The Many Lives of Irish Con-woman Julia Holmes

Jun 13, 2016 - by Siobhan Patricia Mulcahy

Julia Holmes (Image RTE Prime Time)

(Photo RTE)

For over 40 years, Julia Holmes was one of the most accomplished con-artists on both sides of the Atlantic. In Texas, she sold over $500,000 of non-existent land in Ireland and hobnobbed with Vice President Dan Quayle. Deported to Ireland, she set herself up as a “sports guru” and psychologist and tried to befriend members of both the Irish and English national rugby teams. The woman had gall.  

by Siobhan Pat Mulcahy

Julia Holmes, the three-times married but never divorced Irish grifter was wanted on both sides of the Atlantic and spent many years on the run from the FBI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and an Garda Siochana (Police in the Irish Republic).  
She became a confidence trickster at a young ageand began using up to20 different aliases to help her ply her fraudulent trade. 

In the early 1980s, she crossed the Canadian border into the USA and made her way down south to Texas.Once there, she and her new husband schmoozed with Republic Party officials including then Vice President Dan Quayle while she ran a real estate racket selling non-existent land in Irelandand conned her Texan friends out of more than $500,000.  

Holmes spent 27 months in a Texan prison before being deported to Northern Ireland where she set herself up as a sports guru and psychologist and tried to befriend members of both the Irish and English national rugby teams. 

When she was charged with defrauding a man in Northern Ireland out of £18,000 and involvement in a property scam worth one million pounds, she fled south to the Irish Republic. As soon as she settled in County Limerick, she established a new identity and found a new husband. In Limerick, even as the police net closed in around her, she made a fortune sellingfake honey to gullible supermarkets andupmarket shop owners. Knowing that she would soon be captured, she went into hiding. She was last seen in Askeaton, County Limerick on March 14, 2015. 

One month later, her badly decomposing body was found by burglars attempting to rob the isolated farmhouse she shared with her third husband

Early years 

1952: Born Cecilia Julia McKitterick in Castlederg County Tyrone, Northern Ireland on February 7, she grew up in the village of Castlederg just a few kilometers from the border with County Donegal in the Irish Republic. The village proved to be too small and too remote for the young woman who liked to tell tall tales and boasted to neighbors that she would one day make a great success in life – as soon as she could get away from the place. 

1971: Aged 19, McKitterick married her first husband and began to call herself Julia. She gave birth to a son about one year after the wedding. 

1972: McKitterick began calling herself Julia Holmes, the name most commonly associated with her. She left her husband, who she never divorced, and abandoned their six-month-old son, leaving him to be raised by his paternal grandparents in Northern Ireland. Her son Paul never heard from his mother again, and 40 years after she abandoned him, told police who were searching for herthat he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with her.  
In 1972, Holmes set off for Liverpool, England to begin a new life. She told her new friends she had a baby boy but he and her husband had died in a house fire. She told others that they had both died from cancer. 

Little is known of her life in Liverpool though she would later invite friends from the city to visit her in Ireland. Police sources claim Holmes spent several years as a con-artist in London and may have served time in prison there using one of her many false names.  

After a decade in Britain, she set off to begin a new life in America. 

 Time in the USA 

1982: Holmes entered the United States illegally by crossing the Canadian border and made her way down south to Athens, Texas. In Athens, she became a prominent member of the Lone Star State Women’s Republican Club. She met President Ronald Reagan and was photographed with U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle. (When Reagan died in 2004, Holmes held a commemoration service for him.)  

She told her new Texan friends she was a wealthy widow who had inherited a large portfolio of land in Ireland. She would later involve her Republican Party pals in bogus property schemes that would leave some of them close to bankruptcy. 

1983:Julia Holmes married Clyde Parrish, a printing-company owner (while she was still married to her first husband). The couple had met while the father-of-two girls was going through a divorce. Holmes moved into his house one week later. She immediately set up work as aclinical psychologist calling herself Dr Julia Watson, and saw clients in Parrish’s two-bedroom cottage. She told her clients and social circle that she had worked as a sports psychologist in Ireland and had helped many Irish sporting heroes on their path to success. 

1985: Holmes claimed to be pregnant, despite Clyde Parrish having a vasectomy during his first marriage. She again claimed to be pregnant the following year. On each occasion, she said she had lost the babies through miscarriage. She told her new family she had a son in Ireland but he died of cancer when he was 13 years old.  

Her two step-daughters later told investigating officials that Holmes was often violent toward them, lacked any kind of a conscience was a compulsive liar and had completely hoodwinked their father.  

During their time together, Holmes and Clyde Parrish changed address frequently. They sometimes sold mobile homes together. Their first move was from Texas to Tuscon, Arizona. They moved there without telling any of their Texan friends and were only discovered when Parrish’s worried parents hired a private investigator to locate them. Parrish’s eldest daughter Kimberly Parrish-Sanders, said that in the 19 years her father was with Julia Holmes, they moved house 15 times and even moved state. 

