Belfast Telegraph

Architect guilty of woman's murder

A successful architect with a deep-rooted sexual desire for stabbing women is facing life in prison after being found guilty of an "almost perfect" murder.

In a sensational case that has revulsed Ireland for months, married Graham Dwyer, 42, of Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, south Dublin, will serve a mandatory life sentence for knifing to death mentally-ill childcare worker Elaine O'Hara, 36, in the Dublin mountains on August 22, 2012.

At the end of a harrowing nine-week trial, with unprecedented graphic evidence that forced the trial judge to clear the courtroom on several occasions, the jury took seven hours and 33 minutes to unanimously accept a prosecution case that has unnerved the country like no other in recent memory.

After having to view videos of Dwyer knifing sexual partners and umpteen text messages he sent his vulnerable victim admitting bloodlust and his compulsion to stick a knife into her, the seven men and five women jurors have been offered counselling.

Some 46 days into the trial, many in the daily packed courtroom 13 of Dublin's Criminal Courts of Justice were sure no verdict would be reached until at least next week after the jury foreman asked Judge Tony Hunt if could they finish deliberating at 4.30pm for the weekend.

But shortly after 3pm - seven hours and five minutes into their considerations - the jury returned to the court for their second last time to ask for guidance on "the ingredients of murder".

"You have to be satisfied that the accused stabbed Elaine O'Hara, thereafter you have to be satisfied that stabbing caused her death, you have to be satisfied at the time of stabbing that the accused had the intention of either killing or causing serious injury to Ms O'Hara," Judge Hunt replied.

The jury took just 28 minutes more to reach their unanimous verdict.

As they filed back into the courtroom, a palpably nervous shuffling into benches by families, lawyers, investigators, journalists and members of the public gave way to silence.

Dwyer took a sharp intake of breath and slumped forward slightly before nodding to his father Sean and sister Mandy, who was sobbing just feet away from him, as he was declared guilty.

Ms O'Hara's family embraced at the back of the courtroom and investigators working on the case could be seen wiping tears from their eyes.

Judge Hunt turned to the jury, and in an apt turn of phrase, gave voice to their ordeal in viewing some of the most horrific graphic evidence ever before a criminal trial in Ireland.

"There's no doubt you are human like myself, when you're cut you bleed," he said.

"These things are not easy."

Praising them for their "first class citizenship" he said no-one could argue with the verdict now that everyone has had their say.

"I 110% agree with your verdict based on the evidence," he told them.

"The question of suicide simply wasn't there."

Dwyer was filmed knifing sexual partners and admitted having an affair with his vulnerable victim who was only released from psychiatric care in hospital hours before the murder.

Ms O'Hara's remains were found in a forest on Killakee Mountain on September 13 2013.

She had been reported missing 13 months earlier after being last seen visiting her mother's grave in Shanganagh cemetery in Shankill, south Dublin.

The nine week trial was an endurance of graphic, chilling and disturbing evidence of sexual deviance and bloodlust in what the prosecution claimed was "nearly the perfect murder".

Only for a near drought in the summer of 2013 vital evidence linking the couple including keys, phones, sex toys and rope may never have been found in the Vartry reservoir 20km from the murder scene - a stunning coincidence in the days around the discovery of Ms O'Hara's body by a dog walker.

Crucially, mobile phones, dubbed "master and slave" revealed text messages between Ms O'Hara, who had a history of self-harm going back to her troubled teens, revealed a manipulative, abusive BDSM affair between the pair.

In one text message Dwyer said: "I want to stick my knife in flesh while sexually aroused. Seeing blood turns me on and I'd like to stab a girl to death sometime."

After having a discussion about her suicidal tendencies, Dwyer messaged: "If you ever want to die, promise you'll let me do it."

In another text to Ms O'Hara he said: "My urge to rape, stab, kill is huge. You have to help me control or satisfy."

He also wrote: "I'm going to do it, you have to help me or it will be you."

State lawyers claimed he toyed with the idea of three potential victims including Darci Day, a young, previously suicidal woman from Maine in the US who also met Dwyer on the internet.

Others, the prosecution alleged, were Ms O'Hara and an auctioneer who at one time worked near Dwyer's former workplace, A&D Wejchert in Baggot Street, Dublin.

The prosecution billed Dwyer's manipulation of a vulnerable, lonely and previously suicidal woman as "wickedness hiding behind a mask of pity".

No murder weapon was recovered and due to Ms O'Hara's badly decomposed remains, only 65% intact, dental records were used to identify her and an autopsy could not explain how she died.

Ms O'Hara's father Frank embraced relatives in the packed court after the verdict was delivered and said justice had been done.

"We are relieved that justice has been served for Elaine but we suffer her loss and miss her greatly," the family said.

"This has been a difficult and traumatic two and a half years for the family and while we respect the role of the media in providing accurate and important information, we ask that you respect our need for privacy as we attempt to move on from this heartbreaking and distressing period," they said.

The O'Hara's described the detective work as "sensitive and exemplary".

Dwyer was remanded in custody and he will be sentenced on April 20 when the court will hear victim impact statements.

He did not give evidence during the trial.

The prosecution case was summed up last week with the startling assertion that he was "a sadistic and brutal pervert with nothing on his mind other than murder".

Dwyer's wife Gemma and immediate family said in a statement: "Their thoughts and condolences are with the O'Hara family for the grief and pain they are suffering."

In an unusual step, Dwyer issued a statement through his legal team where he initially thanked them and others for support throughout his prosecution before appealing for privacy for his family.

"I also wish to thank my family, friends and colleagues for their continued unwavering support throughout this period," he said.

"To the members of the media I am grateful to the privacy you have afforded both my family and people close to me during this trial.

"I now respectfully ask you to continue to respect their privacy and I confirm there will be no further comment from my family or myself concerning this case whatsoever. Thank you."

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