Crime Long Read: The twisted secrets of sadistic killer Graham Dwyer - Part 1
Dwyer's text communications with Elaine O'Hara reveal the controlling, sick thoughts of a manipulative murderer
Jekyll & Hyde murderer Graham Dwyer is pinning all hopes of release on his European Court of Justice victory over disputed text messages that revealed the true depths of his depravity, in a case that also included DNA, CCTV, the testimony of ex-lovers and several miracles.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Elaine O'Hara dried her eyes and reached for her glasses. She pulled the ends of her dressing gown belt tight, nudged her feet into a pair of slippers and shuffled along a sterile corridor in the psychiatric hospital that had become a home away from home. St Edmundsbury in Lucan, Co Dublin was more than that now that her flat wasn't safe any more - it was her refuge.
The 36-year-old gripped her mobile phone as she walked. If she didn't text 'Sir' back soon, he was going to kill her. She'd been putting it off after what he'd messaged yesterday. He was freaking her out.
In the smoking room, she lit up a Marlboro Light and took a deep drag. 'Sir' hated the smell of stale smoke in her place. She didn't have to worry about that here, either. She glanced at her phone and re-read the previous day's texts that had upset her so much:
Master: Morning slave, look forward to seeing u Wednesday
Slave: I'm not bein stabbed
Master: Ok, but you must take some sort of punishment
Slave: I know
Master: What kind of punishment would you like? Choices are hard a**l with stabbing and choking. Whipping till bleeding. Chained overnight in forest. Choked unconscious.
Master: If you don't pick one then it's all four
Slave: I don't know sir. Sorry doc came in. Sir u know I can't make choices
Master: Ok overnight in woods
Slave: Sir, I'll take stabbing
Master: Ok but I must see blood
Master: And I want to do it outdoors
Slave: Please sir, indoors
Slave: I'm afraid if outdoors you might kill me
Master: I won't kill you
Master: If I was, it would be indoor hanging once you are chained up
Her head raced. Tomorrow she would be discharged and could go back to her own apartment after more than five weeks of treatment, helping her to stamp out the suicidal thoughts.
Tomorrow she got her life back, could sleep in her own bed, in her own apartment, see her lovely little niece, and get ready for the Tall Ships Festival.
Tomorrow, 'Sir' could also use the key she didn't want to give him to her apartment to let himself in whenever he wanted. She needed to make sure he wasn't angry. She typed: 'R u mad at me sir.'
Master: No but you must be punished for trying to kill yourself without me and for being unavailable for so long
Slave: Yes sir, I know. Master needs to punish slave
Master: I'm going to get blood on my knife for this, a lot of blood then we can move on
Slave: Yes sir
Master: That's my good slave. Master is very horny and needs to put his c*** in slave
Slave: Master, may I ask you something?
Master: Yes, but don't upset me before I am about to cut you
Slave: Do you go by the gorean way and is it just a fantasy (gorean) I mean
Master: It's a real lifestyle that people really live by. Yes you are my slave but I need you to be serving me not stuck in hospital. I wish I could f*** you on my lunch break
Slave: How do we do that master
Master: You need to get out of hospital and serve me
Which she wanted to do, but 'Sir' always took things too far.
The problems that had led her to the BDSM world had begun when she was 12 and being bullied. She'd started acting out a little play in her head about being tied up.
The famous psychiatrist, Dr Anthony Clare, had taken a big interest in her case. She'd told him she felt like a boy trapped in a girl's body. Blood tests had shown she had elevated testosterone levels.
Dr Clare was fantastic, but when he died in 2007 it was nearly as bad as losing her mother five years earlier. She'd needed him.
Another psychiatrist, Dr Matt Murphy, had taken over and explained that people in severe mental anguish often resorted to physical pain to explain the pain in their head.
But even knowing that didn't help her to stop. Just the other day she'd burned her arm with a hot iron. It was going to take a year to heal, according to the incident report filed in her medical notes. Welcome to her messed up world. It was her fourteenth admission to the hospital.
