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Dublin woman facing double murder charge gets police escort through airport

The 42-year-old was escorted through Johannesburg Airport by two Interpol officers and members of the gardai

Ruth Lawrence under police escort in the airport

Ruth Lawrence and Neville Van der Westhuizen

Jamie Pyatt

This is the moment a Dublin woman who is a suspect in a double murder was brought through an airport in South Africa by police before being extradited home.

Ruth Lawrence, who is originally from north Dublin, was due to arrive back in Ireland this morning and is expected to appear in court later today charged over the gruesome murders of Eoin O’Connor, (32), and Anthony Keegan, (33) in 2014.

The 42-year-old was escorted through Johannesburg Airport by two Interpol officers and members of the gardai before embarking on a British Airways flight to Heathrow Airport.

It was understood she was then flown to Dublin on an early morning flight.

Fugitive Ruth had been lying low since the bodies of two close friends – Eoin O’Connor and Anthony Keegan – were found with gunshot wounds to the head and buried in a shallow grave.

She and fellow murder suspect and lover Neville van der Westhuizen, 40, fled to his native South Africa shortly after the killings and both worked as tattoo artists travelling the Rainbow Nation for work.

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.

Ruth Lawrence and Neville Van der Westhuizen

The families of both murdered men have been informed by the Irish police that Lawrence is now in their custody and was being brought on the 6000-mile overnight journey to face justice.

Lawrence has already spent 7 months behind bars locked up in a hell hole holding cell at a Bloemfontein police station and even volunteered to be flown home 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 left Ireland 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 channel of water between the house and a small island on a nearby lake 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 as an all ports and airports alert was put out for them.

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 she was renting behind security gates 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.

The two professional tattooists travelled round South Africa together initially but are thought to have parted ways in 2015 with Lawrence known

to have worked in Johannesburg, Pretoria and finally Bloemfontein.

South African Police already had Van der Westhuizen under lock and key after he was arrested in 2017 and then convicted in 2020 for the culpable homicide of a teenager after a beating at his Durban tattoo parlour.

He was sentenced to 15 years at Durban High Court for the crime as well as kidnapping him and inflicting GBH in which his 19-year-old victim died.

Lawrence from Clontarf, N Dublin, will be formally charged in Ireland with murdering O’Connor and Keegan in April, 2014, after she lands and is expected to be brought before magistrates within 48 hours.

A National Prosecuting Authority spokesman said: "As Ruth Lawrence did not object to extradition it was relatively easy to do the paperwork and although she could have fought extradition she chose not to do so”.

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.

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