Elaine O’Hara had a deep and disturbing interest in the world of submissive relationships, but her real-life interactions were sporadic and seldom lasted long, reports Noel Baker.
ELAINE O’Hara’s troubled and tragic life included a secret online persona through which she sought relations with men — yet even here, amidst her apparent desire for physical pain, she hinted at wanting a different life.
The trial of Graham Dwyer heard details of her alternative life online, and that, for some of the men she met through fetish and BDSM sites, either her sexual tastes or her obvious vulnerability resulted in only shortlived and fleeting contact.
One man, Robert Cullen Jones, testified that he met Ms O’Hara through a website, Alt.com, in March 2011.
“It’s a website for people, who like being submissive and dominant,” he said, explaining submissive meant “people who like to give control to someone else in a sexual way”.
He explained that people had to join the website to meet other users on it.
He recalled Ms O’Hara’s user name was HelpMeLearn36-F and she described herself as “submissive”.
Mr Cullen Jones met Ms O’Hara for coffee a few weeks later in Dundrum Shopping Centre. They spent about an hour there, before going back to her apartment in Belarmine Plaza, Stepaside, where they had sex.
Robert Cullen Jones told the trial he met Elaine O’Hara a number of times, but no lasting relationship developed.
Mr Cullen Jones said Ms O’Hara had mentioned an interest in being restrained and tied up, but that this didn’t form part of their sexual relations that day. She had shown him some sexual paraphernalia.
“I remember her handcuffs. She had them in a drawer by the side of her bed,” he said. “I remember seeing the one pair: Silver with a small link between the two cuffs.”
He said he thought he also saw a couple of battery-operated vibrators that day.
There was “the odd text” between them until he met her again in Dundrum Shopping Centre in May, 2012. This time they spent about half an hour together and but did not return to her apartment.
He thought it was at this meeting that she mentioned having been depressed and losing one of her parents.
He said it was the last time he met her. Again, there was “the odd text” between them after this, but he deleted her phone number a few weeks later, he said.
Mr Cullen Jones said the only fantasy Ms O’Hara had discussed with him was her wish to be submissive in giving up control of her situation. She told him she had a fantasy to engage in sexual games of bondage or restraint.
Regarding ‘sub-dom’ relationships, he said: “Sometimes the profiles would give someone’s status away,” he said, referring to the words ‘submissive’ and ‘dominant’. Mr Cullen Jones’ username on Alt.com was DublinMaster and he said it was clear from their usernames that Ms O’Hara was submissive and he was dominant.
Ms O’Hara had saved his number on her phone under his middle name, William. He said she owned a number of sex toys and that it was “fair to say” she was more in to that kind of thing than him and that he felt he couldn’t keep up.
Her Alt.com profile read: “Hi. I hate these things. I’ve been a sub on and off for a while. I’ve learnt a lot but I still have a lot to learn. My fetish is bondage. I love being in chains. I’m here to learn. I serve my master.”
It said she would love a 24/7 relationship, but had no expectations.
“Call me fuck meet,” her profile read, but under a section entitled ‘My ideal person’, she indicated she was looking for something beyond the roleplay her other postings referenced.
“Someone who can train me to be the best submissive/slave I can be… honest, loyal, frank and trustworthy and possibly caring, as well as strict,” it said. “I’m also looking for someone who wants a 24/7 slave.”
Her profile also indicated the activities in which HelpMeLearn36-F was interested. These included knife play, sensory deprivation, and verbal humiliation. The photograph accompanying the profile appeared to be of a woman, bent over and tied up.
Another man who met Ms O’Hara was Mark Guerin, who said his Alt.com username was ‘Time2Kill in Dublin’.
They met twice, and Ms O’Hara first took him to her bedsit at Ardmeen Lodge in Blackrock, where she placed restraints on the bed. Mr Guerin said she was quite nervous and not very affectionate that day and that they had spoken about her past and self-harming.
When asked if Ms O’Hara had had a low opinion of herself, Mr Guerin said: “Very much so.”
“She talked about her previous partner and showed… cutting marks that weren’t consensual,” he said, adding that they did not have sex. “We found out we had different interests,” he said.
