Decomposing body of fraudster Julia Holmes and Thomas Ruttle found by burglars
Burglars discovered the badly decomposed bodies of an on-the-run fraudster from Northern Ireland and her partner when they broke into a rural farmhouse.
The thieves rang the gardai in a panic after finding the remains of Co Down woman Julia Holmes (63) and Thomas Ruttle (56), who are believed to have been dead since March 14 last.
The body of the grandmother, a serial fraudster and the subject of an international police hunt, was lying next to Mr Ruttle on a bed in an upstairs room while the burglars ransacked the house looking for valuables.
The criminals bolted from the house outside Askeaton in Limerick after discovering the remains. They phoned gardai at Newcastlewest around 3am yesterday. A post mortem examination has confirmed that the couple died from a single gunshot wound each in what gardai believe was either a murder/suicide or a suicide pact between the couple.
Gardai found two handwritten notes on a kitchen table which were dated March 14.
The notes appeared to have been signed by both deceased and contained instructions to loved ones about what should be done with their remains.
The house where the gruesome discovery was made was the home of Mr Ruttle, who was a separated father of adult children.
He was the registered owner of two weapons, a rifle and a double-barrelled shotgun. It is understood a rifle was found on the floor next to the bed. Security sources revealed that the initial indications are that Mr Ruttle first killed the grandmother before turning the gun on himself.
It is understood that gardai have identified Ms Holmes from her finger prints.
The grandmother, originally from Ballynahinch and who had more than 20 convictions, was being sought by the gardai and the PSNI for fraud offences. She used a string of aliases including Croen Ruttle, Dr Watson, Julia Watson and Celia Watson. In 2006 she was deported from the US after she was arrested in connection with a $500,000 property scam in Texas.
Ms Holmes, who claimed to be married to Mr Ruttle, was wanted in Northern Ireland for an £18,000 fraud. It is understood that the dead man had been a part-time farmer and mechanic who previously worked at the Aughinish Alumina plant in Foynes.
Sources say that his family "seriously disapproved" of his relationship with the conwoman.
The bodies were taken to University Hospital Limerick yesterday afternoon where State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy conducted a post mortem examination.
Sources confirmed they are not looking for anyone else in connection with what they called a "tragic incident".
Reverend Dr Keith Scott said the couple were members of the Church of Ireland in Askeaton. He said: "It's a terrible tragedy, and all of the family are very deeply shocked, terribly shaken and upset."
The burglars who broke into the house are well-known to gardai in Limerick and the Mid West region.
"They are well-known burglars who have targeted elderly people in their homes in the past. They certainly got a lot more than they expected when they broke into that house," a security source said.
"They got a serious shock and ran for it when they found the bodies. They thought about it and then rang the gardai in Newcastlewest around 3am in a state of panic because they were terrified that they would be blamed for what they thought was a double murder."