She knew it was only a matter of time before that number went up again if 'Sir' didn't give her some space. But he was like the opposite to her, confident and in control. He was an architect who drove a flash car and lived in Foxrock. He was married to another architect and had two young children with his wife - the thought that she might cause the little ones any pain made her want to hurt herself, not that she needed an excuse.
Elaine had taken so many prescribed drugs and seen so many experts about her problems over the years that she didn't even have the confidence to say 'hello' to people any more. It felt like everything she did was wrong. Except she wanted to live. Why couldn't 'Sir' understand that? Why did he have to keep talking about killing her?
Slave: Sir, please stop. U want me to be in here 4ever! Can't we just have a normal s/m relationship without this please sir.
Master: Ok, but promise me next time you fall down that I end you. Hopefully you will be ok though
Slave: ok, I promise sir.
Master: I mean it now. I will get into trouble if I don't do it at this stage
Slave: What do u mean? How could you get into trouble? It's suicide. It's f**kin suicide. No one will look into it
Master: I want to watch as well and be there for you so you won't be lonely
Slave: Shit. That's shit. I am lonely all the time and ur not there that's how I get like this. U just want a hard on. Ur bein f**kin selfish!
Slave: Sir, sorry. Just get angry talkin about it. I just want to try again. Be a good person/slave/friend and I want to try and have a normal life without talkin and thinkin about that. Please let me try
Except she didn't believe him. 'Sir' never kept his word, not about offering to impregnate her when she said she really wanted a baby, and not about no more cutting.
Slave: Why cant my punishments be like that sir [living on bread and butter for a week]. I'll take what you give sir but can have some punishments like that or live on 5 a day an u take my cards. Just normal
Master: it's up to me and you have a big punishment coming up, getting knifed in the guts
Slave: I know sir
Slave: I better be tied up good sir. Please not outdoors, please
Slave: What if we get caught?
Master: We won't get caught
Slave: I'm not leavin my apartment. U will have to drag me out
Master: You will do what you are f***ing told. I want outdoor play and you are going to follow instructions or I will double punishment or hang you
Slave: How do u know we won't get caught
Master: I found a really really remote place. No one will find us
Slave: Sir, do I have to be naked!
Master: It's very deep in the forest and yes you do. I don't want blood over your clothes
Slave: Now I'm terrified!
Master: Trust me it will be exciting
Slave: Sure sir
Slave: So what time do u want me from tomorrow sir? I was goin to go see my niece be4 I went home as there are hols next two weeks!
Slave: Yes sir
Slave: Do I have to drive sir?
Master: A bit yes
Slave: Now I'm really scared and I have to meet my counsellor
Master: Don't be scared look forward to being reunited with master
Slave: I'm tryin sir
Slave: just in case ur wondering sir u never came up in conversation with counsellor
Master: that's good no one should know about me
Slave: They don't know specifically about u Just the general
Master: Like what
Slave: Like I meet people, for BDSM
Master: Ok that's cool they would still find me way back in your emails and alt history if you went missing so relax
She put the phone away in case she texted something that made him worse. She had a counselling session to go to.
Her cognitive behavioural therapist, Stuart Colquhoun, had already seen the wounds 'Sir' had inflicted. She should just tell him Sir's name in case anything happened.
She'd shown Edna Lillis (a friend) the cuts 'Sir' had made on her stomach about five months previously and she'd been appalled. She could text Edna 'Sir's' name so someone would have it.
Except she didn't.
She was still fretting at around 23:00 that night, when Rosetta Callan, a staff nurse of over 40 years, came and sat on the side of her bed.
'I'm just pissed off.'
It was hard not to open up to someone like Rosetta with her calm manner and soothing voice. When she asked why, Elaine couldn't hold back any more. She said how scared she was of a man she'd met. They'd met on Alt.com profile - for people into BDSM - when she'd declared that she'd love to serve a master and was into 'purpose humiliation'. Elaine had stated that she was 'looking for someone who hopefully wants a 24/7 slave.'
Rosetta gripped her hand. 'You need to call the gardai and tell them this man is harassing you,' she said firmly.
