Irish woman extradited from South Africa

Irish woman extradited from South Africa

By JAMIE PYATT in Cape Town, for The Irish Post

Ruth Lawrence, apprehended in South Africa in connection with the 2014 killing of two men in Co. Meath, has been charged in Dublin

DOUBLE murder suspect Ruth Lawrence was escorted back to Ireland from South Africa by Interpol officers last week after being extradited to stand trial in Dublin following nine years on the run.

Fugitive Lawrence, 42, had been lying low since the brutal killings of two men Anthony Keegan and Eoin O’Connor, described as lifelong friends, in Co. Cavan in 2014.

Last week Lawrence was handed over by Interpol to Irish detectives at Johannesburg airport. They had flown out to bring her back to Dublin where she was charged and brought before magistrates.

Ruth Lawrence escorted by two Interpol officers to a British Airways flight back to London Heathrow where she was handed over to Irish detectives for the 11 hour flight back, and then a connecting flight to Dublin where she was charged with both murders

Lawrence and fellow murder suspect and ex-lover Neville van der Westhuizen, 40, fled to his native South Africa shortly after the killings, where both worked as tattoo artists.

They split in 2015 but Lawrence's luck ran out in October last year when South African police acting on an Interpol warrant got a tip off and arrested her at a bungalow in Bloemfontein, Free State province.

Last Wednesday she was driven by Interpol officers to the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg where she was led onto a British Airways Airbus A380-800 for the flight to London Heathrow.

After the 11-hour journey landing at 5.30am the prime suspect and her guards took a connecting flight landing at 9am in Dublin. She was taken straight to the Dublin gardaí HQ where she was interviewed then charged.

A special sitting of a court was held on Thursday evening last, where the charges of murdering pals Eoin O’Connor, 32, and Anthony Keegan, 33, in 2014, were read out and Lawrence was remanded in custody.

The families of both murdered men had been informed by gardaí that Lawrence was in their custody and was making the 6000-mile overnight journey to finally face justice.

Lawrence has already spent 7 months behind bars locked up in what has been described as “a hell hole holding cell at a Bloemfontein police station” and even volunteered to be flown home at her own expense ignoring the chance to fight extradition.

A visitor to her at a grim holding cell in Bloemfontein said: “She’s bearing up well all things considered but the food and conditions are atrocious and she said she just wants to get back and face whatever is coming.

“To speed things up she even offered to pay for her own flight back to Dublin. She has offered no resistance and signed all the paperwork and said she is fed up with running and looking over her shoulder" she said.

Lawrence and lover Neville van der Westhuizen, 40, did a moonlight flit from Dublin in April 2014 after two men known to them were shot in the head either in their rented cottage or in a field just outside.

A butcher fishing in a nearby lake recognised the smell of rotting flesh and called the police who searched the island and found a shallow grave.

The bodies of the two friends were found buried and shortly afterwards an Interpol arrest warrant was issued for Lawrence and van der Westhuizen. An all ports and airports alert was put out for them, but they evaded arrest.

Extradition began when Lawrence was arrested in a dawn raid on October 4 last year by the elite South African police squad The Hawks at a suburban bungalow in Bloemfontein.

A spokesman for the South African Department of Justice Mr Chrispin Phiri confirmed: “The Minister Mr Ronald Lamola approved her extradition and approved the Irish police to travel to South Africa to collect her.

“Her co-accused Neville van der Westhuizen is currently serving 15 years in South Africa for an offence of culpable homicide which is not linked in any way to the Irish allegations but will serve his sentence first.

“When he has completed his sentence in a Durban jail then the Interpol extradition case against him can be heard," he said.

It has been alleged that Lawrence and van der Westhuizen owed debts running into five figures to a Dublin drug gang and when two men went to collect it they were both shot dead and the lovers fled Ireland.

South African Police are thought to have driven Lawrence in handcuffs and leg shackles 250 miles from the Bansvlei holding cells in Bloemfontein to Johannesburg where she was handed over to waiting Irish detectives.