Mr Guerin said Ms O’Hara got in touch with him again when she moved to her new home in Stepaside. He went to her apartment and she laid out some restraints on the bed.
“She was in a much lighter mood than she had been previously,” Mr Guerin said, confirming they had sex on that occasion.
However, they decided they had different preferences. “She was more into restraints, blood-letting, degradation and humiliation,” he said, adding that he was more into ‘wax play’ and ‘light kink’. He said he never saw her again.
Two other men said they must have made contact with Ms O’Hara through adult websites, but had little memory of doing so.
One man, Patrick McGurk, said gardaí contacted him after his number was found on Ms O’Hara’s mobile phone. He had been a member of CollaredMe.com for a number of years, but he told the court he did not remember anyone on the site called ‘ChainedBrunette’.
He said he had used the site to contact a woman from the southside of Dublin.
A Swedish man, Kurt Ronnhuist, said he had been contacted by gardaí over chat messages between him and Ms O’Hara on Alt.com in September 2010, but he said he had never met the person who sent the messages and he did not recognise her from a photograph shown in court.
The phone number of another man, Sean Byrne, was also found on Ms O’Hara’s phone and he said it was “more than likely” that he had contacted her, although they never met and he did not remember her. It emerged he was a member of the site Fetlife.com and his username was ‘the strict one’, while he was also a member of Alt.com, where his username was ‘true master 10’.
They never actually met, he said, adding that he did not have recall the username ‘ChainedBrunette’.
Even in regular conversations, Ms O’Hara sometimes made oblique references to websites she used and men she had met. One instance was in a chat with Marie O’Brien, who rented a room to Ms O’Hara in December 2008.
She told Ms O’Brien that she self-harmed and also told her about a website she used. At one point, Ms O’Hara said she had met a man and brought him back and they had a “very nice chat”, but while they had exchanged contact details, she was “a bit disappointed because maybe they hadn’t that much in common”.
IN ADDITION to these online exchanges and sometimes fleeting physical meetings, Ms O’Hara’s home also held evidence of her hidden life.
Searches conducted at her apartment in Belarmine Plaza, Stepaside, just days after her disappearance in August 2012 resulted in gardaí finding two heavy, metal chains in a locker beside her bed.
Retired Detective Garda Ultan Sherlock found those items and also said: “In the living room, there was a black, PVC body suit and also a rope.”
John O’Hara, Ms O’Hara’s brother, showed Garda Sherlock images on a website on his phone, having found the web address written in a diary in Ms O’Hara’s home. The images seemed to have been of S&M activity, while the diary contained two words written down next to the web address — almost certainly ‘Chained Brunette’, one of Ms O’Hara’s online identities.
During a separate search of the property a few days later that August, Garda James Codd recovered a black plastic bag containing a PVC dress and an empty bottle of lubricant, and also removed a rope and a gas mask from the house. He also recovered a printout relating to “The Gorean Lifestyle: A Woman’s Right is Slave”.
It is a form of extreme manifesto linked to ideas of submission and slavery.
“What is your name and identity?” the manifesto began. “If you’re a woman practising a Gorean lifestyle, you don’t have one. Your identity is kajira, a slave, and you serve a master, who orders you to do whatever he pleases. You have no rights and never address yourself as ‘I’ or ‘me’ — instead, you address yourself as ‘master’s slave’. Refusal to do this results in punishment, usually a whipping.”
The document explained that the Gorean philosophy originated in 1966 with the release of John Norman’s erotic science fiction book, Tarnsman of Gor, the first in a long series.
It continued that a slave’s only goal in life was to bring pleasure and comfort to its master.
“There are different types of women slaves,” it read. “Some slaves purely serve as sexual objects, while others are masterful at cooking. Slaves do not question anything. They do as they are told. Refusal to do anything results in discipline. Slaves must strive for perfection.
“Not only must slaves do their work well, but it must be done in a feminine, graceful way that expresses their sexuality. Gorean women retain the right to refuse slavery.
“If a master wants to enslave a woman and she refuses, however, she may be killed.”
The document explained the various types of Gorean slaves, dividing them first into women who had lost their virginity and those who had not. After that, they were divided into further categories, including, among others: Passion Slaves, who were trained and used for sexual services, and Feast Slaves, who served food.