She sighed. 'I can't. He has young kids. I wouldn't like to harm him by going to the gardai.'
Elaine had first met Rosetta when she was 16, 30 years ago. She was the perfect person to confide in, to tell 'Sir's' name.
Except, if he found out she'd blabbed when he was hurting her and forcing her to tell him the truth, she was dead.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
'Sir' was aware of how hard his heart was beating, but the adrenaline pumping through his veins had nothing to do with the 13 kilometres he had to cycle to work on Lower Baggot Street.
He'd been fantasising about the day for years, had laid the groundwork ever since getting back in touch with his 'slave' 17 months previously.
It had been a shitty few years. He had a degree, experience and was a director in an architect's firm, but he was permanently broke. Even petrol had hit a record cost at €1.70 a litre - which was why he was on the bike.
It was one thing having to cope with living a life in the suburbs as 'Mr Nine To Five' when he could afford a nice car, decent holiday and fine dining.
But the collapse of the building industry had caused his wages to drop by almost 15 per cent. His salary of €70,000 didn't leave anything over after taxes, contributions, pension, mortgage, a teenage son from a previous relationship and two young children.
In the old days he'd have had some chance of getting ahead by stepping on to the property ladder, buying a fixer-upper, selling it on, and clearing a hundred grand in the process. But the recession had changed all that. It wasn't just that there was simply nothing left after he paid the bills, there was less than nothing left. Basic entitlements like medical insurance had become, in the current climate, excesses.
It was enough to make anyone feel like a nonentity, let alone someone who believed that women were chattels and craved inflicting extreme violence on them.
Someone like him.
Today, however, he was going to turn things around and experience something that not even money could buy. The Buck Hunting Special 119 knife with the cocobolo handle and fixed blade in a black leather scabbard had arrived in the office by courier the previous day.
After arriving in work, he removed his bicycle helmet and tucked his trousers out of his socks. As soon as he was behind his desk, he got his burner phone out and studied her latest text. It was imperative that his slave didn't try to exercise her will, denying him of the one thing that he wanted from her.
He'd planned every detail so nothing would come back to him. Murder was going to give him his mojo back.
Slave: This place (hospital) although a pain in the ass at times is safe and because I know what's comin I don't want to leave.
Master: It will be ok. Trust me
Master: When you say you know what's coming next what do you mean?
Slave: Well tonite and the talk about killin and stuff but at the mo mainly tonite I'm scared
Slave: Did you know sir that I'm scared of u. U have this hold over me that terrifies me
Master: That's good for you to feel owned and that your life is in my hands every time you submit to me. I love that, thank you. Do not fear death
Slave: Sir can I ask a favour?
Slave: Please don't mention killin 4 a while until I settle back to life. Please sir
Master: But tonight's punishment will be like me pretending to do someone for real ok?
He'd had to say that in case she refused to do what he said. He needed to get her to a remote wood on Killakee mountain so he could kill her and not have to worry about having to get rid of her body. He'd gone there on a recce the previous evening.
The texts came thick and fast over the rest of the day.
Slave: got out earlier than expected. It's official I'm out. On way home now.
Master: well done im delighted
Slave: any instructions sir
Master: Have a bath, make sure c*** shaved, no underwear not even a bra. loose clothes, footwear for mud. make sure u are fed and take a pain killer.
Slave: can I do what I want until I am needed.
Master: like what
Slave: I don't know yet, just anything i want to do
Master: u will be in a lot of pain later and next few days.
Slave: It's going to be that bad? I'm going to be busy next few days. Tall Ships.
Master: You will have stab wounds, you know the drill. Last few did not bleed. These will.
Slave: Sir how many
Master: As many as I like
Slave: Yes Sir
Master: I want you to park at Shanganagh Cemetery at 5.30, leave your iPhone at home, Just bring slave phone and keys. You will get further instructions there.
Slave: Sir are we doing this if it's raining? Are you coming back to my place? I need to clean, it's dirty.
Master: Yes if it's raining. No I won't be back at your place.
Slave: No offence sir, but do we have to do it in rain. It's cold.
