The case for the prosecution of Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara opened with three men standing on a bridge.
It was on September 10, 2013, and the men had an interest in fishing. They were on the bridge over the Vartry reservoir in Wicklow when one of them noticed some items in the water, which was low, due to a very dry season.
The items included clothing, a length of rope and handcuffs. One of them brought the items to the local Garda station. Some days later, Garda James O’Donoghue returned to the reservoir where he found a set of keys, which included a Dunnes Stores loyalty card.
From that, he determined that the owner of the keys was Elaine O’Hara, who had by then been missing for 13 months.
By coincidence, three days after the first discovery, a dog walker in Kilkee, near Rathfarnham in south Co Dublin came across what turned to be the partial remains of Ms O’Hara. Decomposition and the elements ensured that the cause of death could not be determined.
With those details Sean Guerin SC opened the case for the prosecution. He went straight into the narrative in his opening speech.
Court 13 in the Criminal Courts of Justice building was packed for the hearing. Presiding judge Anthony Hunt had told the jury of seven men and five women it would be a lengthy trial and attract considerable media interest.
Guerin told the jury that the prosecution case would be that the defendant Graham Dwyer took Ms O’Hara up to the Dublin mountains to kill her for sexual gratification.
The deceased woman went missing on August 22, 2012. Earlier that day she had been released from a psychiatric hospital, where she had spent five to six weeks to deal with ongoing difficulties.
One of the main planks of evidence, according to the prosecution counsel, will be data extracted from four mobile phones, two of which were found in the reservoir.
The prosecution will, he said, prove that Graham Dwyer used one of the phones and that the two phones found in the reservoir were used by the defendant and the victim to communicate with each other.
“That will be to prove that they were in contact, but also to prove by reference to the content of the texts that the purpose was they had a sexual relationship and that it was an unusual one because it featured as a central part acts of stabbing committed by Graham Dwyer on Elaine O’Hara and that it reflected a deep seated and passionately held and irrepressible desire on the part of Graham Dwyer to get sexual gratification by stabbing.”
Guerin told the jury that the prosecution would prove that in the days leading up to her disappearance, Mr Dwyer arranged to meet her on that day and take her up to the mountains for the purpose of killing her to satisfy that desire.
The relationship between the pair involved a practice known as BDSM, bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism. The jury were told that semen retrieved from the matrass in Ms O’Hara’s apartment had a DNA match with Mr Dwyer. Counsel then went through a series of texts retrieved from the mobile phones, which he said, the prosecution would prove was correspondence between Mr Dwyer and Ms O’Hara.
He told the jury that the texts would show that Ms O’Hara was not into the sexual practices that the accused wanted to perform and that she was manipulated by him. In particular, there was correspondence that showed that she sometimes contemplated suicide and he suggested that if she wanted to die, he would oblige by stabbing her.
The accused listened as prosecution counsel outlined the case that would be put forward for over 90 minutes. Mr Dwyer was dressed in a navy suit and wore a red tie. One of the seats in the court was reserved for family members, and a number attended.
Guerin ended his opening speech by reiterating what the judge had said earlier in terms of the level of proof required for conviction in a criminal court.
He compared the level of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt with the standard required in civil court of balance of probabilities, and said the onus rested on the prosecution at all times to prove the case against a defendant who must enjoy the presumption of innocence, unless otherwise proved.
The trial is expected to last between six and eight weeks.
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