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Fugitive NI conwoman's final letter to be read out at inquest

By Maeve Sheehan

Published 25/04/2016

The bodies of conwoman Julia Holmes and her last husband, Thomas Ruttle, were found last year
The bodies of conwoman Julia Holmes and her last husband, Thomas Ruttle, were found last year

The final letter and a sheaf of notes left by Northern Ireland conwoman Julia Holmes shortly before she died in a suspected suicide with her husband, Thomas Ruttle, are expected to be revealed at an inquest that opens today.

The documents are among detailed evidence that will be outlined before a jury at Limerick County Coroner's Court, relating to the mysterious circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Ms Holmes (63) was a bigamist who committed fraud in several countries, before being deported back to Ireland, where she met Mr Ruttle, and settled in his farmhouse near Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Although she used more than 20 aliases to cover her tracks, she was on the verge of being found out at the time of their deaths. The couple had not been seen for weeks, and their bodies were discovered by suspected burglars on May 18 last year.

The inquest is expected to hear evidence from the men who found them, although they may not appear in person. The Republic's State pathologist, Marie Cassidy, will give the cause of death, while gardai will outline their report on the circumstances leading up to the deaths.

Ms Holmes sent the letter - which was deemed to be her final will and testament - to her solicitor, John Fahy, in Northern Ireland. He has forwarded the relevant correspondence but will not be testifying at the inquest.

Notes were also left on the kitchen table of the farmhouse which pointed to suicide and which the couple requested be read out at the inquests into their deaths. One of the notes reportedly reads: "If you find us, don't revive us."

A gun was found in the couple's bedroom but had not been discharged. Gardai suspected the cause of death was deliberate carbon monoxide poisoning.

Julia Holmes and Thomas Ruttle (56) seemed to drop out of view after TV and newspaper reports of her fraudulent activities began to emerge. Gardai believe that an online campaign to expose her may have precipitated her suicide pact with Mr Ruttle.

Born Cecilia McKitterick in Co Tyrone, Holmes used more than 20 aliases as she moved from one jurisdiction to the next. She was accused of fraud in Canada, Australia and America where she spent two years in a Texas jail for defrauding local businessmen out of $500,000.

She was deported from the US after finishing her sentence, and returned to Northern Ireland.

She was caught swindling again and was convicted. She faced more charges in 2011, but skipped bail and moved across the border.

She met unsuspecting Thomas Ruttle, a quiet separated father, on the internet and they married in April 2011, despite her never divorcing her two previous husbands. One of her last scams was passing off shop-bought honey as an artisan product.

In her letter to her solicitor, Holmes asked to be buried beside Mr Ruttle in the Ruttle family plot in Askeaton. She did not get her last wish. No one claimed her body. It remained in the morgue for over a week following the post mortem. She was eventually cremated in Little Island in Cork. Her ashes were later reclaimed from the Cork crematorium by a mystery mourner and were returned to Askeaton.

The letter also requested that the proceeds of their estate be divided among local builders who were owed an estimated £50,000 for renovating the farmhouse.

She had ordered the renovations after she moved in with Ruttle and, when the builders sought payment, she told them she had cancer.

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