Limerick inquest told of suicide pact as past caught up with fraudster

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A picture of Julia Holmes in one of her guises
A picture of Julia Holmes in one of her guises

SERIAL fraudster Julia Holmes died in a suicide pact with her partner Thomas Ruttle at his home in Boolaglass, Askeaton, an inquest at Newcastle West coroners court concluded this week.

Coroner Antoinette Simon BL, heard that the couple were found dead in their bed by a gang of burglars who stumbled on their decomposing bodies on the night of May 17, 2015.

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Five members of the extended Harty family from West Limerick arrived at Newcastle West Garda Station in an agitated state looking to speak with the Garda in charge.

Gearoid Thompston
Sgt Gearoid Thompson was first on scene at the house in Boolaglass after the burglars raised the alarm

Sgt Gearoid Thompson said the men were stealing scrap metal from sheds and continued in to the house as they had been undisturbed in their activities outside. When they saw the two bodies in the upstairs bedroom, they ran from the scene and contacted the Gardaí.

He arrived at the house at 2.50am on May 18 and immediately noticed a smell. He went upstairs and found two badly decomposed bodies.

He saw two guns, neither of which had been discharged, in the bedroom as well as three buckets of cinders in the front of a fireplace that was blocked with tin foil.

When he returned downstairs, he saw handwritten letters on the kitchen table, with instructions for persons finding the bodies and other instructions.

Dr Sebastian Van Eynatten attended the scene and found both bodies in varying degrees of composition. They were bloated and there was a lot of blood stagnating in the tissues.

Detective Sgt John Grant said that he found a blue towel behind the back door of the bedroom and that the room had been staged to prevent air circulating.  This was colloquially known as an indoor BBQ where coals are burnt in a sealed room to produce carbon monoxide poisoning.

In her summation of the evidence, Ms Simon said Gardaí concluded there was no third party involvement in the deaths of Thomas Ruttle and Julia Holmes as the bedroom was deliberately staged to produce carbon monoxide poisoning.

She added that Ms Holmes’ identity was confirmed after fingerprint analysis confirmed she was also known as Julia Cecilia McKetterick who had fled Northern Ireland and was being sought by the PSNI.

Mr Ruttle’s identity was confirmed by DNA evidence from his biological son in Nenagh.

State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy agreed that the “staged” environment she found at the scene would be consistent with persons allowing a deliberate build-up of carbon monoxide.

Leanne Knight, Thomas Ruttle’s former partner and the mother of his two sons, asked if it was possible to determine who died first, to which Professor Cassidy replied it was possible that Thomas Ruttle may have died first as he had a mild medical condition.

Professor Cassidy gave further evidence that the appearance of the scene and the post mortem findings were consistent with asphyxia-type death due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Despite these findings, she said that the cause of death could not be confirmed.

Ms Simon said that the handwritten notes that were found at the scene would not be read in to evidence

“Should the families wish to see them, my office will forward them,” she said.

She added that although Professor Cassidy said the cause of death could not be confirmed, she was satisfied to direct the jury in reaching their verdict.

“Collectively the letters and notes that were found in the kitchen, of which I have considered, are such that both the late Mr Ruttle and Ms Holmes’ unfortunate intention was to take their own lives.

“I will request the jury to return a verdict that in accordance with the evidence heard that there was no third party involvement in the deaths of both the late Thomas Ruttle and Julia Holmes.

“The verdict should be one of suicide, once the jury are satisfied of such a verdict beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I do not believe that there is an alternative verdict upon which I can address the jury to return their verdict and sadly it is most regrettable that such a verdict has to be reached.

Ms Simon went on to say that “today has been the inquest into how the death of both came about in the most tragic of circumstances and saddening situations they found themselves to carry out for reasons both of whom considered that they had to carry out in ending their lives.

“Both the late Mr Ruttle and Ms Holmes were persons who were once a son and daughter, a brother and a sister to siblings and, most of all, a parent of whom the loss undoubtedly has caused extreme sadness and distress to them.

“I would respectfully submit that this be the finalisation into the lives of their past prior to the events leading up to the May 17 and 18, 2015, for the sake of their loved ones”, she concluded.