Even with a guilty verdict to tell him otherwise, Graham Dwyer refused to let go of the belief that he was in charge.
Just as he controlled his deceit-ridden image as the perfect family man, just as he controlled Elaine O’Hara and just as he controlled her final moments, he departed court leaving behind a message that attempted to show he still held the reins.
He dictated to his legal team that they circulate a letter that conveyed his thanks, not only to them, but to “my family, friends and colleagues for their continued unwavering support”. He thanked the media for the privacy shown “my family and people close to me” and he confirmed that there would be no further comment by “my family or myself”.
It was presumptuous and proprietorial, egotistic and oppressive — proof that the domineering, manipulative “master” of Dwyer’s fantasy life was the same Dwyer in real life.
Tragically, Elaine O’Hara did not know there was no difference between the two. Dwyer was found guilty of her murder yesterday afternoon after the jury of five women and seven men returned with a unanimous verdict on the third day of deliberations, after 43 days of hearing some of the most disturbing evidence ever presented in an Irish court.
They had no murder weapon, no cause of death, and no witnesses, but they had a vast amount of phone and video material that revealed 42-year-old architect Dwyer to be a sadistic pervert of the most extreme kind, who wanted to kill for sexual pleasure and set out to source his prey in a meticulous fashion. He honed in on 36-year-old childcare worker Elaine, a loveable but lonely, vulnerable woman with a history of mental illness, who tried to fill her need for affection with a fantasy-fuelled sex life, not realising that Dwyer had trapped her and had no intentions of letting her go.
The jury had to view material showing the abuse and degradation of women, to see text messages that tormented and terrified Elaine, and read sickening stories penned by Dwyer in which he made himself the preening protagonist in imagined tales of rape and murder.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt excused them from jury service for the next 30 years and the Courts Service is offering them counselling, noting the “major toll” such a case could take.
Dwyer, who was last night returned to Cloverhill Prison — as inmate number 88335 — where he has been in custody since his arrest in October 2013, could be free by then, the mandatory life sentence that awaits him, when he returns to court for his formal sentencing hearing on April 20, being life in theoretical terms only.
The three-week gap between now and sentencing was granted in order that Elaine O’Hara’s family may write their victim impact statements and attempt to explain on paper the pain that has lived with them since their daughter and sister disappeared two and a half years ago and as they struggled to deal with the knowledge that she was not lost to suicide, as Dwyer so cruelly led them to think, but that she was taken from them in the most evil way.
However, Dwyer’s victims extend beyond the O’Hara family. His wife, former partner, and eldest son were all dragged into this dark, dreadful affair, which will be almost impossible to explain to his two smallest children when they are old enough to ask what happened to their daddy.
Other people whose lives will never be the same again are those who were connected to both murderer and victim and who bravely provided uncomfortable testimony about their own very private sexual activities in order to help the prosecution.
While her husband’s letter inferred he spoke for her, Gemma Dwyer took back her own voice last night, issuing a personal statement, saying her thoughts and those of her family were with the O’Hara family and their grief, so obviously omitted from Graham Dwyer’s composition. Pointedly, but with dignity, she wrote of “her” children, her parents and her siblings, her wish to protect them and her hope that they could be granted privacy.
The O’Hara family, too, showed extraordinary character in their considerate statement, speaking of their relief at the verdict and continuing sorrow at their loss, but also extending thanks to the gardaí for “their sensitive and exemplary investigation”. They also pleaded that Elaine’s story serve as a warning that might save other vulnerable people from a similar fate.
“We hope that this case will highlight the need for people to be careful when communicating using the internet and social media,” they said.
Graham Dwyer is expected to seek leave to appeal the verdict, but for now, handcuffed in public and caged in prison, his future, and that of those he would seek pleasure in hurting, is at last out of his control.
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