AN Irishman accused of killing his girlfriend while on holiday in Spain has insisted his total innocence.
The former British soldier – who once guarded the Queen – told the Olive Press how he had found Kirsty Ward’s body lying prone with a ligature around her neck.
Speaking from a facility in Catalunya, Keith Byrne, 30, revealed that his girlfriend had ‘serious mental health problems’ and had tried to kill herself on ‘various’ previous occasions.
The former Irish Guard – who protected the royals at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace for four years – insisted: “I try to protect lives, not take lives.”
The salesman, from Duleek, in County Meath, had actually administered CPR in the doorway and not, as alleged, in the corridor of their hotel room in Salou.
He, along with another hotel guest, a British tourist, tried to bring her back to life.
He insists he was at a bar by the beach all day, as verified by CCTV, and came back to find she had strangled herself with an electrical cord.
He had returned to the room at the Hotel Magnolia to get his passport and suitcase, after they had argued and decided to split up.
But when he got there the door ‘wouldn’t open’, as she had strangled herself inside the door.
He had to force the door open to find her body rigid and lying prone.
“It was awful. Her eyes were grey and her lips were cold and blue,” he revealed from the low security unit, outside Barcelona. “I will never get this image out of my mind.
“She had been dead for some time and was so cold. I never felt cold like that before. I just can’t get it out of my head,” he added.
“I took the cord off and screamed for help and some British tourists next door rushed over. The man then said let me take over and started giving her CPR as well. I kept screaming ‘please come back, baby, please I love you, please don’t go’.”
Clearly upset, he continued: “Now I am being accused of killing her, but I have never been arrested in all my life. In fact only once as a stupid teenager for stealing diesel.
“But now I am stuck here away from my three children and it could take weeks or months to prove my innocence. Nobody knows for how long, there are no criminal charges yet,” he continued.
His family meanwhile told the Olive Press that Kirsty, 36, had been suffering serious mental health issues for some years.
It had been disclosed slowly to them over family dinners.
They explained she had a ‘borderline personality disorder’ and had ‘tried to kill herself a number of times’.
His sister Tara, 33, a mother of one, said: “She had been an inpatient at a mental health facility in Dublin and was visiting as an outpatient every three weeks and was taking medication.”
She continued: “Keith actually called me on the second day of the holiday saying it was awful and he wanted to come home.
“He said he couldn’t ‘do this anymore’. He said her drug addiction is too tough and she was drinking too much. He said she was ‘too high’ and he just couldn’t ‘calm her down’.
“He said he wanted to get a flight home and asked if I could help him sort it out. I promised to help.”
The pair had met in November, via a dating site, and moved in together ‘within two weeks’. “They fell madly in love, toxic love, but it was great at first,” recalled Tara, who said the couple spent Christmas with her family and many weekends ‘laughing and joking’.
But, after a couple of months, Kirsty pulled back and stopped visiting and started to get ‘needy’ and ‘possessive’.
While they had a nice skiing holiday with mutual friends in Andorra in the Spring, the holiday on the Costa Dorada went wrong from the second day.
They had been apparently happy the night before leaving, sending a photo of themselves to Tara, but on the second night, Saturday July 1, they rowed about staying out or going home and she allegedly went off with another mystery man.
“Keith woke up on Sunday morning and she’d been out all night,” explained Tara. “She admitted she had been with someone and they agreed it was over.”
The pair had then gone down for lunch at the Bikini Bar over the road from the hotel to discuss it all.
“Keith said to her ‘let’s be friends, not split on bad terms, let’s go back home together’.
But Kirsty said no and they couldn’t agree and he ended up spending the day at another bar opposite, most of it with a German guy called Lars, who lives in Salou.”
He told his older sister he has no idea what time Kirsty went back to the room, but that he had eventually gone back to the hotel at 9.17pm to get his passport and bag.
“Fortunately video cameras can prove all the timings, but he entered the hotel at 9.17pm and went up to the ninth floor, where the alarm was raised at 9.22pm,” said Tara.
“The police and paramedics were on the scene very quickly, but she was already dead.”
She continued: “There is literally no time to have killed her. Evidence revealed to us in court on July 5 shows the window of opportunity was only two minutes tops.”
Keith’s mother Michele, meanwhile, insisted the family were ‘mostly sad’ for Kirsty.
“While our sympathies obviously go out to the family of Kirsty and her son Evan, we just want to get our son back,” said the health care assistant.
“Nothing matches up. We know he is innocent and we’ll get him back shortly.”
A Spanish judge decided however, to refuse Byrne bail for now to his parents’ custody as they don’t have a Spanish residence.
At a secret court hearing in Tarragona last week he was remanded in custody, while police undertake more enquiries.
The Irish embassy is providing consular assistance to both families.
Kirsty’s remains have now been released to her family and a wake will be held at Flanagan’s Funeral Home in Dundrum, near Dublin, on July 19, with a mass the following day.
A funeral notice published today reads: “Kirsty will be sadly missed and lovingly remembered… May her gentle soul rest in peace.”