Times of Oman
Nov 29, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 09:32 AM GMT
A fatal mistake
May 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Manuela Riedo had arrived with 42 fellow students and two lecturers to improve their English and brush up their Irish history. They also intended to have some fun while they studied.

On the evening of Saturday October 6, 2007, Manuela had arranged to join friends in a pub in the city centre where they would sample Irish stew and enjoy an evening of traditional Gaelic folk-music.

She was staying with an Irish family in the suburb of Renmore Park and after an early supper was about to return to the city centre to meet her friends when she announced she  intended to walk the half-mile to the pub along a rural  path near the Dublin-Galway railway track known as The Line.

Her hosts advised against it. There had been violent attacks along that secluded tree-shrouded and unlit path. Far better to take a bus or a taxi.   

Manuela agreed to take their advice — but didn't.  She may have thought that nothing would happen to her if this were Switzerland, so nothing would happen in Ireland. It was to be a tragic — and fatal mistake. Her hosts didn't hear Manuela return that night — she had a key and had expected to be late back. Nor were they worried when she didn't appear at breakfast, assuming she was having a lie-in.

Then the phone rang: it was a tutor asking why Manuela hadn't arrived for a class. It was only then that her bed was found not to have been slept in and alarm bells began to ring.

Less than an hour later, a 29-year-old unemployed labourer named Gerald Barry made a 999 call to Galway police and said he had found a woman's body while taking a short-cut through The Line.

Meeting detectives five minutes later, Gerald Barry took them to the scene. He said he had noticed a rucksack in a clump of bushes and a purse on the ground. Nearby was "something pale in colour" which he found to be a woman's body covered with a coat.

He had not disturbed the crime scene but immediately rung the police. "No one should walk through here late at night," Barry said. "I wouldn't go that way myself."

The body was identified as that of Manuela Riedo. After less than four days in Ireland she had been savagely attacked and murdered. Her mobile phone and digital camera were missing.

A shocked Patrick Creed, the director of studies at the Galway Language Centre, told the reporters: "We have never experienced anything like this before. The worst that's ever happened is that someone's had a bicycle stolen."

A memorial service was hastily arranged at a Galway church and as students and friends lit candles the parish priest, Father Dick Lyng, said the local community was anxious to show solidarity with Manuela's family in their unimaginable loss.

"We hope to send a signal to them that they are not alone in their grief," he said. After the service, the students and their tutors cut their trip short and returned to Freiburg in Switzerland as 50 police and detectives moved in on the murder scene.

It was not long before they had a prime suspect in their sights. What amazed hardened detectives is that he had been allowed to remain a free man.

For in little more than a decade Gerald Barry had left an astonishing trail of human misery in his wake.

He was still under investigation for attacking another foreign national — a Frenchwoman — only seven weeks earlier and was currently on bail for offences linked to breaking probation orders.

He had previously been accused of the manslaughter of a man who was out on his stag-night — the charge was reduced to violent disorder and Barry was jailed for five years.

Before that he had spent two years in prison for blinding a man in a pub fight. On his release he was constantly in trouble with the law for stealing cars, theft, violence, robbery and minor fraud and had spent more than half his adult life in jail. But had he murdered Manuela Riedo? He was adamant that he had stumbled across the body accidentally, but police didn't

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