The document also detailed how the Gor books were banned in the 1980s and that Norman stopped the series in the 1990s. However, it was resurrected when Gor was recognised in the BDSM community, where the Gorean lifestyle started.
Under the heading, “Why Do Women Choose Gor?” the author suggested, among other theories, that some Gor masters manipulate women to join them. However, it concluded that most slaves were willing.
Ms O’Hara’s home also yielded much graphic, disturbing content, particularly on her laptop.
One search found 16 pornographic or BDSM movie files, while still images included pictures from websites of what appeared to be mutilated bodies.
There were also images of Ms O’Hara — some of which she took herself, others taken by someone else — in which she was clothed, partially clothed, or unclothed. Other documents on one of her laptops included a book entitled Serial Violence: Analysis of Modus Operandi and Signature Characteristics of Killers by Robert D Keppel and William J Birnes.
Two letters to a person called Stuart were also found, in one of which Ms O’Hara wrote that she was “so mad with you” and finding it difficult to sleep.
Another document entitled “Outline of Slave” might originated somewhere else, “possibly sent to her over the internet or downloaded from the internet”.
It read: “I’m offering 24/7 sadistic, brutal treatment for a masochistic slave. Slaves are property, possession, meat. They are loved as a pet or as a cherished car. They not a wife or mistress. Slavery is a hard lifestyle to endure. You’re not just a sex toy but a complete package. You will be offered an annual slavery contract with no early release for any reason. You will either be kept in a heavy-duty cage or a locked cell in my cellars. If you’re good and collect merit awards you will have a real bed with steel collar and chained in the room.
“Agreed limits will be in your contract and adhered to. I prefer bisexual or bi-curious slaves but again if your sexual orientation is straight you won’t be forced into bisexual roles. I’m looking for a poly-slavery arrangement. After initial training to my standards you will be expected to work as a slave part-time in my restaurant. If you’re a UK National citizen... stamps will be paid.
“You will be bought slutty outfits and a couple of dress outfits for formal occasions. I will not stand for breaking objects in a tantrum. It is the only thing that will result in a very, very severe flogging. I have plenty Dom friends so expect on occasion to have no-holds-barred heavy use.
“Nothing will be done that would result in your death or very serious injury. Slave or not, you are a person with just one life to live and you’re entering a consensual relationship. Having said that, unless listed on your limits within your contract, expect piercings, breast skewering branding, breast suspension.
“I’m not here for online fantasies but the real thing… I aim to create the perfect masochistic slave. Slavery is about domination and control. Sex is just a part of it.”
Another document was called “Private”. It was created on April 15, 2009, and last modified the following day. Written in the first person, it read: “Out of nowhere, a car pulled up… really fast. I could hear loud music.
“A man came out and started to kick around the passenger side of the car. He was talking to himself and kicking the tyres. I looked at him disapprovingly.”
The man then swore at the author, who felt a sting and woke up in the car.
“I was in the boot. Every time I tried to scream, I could not. The next thing I remember is waking up in some kind of box, tied with a rope and chains. I tried to scream. I could not.
“Someone came, never spoke, took me out of the box. He had knives.”
The author wrote of “items of torture” in the room.
“Knives came out, big long ones. Sent shivers down my spine. The pain was terrible,” it continued.
The author’s head was pointed to the ceiling.
“He was choking me. Then the real pain started. He started striking me. Every part of me was in pain: arms and legs. There was blood all over the place,” it continued.
The author described the man changing knives and being chained down again, arms spread.
The document said the man then got whips, “came at me and stabbed me at the same time”.
“Every now and again, he’d stop and pick up the whips. I was in so much pain,” it continued. “All he could do was laugh. Then he started whistling and left.”
The author concluded by describing waking up two months after leaving home.”
Among other documents found on Ms O’Hara’s Apple MacBook was a book entitled 21 Techniques of Silent Killing; a booklet called “Hidden Secret Weapons”; and a document named “Murder Inc. The Book”. The latter item appeared to be written by someone calling himself Jack the Rippa. There was also evidence of a Google search for a prostitute stabbed 48 times.
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