Irish double murder suspect Ruth Lawrence appeared before magistrates in South Africa yesterday and heard it could take up to three months to formally extradite her back to Dublin.
Blonde-haired Ruth, 42, sat quietly in the dock for the 5-minute hearing, reading a book, before her case was adjourned and she was remanded in custody to a prison in Bloemfontein.
Alleged fugitive Lawrence is said to have fled Dublin in 2014 with her South African lover after two men were shot dead and buried in a shallow grave, and an Interpol warrant was issued for their arrest.
Lawrence was arrested in Bloemfontein last month at a detached bungalow where she had been living and working as a tattooist, using the name Ruth Lawless having dyed her hair jet black.
She fled Ireland with her lover at the time of the double killings – Neville van der Westhuizen, 39 – to his native South Africa, where they both travelled the country working as tattooists before splitting up.
It is believed that Lawrence and van der Westhuizen had run up debts they owed to a drugs gang, and that the two pals O’Connor and Keegan were shot when they tried to collect a five-figure sum.
Van der Westhuizen is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for the kidnapping, assault and culpable murder of a teenager at his tattoo parlour in Durban in 2020 after splitting with Lawrence.
It is believed he ended their relationship in 2015 and Lawrence travelled between Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein working in tattoo parlours and being helped by local church groups.
Blonde Lawrence dyed her hair black as a disguise and avoided Irish police attempts to track her down for eight years, until her arrest last month on an Interpol Warrant.
When Van der Westhuizen was arrested in connection with the death of the teenager, it was found there was an outstanding Interpol warrant out for him for another Dublin murder in 2014.
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority refuse to discuss what action they are taking, if any, over the three Interpol warrants issued against van der Westhuizen for three murders in Ireland.
In June this year it emerged The Irish Garda had escalated their hunt for tattooed Lawrence and ex-lover South African Van der Westhuizen by issuing a new Interpol Arrest Warrant.
It was ordered by the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions who agreed the Garda now had enough evidence for both fugitives to be arrested and charged with double murder.
Miss Lawrence gave no resistance at the suburban bungalow which was behind security gates when an elite South African police unit – known as the Hawks – swooped on the property on October 5th.
At Lawrence’s bail hearing on October 12 her legal counsel said she had decided not to fight extradition and agreed to return voluntarily to Dublin and to even pay her own flight ticket.
Lawrence, from Clontarf in North Dublin, on her return to Ireland will be charged with the murders of both O’Connor and Keegan in Co Cavan in April, 2014, in or near her rented home.
It is thought their bodies were transported by boat onto a nearby island on a lake between Cavan and Meath, and buried in a shallow grave by a tree where they were found six weeks later.
It is understood both men died from gunshots to the head.
The National Prosecuting Authority said it estimated that the paperwork would be completed within 3 months to allow Irish police to fly Lawrence back to Dublin for trial.
They categorically refuse to comment on whether the Interpol warrants issued for the return to Dublin of Van der Westhuizen during or after his release will be acted on.
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