An Irish woman, who has been on the run for eight years for the double murder of two best friends in Ireland, has been arrested in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Ruth Lawrence, 42, originally from Clontarf in North Dublin was at the centre of a global manhunt until a dawn police swoop yesterday.
The Hawks – South Africa’s elite police unit – said they were acting on an international warrant (issued earlier this year) and that Lawrence would appear in court today.
She did a moonlit flit from Ireland in 2014 with her then boyfriend, South African expat Neville Peter van der Westhuizen, 39, back to his home country. The couple split in 2017.
Van der Westhuizen is also wanted in connection with the murders, but is already serving a life sentence in Durban prison for another horrific killing.
The Gardai (Irish police) confirmed the two murder victims were not criminals or part of a drugs gang, but have not revealed a motive for the double killing.
The two slain friends – Eoin O’Connor and Anthony Keegan – were found wrapped in plastic sheeting and buried in a shallow grave on Inchicup Island, Lough Sheelin in Co Meath eight years ago. Lawrence has been wanted by Interpol ever since.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Christopher Singo said vital information about Lawrence and her whereabouts was received on September 28.
She was arrested in Pellissier, Bloemfontein, in the Free State.
Captain Singo said: “Her arrest comes on an Interpol warrant regarding the murder of Eoin O’Connor, 32, and Anthony Keegan, 33, in Ireland…
“They were both found murdered in 2014 and after the murder of the deceased persons the suspect then fled the country to South Africa.”
Lawrence’s former boyfriend is currently serving 15 years in Durban prison for the murder of a teenager in 2017, and will be interrogated by the Hawks.
Van der Westhuizen apparently “cried like a baby” when he was sentenced in 2017 for murder, attempted murder and kidnapping. He and three other men had allegedly beaten up three teenagers they suspected of stealing a mobile phone, and forced them to drink a poisonous concoction, before letting them go. One of the teens subsequently died. That teen’s mum told Irish media in 2020: “We got justice for my son but (Van der Westhuizen) has to be held accountable for his evil actions in Ireland.”
In court it was said that Van der Westhuizen was also wanted by Irish police in connection with the murder of a member of an Irish drug cartel in 2014.
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