Master: Don't worry, it's never as bad as u think it's going to be.
Slave: Yes Sir
Master: Don't be nervous and enjoy being told what to do
Slave: Easier said than done sir.
Master: Empty yourself and become nothing. You are property and a piece of slave meat. Your only job is to serve.
Slave: Can I wear socks with runners? Can I bring inhaler? Didn't have time to eat, will we be late back?
Master: Yes to socks, leave inhaler in car. You should be back at car abt 8. More painful getting stabbed on empty stomach, suit yourself. See you in a bit. x
Slave: Did they close the recycling place at Shanganagh.
Master: Stay in outer bit on way in.
Slave: A lot of kids I work with live around here.
At 16.00, 'Sir' turned his personal phone off so his movements could not be traced. At 17.22, Slave arrived.
Slave: Here Sir
Master: ok take only keys and Slave phone. Make your way on foot to park next door and text me in middle.
Slave: Pls let me take my inhaler sir.
Slave: ok sir is the park with the playing fields in the top part or bottom.
Master: ok cross railway bridge in to next park near cliffs.
Slave: I'm lost I'm in football field now
Master: look for railway footbridge near footpath
Slave: Here now, where's park?
Master: cross bridge, head for opposite end of park near steps to sea
Slave: yes, Steps here
Master: Go down to shore and wait.
13 months later: Tuesday, Sept 10, 2013
The anglers standing on Sally's Bridge, one of three that crossed the Vartry Reservoir in Ireland's highest village, Roundwood, Co Wicklow, tried to work out what exactly they were looking at. Something was glinting in the water and could be seen on the river's flatbeds beneath them. It looked like the ring of a bull's nose.
James Fegan, his brother William and their childhood friend Mick Quinn were local men. James could not remember the water level ever sinking this low before, and he was in his forties. They were ten days into September now, but the rain still hadn't come. When would the heatwave end?
Everything about this summer was different. Usually the teenagers leapt off the bridge walls, arms in the air - Geronimo-style - and the roads were clogged with cyclists. But this year had been the warmest since 1995 and it was just too hot.
The average summer water drop was 20ft in some places, the level was down to just a single foot. It the opposite situation the previous summer, 2012, when the water level had been overflowing and was at an all-time high after one of the wettest summers on record.
Mick worked with granite. He had a 20-foot tension strap in his car with a metal hook attached at one end.
He went to the back of the vehicle, got it out and, hopping up on the wall, firing the hook into the water, attempting to snag whatever the glinting thing was.
The men exchanged glances as the hook took purchase and a rusty chain with sets of handcuffs emerged from the water.
Mark tossed the hook back in, and this time fished out long straps with padded restraints and buckles - a harness certainly, but for what?
Nervous laughter now as a ball gag - like the one the gimp in the cellar wore in Pulp Fiction - attached to a strap and buckle was hoisted up from under the cloudy silt. Then a black blindfold with a Velcro strap and a woman's turquoise hoodie and vest, encrusted with dirt.
They stacked the items on the bridge wall and went their separate ways.
Except, in the car, William couldn't shake a niggling feeling. Something wasn't right. So, the following morning, he went back. When he saw the items were still on the wall, he packed them into a bag and brought them to the local police station where a young garda, James O'Donoghue, was on duty.
William's niggling feeling would be the first miracle in the case and what Gda O'Donoghue did next - another.
4. MIRACLE #2
Three days later: Friday, September 13, 2013
The second miracle was one of timing. When Magali Vergnet pushed aside branches in forestry at Killakee Mountain in Rathfarnham, Dublin, she was walking a route she covered most days of the week.
The French dog trainer and owner of 'Wonder Walkies' Dog Walking Service had already loaded the dogs she had with her into the back of her car, winding up an hour-long trek. But her own Cocker Spaniel cross, Milly, hadn't come out of the woods and wasn't responding to her calls.
Three days after the strange find in the reservoir had set off William Fegan's alarm bells in a different county, Magali was following the scratching sounds, suspecting that Milly had found another bone.
