Inquest to begin into the mystery death of NI con artist and her third husband
A hearing is due to begin into the mystery deaths of a notorious Northern Ireland conwoman and bigamist, and her third husband.
The badly decomposed bodies of 63-year-old Julia Holmes from Castlederg and her partner Thomas Ruttle (56) were found at a rural farmhouse in West Limerick by burglars.
Detailed evidence is expected to emerge at an inquest which is scheduled to take place on April 25 at Newcastle West Court before a six-person jury. The body of the grandmother, a serial fraudster and the subject of an international police hunt, was found lying next to Mr Ruttle on a bed in the property at Boolaglass, Askeaton.
Among the witnesses summonsed to give evidence are Irish State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy and the three-man gang who found the bodies in the early hours of May 18, 2015.
The couple were found in a bedroom with a gun close to their bodies, leading police to speculate that the deaths were the result of a murder/suicide.
Before meeting Mr Ruttle on the internet four years ago, Ms Holmes, whose last Northern Ireland address was in Ballynahinch, left a trail of fraud through Canada, the US and Australia.
The three-times married but never divorced mother — who portrayed herself as everything from an evangelical Christian to a pagan priestess — conned her way to a fortune, targeting gullible investors and charities. She changed her identity so often that even she misspelt her latest alias ‘Croein Ruttle’; among the other 40 names she used were Dr Watson, Julia Parrish and Julie Greer.
In Ireland, she linked up with the unsuspecting Mr Ruttle, a quiet Co Limerick man who kept bees for honey-making and worked as a mechanic.
Over decades of scamming, Ms Holmes served two years in a Texas jail for conning a group of local businessmen — one of whom she had married — out of $500,000. After moving to live with Mr Ruttle, she engaged builders to carry out major renovations to the two-storey Boolaglass house, after which the builders were left owed somewhere in the region of €50,000 for that work.
She then tapped into Mr Ruttle’s honey-making enterprise and began to falsely market it as organic. Her Irish Bee Sensations honey won a series of prizes —including a Gold Medal and the Chef’s Choice Award at the Blas na hEireann 2014 Food Awards .
Gardai, the PSNI and the FBI had her on their wanted lists, and the PSNI brought her to book four years ago over a series of frauds totalling more than £18,000.
Holmes jumped bail after she was charged and electronically tagged at Downpatrick Magistrates Court in 2011 and the PSNI issued a warrant for her arrest.
Prior to the 2011 charges, her crimes stretched across the Atlantic from Co Down to Texas. Although she had 20 convictions, she was suspected of many other crimes.
Investigators say she was born Cecilia Julia McKitterick in Castlederg in February 1952 and married at the age of 19, abandoning a son who was raised by his paternal grandparents.
The PSNI wanted to extradite her to Northern Ireland and Ms Holmes was aware of this at the time of her death.
An internet campaign involving previous victims was also set up to try and track her down.