Elaine O’Hara’s father was giving evidence to the Central Criminal Court yesterday (Friday) on the second day of the trial of the 42-year-old charged with murdering her.
Mr Dwyer, a Cork-born father of two, 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 Kerrymout Close, Foxrock, Dublin, has pleaded not (NOT) guilty to murdering the childcare worker on that date at Killakee, Rathfarnham.
A dog walker found her skeletal remains in that wooded area of the Dublin Mountains on September 13, 2013 — the same week as her keys were found in an almost-dry reservoir in Wicklow.
Frank O’Hara testified that his daughter was “in extremely good form” when she left his Killiney home at about 4.15pm on Wednesday August 22, 2012.
They visited her mother’s grave at Shanganagh Cemetery and she took his granddaughter for a walk.
“I can still visualise her standing at the front door,” he recalled. “I had the little child in my arms and she [Elaine] said she needed to go home to get some rest as she had to be up early the next morning.”
He said later that she gave no intimation she wanted to harm herself.
Mr O’Hara explained she had volunteered to work at the Tall Ships Festival the following day and his partner was going to collect her. His partner rang him when his daughter didn’t turn up the next morning.
Mr O’Hara had a key to her apartment and went to check on her. “I saw her phone in the charger so I presumed she was just late and had run out and forgotten her phone,” he said.
He said when he hadn’t heard from her by that night, he “ironically” texted her: “Are you alive?”
He became “extremely worried” on the morning of the 24th when her car wasn’t at her apartment block and he learned she hadn’t shown up at the Tall Ships Festival. Her phone was still in her apartment and he reported her missing.
Her car was found at Shanganagh Cemetery and the family and the authorities carried out searches.
Mr O’Hara said that his daughter had a history of psychiatric illness and had harmed herself in the past. He said her difficulties began when she was about 14 or 15.
“There was some bullying in school and a close friend of hers was killed in a road accident. She became withdrawn,” he said.
He said she self-harmed around the age of 16; the family engaged a psychiatrist and she spent time in hospital.
“Her treatment mainly involved a lot of medication as far as I could see,” he said. “We used to take her out on a Saturday and she’d fall asleep in the café, she was so heavily medicated. She never experienced those years that other kids do.”
He said she had received “more pro-active psychology” in recent years and her doctors had reduced her medication.
“She was improving quite a bit,” he said.
She also had asthma, diabetes, polycystic ovaries, and dyslexia. However, he said, despite her illness she had “an incredible work ethic”; she worked as a childcare worker in a school and studied Montessori during the academic term, while also working part-time in a newsagent’s shop.
Her mother passed away in 2002 and she became agitated more frequently. She self-harmed twice more between 2005 and 2007, spending 24 hours in a coma as a result of the second episode.
He testified they’d had an argument in early 2008 and she told him she was seeing a married architect from Foxrock.
“She said: ‘He ties me up and masturbates over me... We haven’t had sex’,” he recalled.
“I was shocked,” he said, adding they hadn’t discussed it again, apart from her telling him that it was over at one stage.
He added she had said, over the years, that she had “a play” in mind.
“It might have been unsavoury,” he said. “I suggested she write it down and show it to her psychologist.”
He said she was “always worried” about this play.
“It upset her,” he added.
Under cross-examination by Remy Farrell SC, defending, he agreed he told gardaí his daughter would often say something to try to shock him. “I believe it was her way of ending the conversation,” he had said.
He agreed she was “possibly” agitated when she told him about the relationship with the Foxrock architect.
“I don’t think Elaine would have told me unless she was agitated,” he said from the witness box.
Mr Farrell also asked him about something else he had told gardaí about that relationship:
“I think I remember her saying also that she had asked him to kill her but he wouldn’t,” he had said in a statement. “I was shattered after hearing the news.”“That’s right,” he testified in court.
Mr Farrell asked him if it had crossed his mind she might have taken her own life when she disappeared.
“It obviously had crossed my mind,” he said. “It was obviously a concern based on her history.”
He said he didn’t recall coming across any paraphernalia in her apartment when he was clearing it out in the year after her disappearance.
When asked about a black latex bodysuit found in her home, he said he recalled another family member mentioning it. He also didn’t recall a large rope being found.
He had testified he handed his daughter’s locked iPhone over to gardaí after her disappearance. However, he said the gardaí never discussed the contents of any of its text messages with him before her remains were discovered.
The jury also heard yesterday that the cause of Ms O’Hara’s death could not be determined from the skeletal remains recovered.
Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis testified he had visited the site where her remains were discovered in a forest.
“The skeletal remains were spread over several metres,” he said. “It was possible to see animal runs in the foliage. Some items were never recovered. It was quite clear there had been animal activity there.”
In all, he said 60%to 65% of the skeleton was recovered and he listed the bones found.
“The skull was never recovered. Both forearms and both hands were not recovered,” he said.
He said there was no evidence of trauma to the bones from before her death.
Asked about the cause of death, he replied: “It’s undetermined”.
Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, asked him if death could be caused by stabbing without leaving evidence for him to find.
“Yes. The stab wound may not involve bone… or a stab wound could have injured a bone that wasn’t recovered,” he replied.
Under cross-examination by Mr Farrell, he agreed that many deaths caused by self-harm did not exhibit ‘bony injuries’. He addressed three specific forms of self-harm.
The jury next heard from Ms O’Hara’s pharmacist, Soha Yazbeck, who dispensed several items of medication to her on the day she disappeared. They included medicine for diabetes, asthma, depression, vertigo, cholesterol, a stomach problem and nerves.
She confirmed Ms O’Hara spent €8,470 on medication at her pharmacy in less than two years.
The trial, which is due to last up to eight weeks, continues on Monday before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of five women and seven men.