The little dog had previously wobbled out of the forestry with a deer leg, the hoof still attached, which Magali had placed on a pile of blocks in a clearing along with two other bones, including one six inches long that Milly had retrieved the previous month.
The spot - just past the viewing point that looks right across south county Dublin - was blocked by the landowner Frank Doyle's barrier, but Magali was one of a handful of key-holders.
About five metres into the spruce-tree wood and with still no sign of the dog, Magali spotted a pair of mucky tracksuit bottoms lying in the grass and heather. Nudging them, she felt something like a shoe under her own foot. Then Milly appeared from the undergrowth with two bones and white greasy material in her mouth. Unnerved, Magali hurried her back to the car.
Once home, she rang the landowner, Frank Doyle, and a friend to tell them what she'd seen.
Doyle was used to 'courting couples' on his land - they left condoms and McDonalds bags behind - but he'd thought 'something funny' was going on after coming across strings on trees during a hunting expedition the previous year.
By 18:00, when the trio returned to the spot - Magali, Doyle and Magali's friend - there was no mistaking what they were looking at in the grass.
It was a jaw bone and it was unquestionably human.
5. MIRACLE #3
Monday, September 16, 2013
Back in Roundwood, Garda James O'Donoghue returned to Sally's Bridge for the third time since William Fegan had delivered the strange items retrieved from the water to the station. Visibility had been nil on each of James's previous visits - the rain had finally come.
The items found at the spot previously were safely stored in evidence bags in the station, bar the clothing. The turquoise hoodie and a white vest were sodden and he'd hung them upstairs back in the barracks.
The garda had returned on Saturday, September 14 when the weather was better and spotted something glittering in the water. He'd managed to walk from the bank along the flatbeds on that occasion, but the silt that had risen up and a squall obscured his view.
But today - Monday, September 16 - the weather was good. He pulled his wellies on and strode across. There was no sign of whatever had been shining, but he was sure he was in the right spot. He knelt down, put his hands into the water and pushed around.
He felt something and pulled out a bondage mask with zips over the holes for the eyes and mouth, and a jangling set of keys, complete with loyalty cards still attached - for Dunnes Stores, Applegreen, and Superquinn.
The following day, he picked up the phone and called Dunnes Stores, identifying himself and asking for details of whoever was responsible for the records kept on loyalty cards.
He learned that the card on the keys belonged to a woman called Elaine O'Hara, with an address in Belarmine, Stepaside.
According to the PULSE (Police Using Leads System Effectively) computer system, Elaine O'Hara had been reported a missing person some 13 months previously.
Friday, August 24, 2012
Elaine's father, Frank, had filed the report in Stepaside Garda Station on Friday, August 24, 2012.
The desperately worried father-of-three gave a description of his eldest child, who was 5ft 4ins, heavy set, with shoulder length brown hair and glasses.
Elaine had arranged for Frank's partner, Sheila Hawkins, to give her a lift to town the previous morning and she was supposed to have been waiting at an arranged bus stop at 7.30am, he explained.
It was important that Frank stressed the fact that Elaine had plans because she also suffered from depression. But she was dealing with that, just like she was managing her asthma, irritable bowel, diabetes, high cholesterol, vertigo, polycystic ovaries and anxiety.
Plus, she'd picked up her prescription on the day she'd last been in contact. The cost of Elaine's medication had been €132. Why collect the medication if she was planning to end her life?
Elaine was 36-years-old and had two jobs. She worked as a teaching assistant in St John's National School, Ballybrack and also as a shop assistant in Ken's Newsagents in Blackrock Shopping Centre. She also volunteered with the Red Cross on Tuesdays and was supposed to be stewarding at the Tall Ships Festival on Thursday.
On the Wednesday, the day she'd got out of hospital, she'd called to see Frank and her niece, who was her goddaughter, at the family home at around 1.30pm. They'd visited the graveyard in Shanganagh where Elaine's mother was buried and then had gone back to Frank's house for ice cream. His daughter left at 4pm.
