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“Graham Dwyer had no regard for her as a human being,” judge tells court

Graham Dwyer
Graham Dwyer

‘Dangerous man’ Graham Dwyer has been sentenced to life in prison for what the judge described as the ‘chilling and premeditated’ murder of childcare worker Elaine O’Hara.

The Cork-born father of three was last month found guilty of murdering the 36-year-old Dubliner by stabbing her for his sexual gratification in the Dublin Mountains.

The former architect had been on trial for more than two months, charged with her murder on August 22nd2012, hours after she was discharged from a mental health hospital.

The 42-year-old of Kerrymout Close, Foxrock, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to her murder at Killakee, Rathfarnham.

However, a jury of five women and seven men was satisfied that he lured her up the mountain that evening to stab her in pursuit of sexual gratification, before disposing of her belongings to make it look like suicide.

Some 11 members of the jury returned to the Central Criminal Court today to see Dwyer given the mandatory life sentence for his crime.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt told them their presence demonstrated that they were responsible people, anxious to see the very end of the process.

He thanked them for accepting the invitation, telling them it was not a usual feature of the process.

“But, then so little about this case can be described as usual,” he said in a courtroom packed to capacity.

He said it had been a very harrowing trial involving a number of families, including Mr Dwyer’s family, who he described as blameless.

The judge said that he could now comment on the case, something he couldn’t do during the trial, with ‘even a momentary frown over 40 days’ pounced upon by the defence.

Regarding the O’Hara family, he said that each member had been ‘spectacularly courageous and brave’ in giving evidence and remaining in court throughout the trial.

“It was difficult enough for a detached stranger to have seen and heard what they did over the two months,” he said. “My heart went out to them.”

He said that it was bad enough that Ms O’Hara had disappeared and that the family was reconciling itself with that.

“Then, (they were) subjected to this nightmarish scenario where they had to sit through intimate details of her life being poked over at the behest of Mr Dwyer,” he said.

He expressed his condolences with the O’Haras and said that they had given evidence with great dignity, compassion and in a measured way, contrary to the attack the accused made on their credibility in the defence’s closing speech.

He described this as ‘an attack by a person whose own credibility and truthfulness is at the level of the floor, if not below’.

He said that the victim impact statement prepared by Frank O’Hara ‘captured the essence’ of the deceased better than anything heard during the trial.

He said that it was clear that she had been well-loved and well-cared-for.

“They did the very best they could to look after her,” he said.

“I believe this family have comported themselves with dignity and composure,” he said, remarking on how moved he was by their predicament.

He said the trial process was not designed, in itself, to provide answers to all the questions they had.

Despite that and the horrendous ordeal they had endured, he said he hoped they now had some answers and insight into how their daughter and sister had been abducted and removed from them, her capacity to resist having been impacted by her illness.

“(I hope) that there are some dark corners of this very dark story into which some light has shone,” he said.

He noted that there was only one person who knew the answers to their questions.

“So, unfortunately the answers will probably never be known,” he said.

He said that things are never the same when we lose a loved one in any circumstances. However, he said that he hoped now, ‘at the end of this appalling process’ that the O’Haras could move on.

“I wish them well,” he said.

Referring to Ms O’Hara herself, he said she was a much broader person than displayed in the trial.

“Elaine was not all about her illnesses,” he said.

He noted that she was an extremely hard worker, who held down a number of jobs, and that she had coped with her situation better than many other people.

He noted that she had loved children with whom she was capable of relating.

“I was very anxious the jury should be reminded of the evidence given by her workmates that there was much, much more to this girl than her difficulties,” he said, noting that they had described her as very likeable.

“She was an ordinary person. She only wanted someone to look after her and take care of her. She was no different to anybody else in that respect,” he said.

“She was cynically misused and abused by Mr Dwyer,” he said, adding that he had ended her life as part of a prolonged campaign of abuse.

He said Dwyer had continued to abuse and misuse her suicidality after her death ‘in an attempt to slither out from under his responsibilities’.

He said the jury had correctly seen through all of that subterfuge.

He also mentioned Dwyer’s wife, Gemma Dwyer, who he said was ‘most cruelly deceived by his actions’.

He noted that one of the mobile phones he had purchased to contact Ms O’Hara had been bought days from his wife giving birth to their second child.

“That, perhaps, tells you everything you need to know about Graham Dwyer,” he said.

He described her release of a statement expressing condolences with the O’Hara family as a ‘Christian and charitable’ act.

He said the scenario of suicide by Ms O’Hara was an agenda entirely set by Dwyer in his ‘jailhouse correspondence’, referring to a card he had sent witness Darci Day and letters he had sent to his wife and son.

“Of course there’s no room for suicide,” he said. “If she committed suicide, then it required other intervention.”

He noted that Dwyer, in his ‘fevered imagination’ had nominated a man in pink underwear, ‘a threadbare garment to hide his guilt’. He was referring to one of the items pulled out of the same reservoir in which crucial evidence was found.

He said this ‘truly fictional creature’ had ‘mysteriously interposed himself’ between Dwyer’s meeting with Ms O’Hara at 6pm and her death a few hours later.

“Graham Dwyer had no regard for her as a human being,” he said.

He said that his only interest was what he could get from her, the ‘satisfaction of these debauched desires’.

He noted that even Dwyer’s barrister knew that his client was a ‘repulsive misogynist’.

The judge complimented the Gardaí on their hard and diligent work and analysis, giving particular praise to Garda James O’Donoghue and his ‘dogged devotion to duty’. He also praised the men who had alerted him to unusual objects in the almost-dry Vartry Reservoir in September 2013.

He said that Dwyer had been a very fortunate man for some time but had been unfortunate when good weather, a diligent garda and his own computer hard drives conspired to undo him.

He was referring to the ‘evidence of his debauchery’ Dwyer had carefully preserved in document and video form. The documents and videos relating to stabbing women were disclosed during the trial.

“We may be satisfied that a dangerous man is now out of the way,” he said, noting that this was a man who had kept a hunting knife ‘secreted’ away in his workplace.

He also noted that Dwyer had previously been refused bail on the basis that he presented a clear danger to others.

“I don’t know what’s up with him,” said the judge. “No analysis has taken place… He’s in his place of denial. He’s in his place of arrogance and delusion.”

In imposing the mandatory life sentence, Mr Justice Hunt said it was a sentence ‘he richly deserves’.

He noted that he had shown no remorse.

“It’s difficult to look beyond the chilling and premeditated murder, execution almost, carried out after a protracted campaign of the most vile manipulation and abuse of a woman too weak to resist, and who made the fatal mistake of trusting Mr Dwyer and that he wasn’t going to go any further than he indicated,” he said. “That’s the tragedy.”

He said that one could read the booklet of text messages sent between them and cry out for her to stop and turn back.

“Of course, it’s much too late for that,” he said.

“So that’s it. Life it is,” he concluded.

He granted a defence request for a legal aid certificate in the event of an appeal.

Dwyer was then led away to begin serving his life sentence, while more than a hundred onlookers left Court 13 for a final time.