The State opened its case yesterday in the trial of Cork native Graham Dwyer. He is charged with murdering the 36-year-old Dubliner on August 22, 2012, hours after she was discharged from St Edmundsbury Hospital in Lucan, where she had been a psychiatric patient.
Mr Dwyer, of Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms O’Hara on that date at Killakee, Rathfarnham.
The childcare worker’s skeletal remains were found there by a dog walker on September 13, 2013, three days after her keys were found in a almost-dry reservoir in Wicklow.
A jury of five women and seven men was sworn in on Monday and the father-of-two went on trial at the Central Criminal Court yesterday.
Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, opened the State’s case, telling the jurors they would see about 400 pieces of evidence. He drew their attention to eight particular exhibits, including two phones and a laptop found in Ms O’Hara’s home following her disappearance.
He also mentioned two mobile phones found with her keys in Vartry Reservoir in Wicklow in September 2013, after the water level had dropped from 20 feet to two feet following the particularly warm summer.
He said, following the discovery of her remains, the gardaí researched her apartment and seized her mattress. The DNA profile of semen found on the mattress matched that of the accused, he said.
Mr Guerin also said gardaí managed to extract data from Ms O’Hara’s two phones, as well as from the phones that had spent a year in the reservoir.
He said the prosecution would prove one of the numbers with which the deceased was communicating belonged to Mr Dwyer. He added the two reservoir phones had also been used by the accused and Ms O’Hara.
He said the content of the messages showed they had a sexual relationship and that the relationship was an unusual one.
“A central feature of it was that acts of stabbing were committed by Graham Dwyer on Elaine O’Hara,” he said.
“It reflects a deep-seated, passionately held, irrepressible desire on the part of Graham Dwyer to get sexual gratification by stabbing,” he said.
“You’ll see that Graham Dwyer arranged to meet Elaine O’Hara at Shanganagh Cemetery to take her up to the mountain to kill her in satisfaction of that desire,” he said.
The jury had already heard she was last seen alive at that south Dublin graveyard on the evening of August 22.
Mr Guerin said the messages between Ms O’Hara’s phone and the number he attributed to the accused related to the “unusual sexual practices they engaged in”, which he described as BDSM.
“The texts tell the story of that relationship,” he said.
He said the first text dated from 2011, but referred to a relationship that had existed between them years earlier.
“Elaine O’Hara’s sexual preference was for a submissive relationship... for restraint, being tied up, being under control of another and punished,” he said.
“Graham Dwyer’s preference was different,” he said, reading a text sent to Ms O’Hara from the number attributed to Mr Dwyer.
“I’m a sadist. I enjoy others’ pain. You should help me inflict pain on you and help me with my fantasies,” wrote the author.
Another text sent in the same direction in June 2011 read: “I want to stick my knife in flesh while sexually aroused... blood turns me on and I’d like to stab a girl to death.”
Mr Guerin said this interest was not shared by Ms O’Hara.
“That used to happen between them years earlier,” he explained.
However, he said that, within minutes of them getting back in touch in March 2011, she wrote: “I’m not into blood anymore.”
“But it’s clear she did allow herself to be used in that way by Graham Dwyer and he did, on occasion stab her,” explained the barrister.
“He knew full well of her psychiatric difficulties,” said Mr Guerin, adding the accused also knew she had previously been suicidal.
“If you ever want to die, promise me I can do it,” wrote the user of the phone that the State has attributed to Mr Dwyer in April 2011.
“My urge to rape, stab, and kill is huge. You have to help me control or satisfy it,” wrote that person on another occasion.
Mr Guerin continued reading the text messages for much of the morning, explaining that the following text related to a woman being stabbed in Dublin in 2011.
“Big mistake leaving a witness,” wrote the author. “Imagine the knife going in and out of her... lucky guy.
“You have to help me or it will be you,” read another text.
Mr Guerin said that this was a threat that if she didn’t help him find a victim, she’d suffer the consequences and be stabbed herself.
Mr Guerin said later texts showed she was resisting the relationship.
While she was in hospital on August 16, 2012, she received the following text from that number:
“If anything happens to you, who knows about me?”
“Nobody,” replied Ms O’Hara.
“Ok, let’s keep it that way,” was the return text.
The following day, she received a text from the same number.
“Did a huge walk in the Dublin Mountains yesterday... just to find a route back with no cameras and I’m sorted,” it read.
On the day before she was discharged, this person texted her that she had a big punishment coming.
“Getting knifed in the guts, you’ll be well bound and gagged, tied to a tree deep in the forest.”
She pleaded with the person to meet indoors, saying she’d have to be dragged out of her apartment.
“You’ll do what your fucking told,” came the reply. “Or I’ll double the punishment or hang you.”
On the day of her discharge, after almost six weeks in hospital, she wrote that she didn’t want any mention of killing until she got her life back.
“Fine, but tonight’s punishment will be like me pretending to do someone for real,” was the reply.
She was then told to meet this person near the cemetery, where her mother was buried. Mr Guerin said Mr Dwyer had almost the perfect victim in Ms O’Hara, with her psychiatric history and her belief they were meeting for just another act of play.
“There was every reason for it to look like a suicide,” he said, noting that she was last seen near her mother’s grave.
“When you look at all the elements and put them together, the prosecution’s case will be that this was, in fact, very nearly the perfect murder, but for the fact that 2013 was such a warm summer,” he concluded.
The jury was then shown photographs, including one photograph of the partial human, skeletal remains found in the wooded area at Killakee.
Mr Justice Tony Hunt had already warned the jurors that “there might be a photo in the book that isn’t pleasant”.
The jury was also shown photographs of her stained and damaged mattress.
Garda photographer Detective Sergeant David Conway said one photograph showed three or four points where the mattress had been pierced.
Under cross-examination by Ronan Kennedy BL, defending, he said hundreds of photographs were taken in the case. However, he didn’t recall two condoms being found in the woods at Killakee. He also didn’t recall seeing hunting signs in the area or warnings that there might be shooting in progress.
The trial continues today and is expected to last six to eight weeks.