When she wasn't at the bus stop waiting for Sheila the following morning, as arranged, Sheila had knocked on her apartment door and checked the underground car park for any sign of her car, which wasn't there.
That night, Sheila, who lived opposite Elaine, had kept an eye on Elaine's apartment for any sign of life, but the apartment lights had not gone on.
Frank had texted his daughter: 'Are you still alive?'
But he had got no reply. So the family had also gone to her apartment to see if they could find any clues as to where she'd gone. Her interest in BDSM was all too evident there.
However, her brother, John, had also found printouts of hunting knives, the Vartry reservoir in Roundwood and Google maps of Cruagh and Killakee Woods. That could mean something…
Another document in the apartment 'The Gorean Lifestyle: A Woman's Right Is Slave', had to be read to be believed:
'Masters consider their slaves property. If slaves don't meet their standards, they are disciplined. Beautiful slaves are prized the most. If slaves are not beautiful, both in looks and personality, they are killed or do menial work. Once you are a Gorean slave, you lose all human rights. Slaves aren't seen as people. They are, according to Gorean followers, human animals. Masters make decisions for them.'
That was just the opening, it also described the need to brand women, to degrade them…
So, although Elaine had been released from psychiatric care the day before she went missing, it looked like something had happened.
Detective Ultan Sherlock, from Shankill station, went to Elaine's apartment to carry out a search. He found heavy metal chains on her bedside locker, a PVC dress, a gas mask and a rope.
CCTV from her apartment complex would show that she had left at 5.05pm with a phone in her hand, although her iPhone was still in her apartment.
Elaine's blue Fiat Punto turned up on the avenue beside Shanganagh Cemetery car park, close to the coast. A jogger would remember her asking for directions to a footbridge, which led to a lane and on to the strand. A witness would recall a woman who matched Elaine's description crying at a grave.
Meanwhile, her two laptops, iPhone and a second iPhone with a broken screen removed from her apartment were sent to the Computer Crime Investigation Unit (CCIU) in Harcourt Square station, along with an urgent request to download the data.
Her devices remained in the CCIU until 13 months later.
7. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE
'Sir' had thought things were bad when, earlier that week, the Irish Independent had reported the discovery of skeletal remains, 'believed to be female', on Killakee Mountain, south Dublin - on his birthday.
Now, the discovery of possessions in Roundwood, more than 20 kilometres away, had given gardai two massive breakthroughs in the case.
If he had one worry it was that when he'd first made contact with Elaine back in 2007 through the BDSM platform Alt.com, he'd had given away his profession and date of birth 'Architect72'.
He needed to delete everything on his laptop showing his interest in that lifestyle.
That meant getting rid of 'It Was Just So Hot Walking Along Grafton Street', written in May 2005 about a woman walking around St Stephen's Green in Dublin's city centre, who is approached by a man who grabs her by the throat and drags her into the undergrowth where he rapes her, while a knife pressed to her throat draws blood. He wiped another personal favourite, a story about a female's BDSM encounter with her master in a hotel room.
He got rid of the eight movie files kept in the same folder: 1st Stabbing; 2nd; 3rd Stabbing; After 3rd Stabbing; Pre 5th Stabbing; 5th Stabbing; 6th Stabbing; and Fake Stabbing.
Selecting a document called 4Darci.doc with the mouse, he opened a story he had written entitled, 'Killing Darci', and gave it one last read before he deleted it too:
"Months had gone by and soon the day would finally arrive. From the first email I knew this one was special. I had always fantasised about killing ever since I was a teen and I got hard anytime there was knife in my hand wielding the power, knowing I could decide who lived and died just like my hero, God.
"Every time I made love I closed my eyes as I pushed myself in, wondering how it would feel for a hard cold steel blade to push itself in destroying all in its path. Every time I came I wondered what opening a throat would feel like spraying and gushing forth death instead of life.
"… I thought about stabbing a stranger to satisfy my lust for a while. To take a life in exchange for an orgasm, a memory, a video clip I would watch into my old age over and over again, wielding death."
Having been responsible for creating three lives, wasn't I at least entitled to take just one?
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