The man accused of murdering Swiss teenager Manuela Riedo has told a jury at the Central Criminal Court that her death was “an accident”.
The body of Ms Riedo (17 ) was found in an area of wasteland beside a pedestrian walkway known as The Line close to Lough Atalia in October 2007.
She had arrived in Galway, where she was studying English with fellow Swiss students, three days earlier.
Gerald Barry (29 ), of Rosan Glas, Rahoon, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Manuela Riedo at Lough Atalia, Renmore, Galway, on October 8 2007. He has pleaded guilty to stealing a camera and a mobile phone at the same place on the same date.
Mr Barry told Martin Giblin SC, defending, that he met Manuela near a shop in Renmore some time after 7pm on the night of her death.
Ms Riedo was staying with a family in Renmore.
“She asked me for the time. I gave it to her,” Mr Barry said.
He said that he asked her where she was from and how long she was in Ireland.
“I asked her if she was going sightseeing.”
He told the court that Manuela said she was walking into Galway city along the Line to meet some friends. Mr Barry said that he told her there was a quicker way and that she accompanied him.
He said that they both walked along a grassy path toward Galway city. He said that, while walking, he asked her how long she had been in Ireland and what she thought of it. “She asked me where I was from.”
Mr Barry said that they reached an area where a track leads up to the Line. He said that he showed Manuela how to get from where they were up to the Line and that she stepped between a gap in the bushes.
“I presumed she’d gone,” he said.
Mr Barry told the court that he sat down on a telegraph pole and proceeded to “skin a joint”. He said that Manuela came back.
“She said are you not going into town. I told her I was having a joint. She sat down on the other side of the pole and asked me why I was smoking that. I told her ‘cause I liked the buzz of it; it relaxes me. I asked her if she wanted to smoke it. She said no.”
Mr Barry said that he asked Manuela if she had a boyfriend in Ireland and that she said she hadn’t.
“I told her I thought she was beautiful and I leaned in and kissed her. She kissed me back. We were kissing and fondling and a few minutes later I suggested we lie down on the grass. I put my jacket down and she put her jacket down. I suggested we have sex. She asked if I had a condom. I said I did.”
Mr Barry said that they lay there after having sex.
“I asked her if she was cold. She said she wasn’t, that it was a lot colder in Switzerland.”
He said that Manuela sat up and said she had to go meet her friends.
“I sat up behind her and grabbed her from behind. I told her not to go, to stay with me for a while longer. I made a joke. I told her she could even tell them about me.”
Mr Barry said that Manuela “never responded.”
“I kind of sat up and took my arm away. She kind of slid... onto the ground. Her head kind of flopped. I shook her and got no response.”
Mr Barry said that he then pulled Manuela’s body to where it was found the following morning.
“Why did you do that?” Mr Giblin asked.
Mr Barry replied: “I don’t know to be honest with you. I don’t really know why. Out of respect or something, I don’t really know.”
He said that he placed a stone over the jacket so that it wouldn’t come off her body. He said that he “tossed her clothes into the bushes”.
“When her bag hit the ground, her camera and phone came out. I just took them.”
He said that he couldn’t explain why he took them. “I don’t know. It’s just something I did,” he said.
Mr Giblin asked Mr Barry why he lied to gardaí in the days after Manuela’s death.
“Because I thought if I kept denying it, it’d just go away.”
“What would go away?” Mr Giblin asked.
“The whole situation,” Mr Barry said.
The court has previously heard from State pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy that an “unusual” injury was found on Manuela’s left groin where a piece of skin had been “removed using a sharp object, most likely a knife”.
Mr Barry said that did not inflict that injury.
The court has also heard that one of the buttons from the front of Manuela’s coat was missing and that a button was found on the pedestrian walkway above the area where her body was found.
The jury heard that this button visually matched the buttons on the coat and that the remaining threads on the coat appeared to have been pulled.
During cross-examination, Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, asked Mr Barry if he could explain the presence of that button on the walkway and the pulled threads which remained on the coat. He said that he couldn’t.
“Could it be explained that you met her on that walkway and dragged her in over that wall?” Ms Kennedy said.
“No, that’s not what happened,” Mr Barry said.
“And continued to drag her down the embankment?”
“That’s not what happened.”
Mr Barry said that he could not explain how some hairs were found “snagged on the bushes” on the embankment between the Line and where Manuela’s body was found. He told Ms Kennedy that he put his arm around Manuela’s neck and pulled her back to go back into a lying-down position.
“I put one arm around her neck,” he said. He said that he remembered seeing her face go red.
When asked if she had died immediately, he said that he did not know how she had died.
Ms Kennedy asked Mr Barry if he knew how Manuela had got the laceration to the back of her head.
“I don’t know, unless it happened when her head flopped,” he said. He said that he did not know how Manuela had got bruises underneath her scalp.
Mr Barry said that he knew “nothing at all” about the injury to Manuela’s groin area. “I did not cause her the injury,” he said.
Ms Kennedy said: “I’m suggesting that you attacked her, murdered her.”
“It was an accident. I didn’t mean to cause her any harm,” Mr Barry said.
Ms Kennedy asked Mr Barry why he did not call 999. He said: “Because she was dead.”
Earlier the court heard from forensic scientist Dr Patricia Wiltshire. She told the court that she examined the contents of Manuela’s stomach.
Dr Wiltshire said that the meal Manuela had eaten on the evening of her death had been in her stomach for approximately two hours.
She said that if the meal had been provided at 6pm the time of her death would have been approximately 8pm.
The trial continues.