She said: They ended up coming back to Texas but not before she had come under suspicion for theft and other dodgy deals. They left New Mexico when she was accused of stealing jewelry from a business near my father’s printworks. 

2002 - 2003: Holmes, now calling herself Julia Victoria Parrish, set herself up as a real estate expert. She told businessmen and women in her social circle that she owned large swathes of land in Ireland. She would befriend people -- even going on holiday with them so that she could seal the deal. She promised returns of between 400 to 700 per cent to her “clients. If they made an initial payment she would convince her victims that other investors had withdrawn, creating an additional opportunity for them to increase their share in thelucrative property deal. When investors became suspicious, she would send them lulling emails to ease their anxiety.  

It was these emails which helpedto convict her. She was apprehended by officials when businessman Dennis Rose took her to court after she promised him a 400 per cent return on his initial outlay of $392,000. When he highlighted the property scam, other investors stepped forward making similar accusations.  

According to court documents, the fraud began around July 2002 and continued until December of 2003. Along with Dennis Rose, four other victims invested a total of $125,000.Jim Doughety was stung for $85,000, while couple David and Liz Maddox lost $20,000. A Philip Hardin lost $10,000, while Delores Hardin also lost $10,000. 

2003 – December 1: Holmes pleaded guilty to 12 criminal charges of wire fraud. 

2004:Holmes pleaded guilty to defrauding people of more than $500,000 in the Federal courthouse in Tyler, Texas. She had used several different names during her scamming, including Victoria Parrish, Julia Parrish and Dr. Julia Watson, and several bogus social security numbers.  

2005 – October: Julia Holmes (aged 53) was jailed for 27 months for wire fraud (related to the bogus emails she had sent) and ordered to pay €456,930 restitution to her victims. Her husband Clyde Parrish (56) was jailed for six months after he admitted he was aware of his wife’s crimes and helped to conceal them. The couple’s assets were confiscated to help cover her victims’ financial losses. The items seized included 48 acres in Henderson County, Texas, and the contents of two bank accounts in Athens. The couple also forfeited a new Toyota Tundra pickup worth $30,000, a three-year-old Lincoln Town Car, an aircraft engine and parachutes, two Rolex watches and a Texas State Senate chair Holmes had bought at the annual Cattle Barons Gala. 

2006:She was released early from prison but deported back to Northern Ireland when U.S. officialsdiscovered she had entered the country illegally in 1982 by crossing the Canadian border. When she arrived home, she moved to Ballynahinch, County Down.  

2006 – 2009:Once she was back in Northern Ireland, she assumed the name Julia Greer and began advertising herself online as a high priestess on love guruon her Facebook pages. In the process, Holmes wooed vulnerable widows and divorced men and relieved them of large sums of cash. She told othersshe met that she was a successful psychologist and author. 

She spent her evenings at Ulster Rugby soirees at Ravenhill and often called herself Doctor Watson while shehob-nobbed with the English national rugby team. To Irish and English national rugby players, she said she was a motivational practitioner who could improve overall sporting performance. 

2009: Holmes pleaded guilty at Strabane Crown Court to 22 charges of fraudulent activity. She was convicted of swindling businesses in Tyrone and Antrim. The most serious of the charges was making a false representation to the value of £1million to purchase a beauty treatment clinic. She was further charged with several acts of deception in the County Antrim area over a period of 18 months. 

2009 – October: Holmes was sentenced to serve 21 months in Hydebank Prison as a result of swindling over 20 Northern Irish businesses out of services and goods worth more than £1 million. She served only a few months in prison. 

2010 September: In Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, she was charged with fraud totalling £18,000. She was released on bail pending a future trial, but only after being electronically tagged.  

2010 October:She fled Northern Ireland and made her way across the border to the Republic of Ireland.  

2010 – November: Holmes met Tom Ruttle (54) through an Internet dating site. His online dating profile stated that he was a quiet, country gentleman from a respectable Church of Ireland family in Limerick. After a brief relationship, Holmes moved into his farmhouse in Askeaton, Limerick. 

2011 – January: Holmes failed to turn up at the courthouse in Newtownards to be sentenced for frauds totaling £18,000. A warrant was issued for her arrest.  

2011 – April: On April Fools' Day, despite having been married for 40 years to her first husband, she married Tom Ruttle in what was called a “marriage blessing.”She starts to call herself Julie Croen Ruttle. It is Holmes second bigamous marriage. She tells their Limerick friends she and Ruttle have been married for 30 years even though he has two adult sons by his first wife. 

2011 - August: A couple from Liverpool stay with Holmes and Ruttle for a weekend in Bouliglass, Askeaton, County Limerick. They are told a series of lies by Holmes, for example, that she came back to Ireland after her husband shot himself when he was diagnosed with cancer. She also told them that, at the age of 59, she was three months pregnant with Tom Ruttles child.She even showed her house guests a scan of a baby. 

2011 – December: Holmes and Ruttle have a heart-shaped plaque erected to commemorate the death of a baby called Annabella Clarinda Ruttle. The inscription claims that the baby died on December 2, 2011, and that she was the treasured baby daughter of Tom and Croen Ruttle. In December 2011, Holmes was almost 60 years old.  

