Manuela Riedo’s half naked body was found on wasteland running by a railway line in Galway. Items of clothing were hanging from trees around her and a coat was covering her upper body and face, with a stone holding it in place.
Not far from her body a condom was hanging from some bushes. In today’s opening speech from the prosecution we heard that DNA from the accused, Gerald Barry was found on the inside of a condom while a mixed profile was found on the outside – belonging to him and the deceased girl.
A local artist, Sam Beardon, described his regular walk into work. On October 9th he was taking the standard hike through some bushes to reach the path than runs beside the railway line near Lough Atalia. Pushing his way through the bushes to climb the embankment he noticed a rucksack on the ground. It hadn’t been there when he’d passed by on his way home the previous evening so he stopped to have a look. That’s when he saw something pale in the bushes. He realised quickly it was the body of a woman. There was no sign of life.
Garda photographs handed to the jury showed a sad collection of human ephemera. Various items of clothing hung from different trees including a grey pair of jeans similar to the ones her teacher Kimberly Kramer Bertshy remembered seeing her wearing the day before. A makeup bag was spilled on the ground shedding it’s load of a young woman’s customary mask.
The teacher hung her head and spoke quietly as she remembered the popular girl who had been part of the group of 43 pupils she and her colleague had brought with them from the school near Berne. This was the third year they had travelled to Ireland. They were no naive tourists. Ms Kramer Bertshy had warned her class before they left that the girls shouldn’t walk alone after dark.
Her voice dropped even further when she described the call from gardai on the evening of October 9th 2007. She was asked, being in loco parentis, to go to the city morgue and identify the body of the 17-year-old, one of the youngest in the group.
She and her colleague, Christien Klingele, described a happy group in Galway for a two week intensive language course but also taking the time to enjoy the Galway nightlife.
The group had met in the King’s Head Pub, one of the best known pubs in Galway town – the story goes that the man who cut off the head of Charles 1 was given a reward of some Galway land by Oliver Cromwell’s parliament after the English civil war. A bloody provenance but a popular watering hole for young visitors to Galway.
They went there first on Sunday 7th October, the day after they arrived. The next night they were to meet again but Manuela wasn’t among them. She never showed up and the following day missed the first full day of classes.
When she was found on the morning of October 9th Manuela’s body was not yet stiff from rigor mortis, the attending doctor concluding she had died only recently. She was lying on her back, under the coat, one leg bent at the knee.
When you cover murders, or spend any length of time around the courts, you get a feeling for the trials that will stay with you after the verdict. Even with the journalistic distance there are still some. We might get used to hearing the most horrific injuries described in calm medical terminology but there are some trials where the human tragedy cuts through the remove. This will be one.