had denied any involvement in the murder.

Mr Quirke watched the remote hearing by video link from Portlaoise prison this morning. The three judges of the Court of Appeal are hearing submissions by video link. The appeal is expected to last four days.

In his opening submission, defence counsel Bernard Condon told the three judge Court of Appeal that the grounds of appeal could be broadly divided into two themes related to the rules for cases involving circumstantial evidence and an unsatisfactory trial.
He said the defence would argue that certain uncorroborated pieces of evidence were wrongly allowed into the trial. A circumstantial case could be viewed like a "jenga puzzle".

He said there is a serious question over the overall verdict if one of the building blocks should not have been there.

Mr Condon said there were many elements of the evidence that had no probative value whatsoever, but the trial judge allowed them into the trial. 

Some of the evidence, which he said amounted to no more than "tittle tattle" and someone looking crooked at someone at a family event, was introduced by the prosecution.

The trial judge had "failed to control" many references to depression relating to Quirke that had stigmatised him.

He said other pieces of evidence brought into the trial had allowed "large dollops of prejudice" to be placed on Mr Quirke's head.

Bobby Ryan

He said there was prejudice built into the case along the way and "run with" by the gardaí. Degrading things were said to him about "money on demand and sex on demand" from Mary Lowry and these ended up as tabloid headlines, he said.

Mr Condon said the trial judge had not applied the rule when admitting evidence that it should be more probative than prejudicial.

He said the evidence of Mrs Lowry should have been limited to certain issues to avoid the trial degenerating into a family law dispute and to avoid the breakdown of her relationship with Quirke becoming the focus of the jury.

He said the prosecution needed no more than a letter to a newspaper agony aunt that Quirke admitted writing, but instead they used a sledgehammer to drive home a point.

This led to an "explosion of multiple sub issues", which led to severe prejudice against Quirke.

He said a large amount of sub-issues were brought into the case, including evidence about Quirke examining underwear on a washing line.

Mrs Lowry's 29 statements and 115 pages in the Book of Evidence contained a narrative that Quirke was controlling and she was vulnerable and there was no evidence to support this, he said.

He also said evidence was allowed into the trial that Quirke was depressed when in fact he had not been diagnosed with depression.

At the time, there was a lot of publicity about another case in which a severely depressed person had killed someone, he said.

There was also no evidence that Quirke was financially dependent on Mrs Lowry as had been alleged by gardaí and the prosecution. 

On the pathology evidence, defence Cousel Lorcan Staines told the court the remains of Mr Ryan were extracted in "a hasty manner" from a scene that was "compromised".

He said the pathologist Dr Jaber had not attended at the scene and the body was removed from the underground tank in "an utterly unscientific manner" and was not video recorded.

He said Dr Jaber did not cooperate with the prosecution and did not give evidence to the trial. Instead, a report of his physical findings was peer reviewed by colleagues.

Mr Ryan disappeared on 3 June 2011 after he left his girlfriend's, Mrs Lowry, home early in the morning. His badly decomposed body was discovered in an underground tank on 30 April 2013.

The trial heard Quirke killed the DJ so he could resume an affair with Mrs Lowry. His relationship with Mrs Lowry was briefly rekindled after Mr Ryan's death.

The prosecution said he later came under pressure and staged the discovery of the body when Mrs Lowry said she was ending his lease on her farm.

The case was based on circumstantial evidence. The prosecution could not say the exact time or location of the killing and had not identified a murder weapon. There was no forensic evidence from the scene. 

However, prosecuting lawyers said the evidence, which included notes and computer searches about decomposition, established motive, opportunity and the state of mind of Quirke. 

The defence had argued at the completion of the prosecution's evidence that the absence of hard evidence against Quirke should render the case unsafe to be put before the jury for consideration. They said the garda investigation was "sub optimal".

Last Friday, the Court of Appeal was told more than 5,000 pages of transcript from the trial were being prepared for the appeal, which is expected to last up to four days.

In a trial that gripped the nation last year the jury heard how Mr Ryan disappeared after leaving Mrs Lowry's house in the early hours of 3 June 2011.

Searches took place after his car was found near a wooded area some distance away from Mary Lowry's farm. 

His daughter noticed the car was left open with his DJ equipment inside. It was parked in gear and the driver's seat was not in its usual position.

However, the case was treated only as a missing person investigation at that time and was not escalated to a murder inquiry until his body was found almost two years later just yards from where he was last seen alive.

Prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman told the court that Quirke had the motive and the opportunity to murder Mr Ryan.

He said the only person who could have put the body in the disused run-off tank was a person who knew about its existence and he suggested that was Quirke. Only a handful of people knew about the existence of the tank, he said.

Mr Bowman said it was the prosecution's case that he had got rid of his love rival and resumed his relationship with Mrs Lowry once Mr Ryan was out of the way.

In April 2013, almost two years after Mr Ryan disappeared, Quirke told gardaí he had been pumping water from the disused tank when he discovered the body.

Mr Ryan's decomposed body had been stripped naked and left in the tank, covered with a concrete slab.

A post-mortem examination showed he had died from blunt force trauma. He had multiple fractures to his skull and to his ribs and leg.

The prosecution said Quirke had staged the discovery of the body because the clock was ticking on his lease of the farm.

It said he wanted to remain in control and after staging the discovery of the body began a "narrative" aimed against Mrs Lowry in which he questioned her knowledge about the circumstances of Mr Ryan's disappearance.

Prosecutors suggested Quirke had a prepared script from which to work off in his garda interviews.

They said an A4 sheet of paper found during a search of his home contained evidence of indentations from another page on which a number of things seemed to have been written, including questions about Mrs Lowry and statements about disposal of evidence. It also contained the words "what the guards will know".

Gardaí also found evidence that a home computer had been used to search for the rate of decomposition of human remains in water.

The prosecution said this "could not be explained away" and it would be an affront to common sense to find him not guilty.

The defence had argued the case against Quirke was based on a theory and not on any hard evidence.

It had warned the jury against taking a shortcut to conviction based on circumstantial evidence.

Mr Condon said the case was forensically barren and the investigation was "sub optimal".

He said there was not one whit of evidence about what actually happened to Mr Ryan on 3 June 2011.

The defence had argued at the completion of the prosecution's evidence that the absence of hard evidence against Quirke should render the case unsafe to be put before the jury for consideration.

"The essential matter in this case is what happened to Bobby Ryan ... and on that essential matter there is actually no evidence, good, bad or indifferent," Mr Condon submitted to the court.

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon had refused the application from the defence to have the trial stopped.