2012: Having become co-owner of Tom Ruttles farmhouse, Holmes took control of their efforts to sell the property. As the sale was being readied, however, the couple were unable to produce a valid marriage certificate. She was also unable to produce a valid employment identity number. Holmes persuades Ruttle that they would be better able to sell the property if they carried out extensive renovations to the farmhouse.  

2012 – September: The Police Service of Northern Ireland put out another appeal for help to find Holmes, saying they believed she had been spending time in Galway on the west coast of the Irish Republic. In Limerick, where she was actually located, Holmes begins to wear a badly fitting blonde wig to hide her dark hair. She tells Limerick friends and associates that she has to wear a wig as she had been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.  

She used the cancer claim in other ways, telling one local builder about herterminal disease in the hope that his company would accept only part payment of a €70,000 bill for renovations at the farmhouse in Askeaton. 
She was sitting at a bench and obviously had a wig on. She made no effort to hide it. Then she said straight out: Im dying with cancer. Naturally I felt awful. I was supposed to be getting a larger payment but when she started telling me about her chemo, I said dont worry. She got me hook, line and sinker. I was totally fooled.” 

2013 – May:Police Service of Northern Irelandlaunch a new appeal for information about Holmes whereabouts. They issue a physical profile to help potential witnesses to come forward: She is 5' 5" tall with blue eyes and has been known to change hair color and style. 

2013 - 2014: In early 2013, Holmes began to take an interest in her husband Tom Ruttles beekeeping business. She markets organic honey under the brand name Irish Bee Sensations and claims that the bees are fed on wild heather. She sells the honey at a premium price to upmarket food suppliers and supermarkets and makes a hefty profit. Her organic honey wins several Irish food awards and wins a gold medal at one award ceremony. During this time, she is photographed with celebrities in newspapers and magazines, wearing her ill-fitting blonde wig. Rival beekeepers and honey producers suspect there is a scam involved as the quantity of honey Julia Croen Ruttle is able to produce is so vast. After a brief investigation, it is discovered that Holmes has been buying cheap supermarket honey and putting her Irish Bee Sensations label on the jars. Both food authorities and Irish Gardaí try to track her down. Julia Holmes goes into hiding. She is last seen on March 14, 2015. 

Grizzly death 

2015 May 18: Tom Ruttle and Julia Holmess badly decomposing bodies are discovered lying on a double bed by two men attempting to burgle their isolated farmhouse in the middle of the night. The burglars contact local police to tell them about their horror find. Police remove a number of exhibits from the property including two bottles filled with poison and a number of licensed shotguns which are taken away for analysis.  

Detailed DNA tests carried out over a number of days reveal the remains of Julia Holmes and Tom Ruttle had been positively identified. Their bodies have lain undisturbed in the house for almost two months. Police set up a murder-suicide investigation.  

2015 – May 25: Irish police tell the media that a series of hand written suicide notes previously found in the farmhouse kitchen revealed the deaths were most probably a result of a joint suicide pact.A total of 20 hand-written post-it notes had been found, one of which said: If you find us dont revive us,signed by both Holmes and Ruttle. Also found among the notes was a request that the contents of the notes be read out at the couples inquests. 
Police also reveal toxicology reports indicated that Holmes and Ruttle had most probably died from deliberate, self-inflicted, carbon-monoxide poisoning. 


2015 -June: Julia Holmes final wish had been to be buried alongside her third husband, Tom Ruttle. Despite never divorcing her previous two husbands, shortly before her death, she had written to a solicitors firm in Belfast, Northern Ireland asking to be buried beside Ruttle in the Ruttle family plot in Askeaton. But while Tom Ruttle’s funeral was held at St. Marys Church of Ireland in Limerick, her body lay unclaimed in the morgue at the city’s University Hospital.  

Her only known relative, the 43-year-old son she had abandoned as a baby, said he wanted nothing to do with her and would not be attending her funeral. When contacted by the media, he said: I never wanted anything to do with the person I know as Celia McKitterick, who is also known as Julia Holmes and by many other false names. 

Meanwhile, in his sermon, Rev. Keith Scott told friends and family at Tom Ruttle’s funeral that their time of grief had been made more difficult by the strangeness of the events leading up to his death. 

2015 - June 24: Julia Holmes remains were taken to the Island Crematorium in Cork where a private cremation took place (with only crematorium staff in attendance). Her ashes were then returned to Askeaton, County Limerick where it was hoped somebody would eventually claim them. Tom Ruttle’s two sons had always refused to acknowledge her as their father’s wife and therefore refused to have her ashes placed in the family plot. 

2015 - July 7: Two weeks after her cremation, a man described in newspapers as a mystery mourner claimed Julia Holmes ashes from the crematorium. Despite frenzied media requests, the town’s funeral director Kieran Madigan refused to reveal the name of the Irish cowwoman’s mysterious friend.


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