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Man gets life for 'chilling' murder

Published 20/04/2015

Graham Dwyer has shown no remorse for his crime, the judge said
Graham Dwyer has shown no remorse for his crime, the judge said

A successful architect convicted of the "chilling" murder of a childcare worker has been sentenced to life in prison.

Graham Dwyer, 42, of Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, south Dublin, has shown no remorse for his crime and richly deserved the sentence, trial judge Tony Hunt said.

The killer carried out what was an "almost execution" of mentally ill childcare worker Elaine O'Hara, 36, in the Dublin mountains on August 22 2012, he said.

Dwyer had preyed on her to satisfy his "perverse and debauched desires", Dublin's Central Criminal Court was told during the sentencing.

"We may be thankful a dangerous man is now out of the way," the judge said.

"So that's it. Life it is."

In a harrowing victim impact statement read out to a packed courtroom by a State prosecutor, Ms O'Hara's father Frank said his family has lost a daughter, a sister and a friend in the "most brutal, traumatic and horrifying manner."

"We also have many unanswered questions which we will have to carry with us for the rest of our lives," he said.

His daughter was a very intelligent girl who never realised her potential, was emotionally immature and trusted anyone who showed her kindness, the court heard.

She had a strong worth ethic and loved children. "Since she left us, Elaine has two more nieces, but they will never know their aunt," he said.

Mr O'Hara said his family had last year collected a degree in Montessori education posthumously awarded to his daughter, who had been studying part-time while working in a newsagents shop.

"She would have been so happy and proud to stand up in her gown and hat to accept that degree herself after overcoming many obstacles to finally get the qualification she longed for, but unfortunately this was not to be," he said.

The trial had been incredibly difficult for his family and many questions about Ms O'Hara's murder would continue to haunt them, he added.

"Did she suffer much? Could she and did she cry out? Was she left on the mountain to die alone?" he asked.

Mr O'Hara said: "This is our life sentence. For us there is no parole."

Judge Hunt said these were natural and obvious questions, but there is little hope of the only person who knows - Dwyer, who had "manifestly lied" during the case - giving them the answers they so craved.

The victim's family had been subjected to a "nightmarish scenario" of Ms O'Hara's most intimate details being pored over in public at the behest of Dwyer, who had denied the murder during the 10-week trial, the judge said.

But they gave their evidence in a dignified manner without trying to gloss over Ms O'Hara's health problems, he said.

Judge Hunt said she had difficulties and illnesses but there was much more to Ms O'Hara than that - she was well loved, well cared for, a hard worker, loved children and coped with her situation in a remarkably strong way.

There was no doubt that Dwyer cynically misused and abused Ms O'Hara, and was complicit in her demise, he added.

The killer had no regard for Ms O'Hara as a human being, beyond the satisfaction of his "perverse and debauched desires", the court was told.

Turning to Dwyer's family, he said they were blameless. His father Sean, who had been at the trial throughout, was in court for the sentencing.

Dwyer's wife Gemma, who gave evidence during the trial, "was most cruelly deceived" and had been left in "a most pitiful condition" by him, the judge added.

It was a mark of her generous spirits that she offered her thoughts and condolences to the O'Hara family in a statement immediately after his conviction, he said.

Judge Hunt thanked the seven men and five women jurors - most of whom turned up to see the sentencing - for their diligence and dedication during the sensational case, which has shocked and revolted Ireland.

Investigators who also jostled for space in the packed courtroom 13 were praised for their work in bringing the murderer to justice.

Dozens of members of the public had queued outside in the hope of getting in to see the sentencing, but many were left disappointed as the room quickly filled.

Dwyer, dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and blue tie took a deep breath as he was led away by several prison guards to begin his life sentence behind bars.

During the trial, prosecutors said he had carried out an "almost perfect" murder, but for a freakishly hot summer which turned up critical evidence in a reservoir.

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

In a stunning coincidence, a near drought around the same time uncovered keys, mobile phones, sex toys and rope thrown into the Vartry reservoir, 20 km from the murder scene, that linked the pair.

She had been reported missing 13 months earlier after being last seen visiting her mother's grave in Shanganagh cemetery in Shankill, south Dublin, just hours after being released from psychiatric care in hospital.

Crucially, the mobile phones revealed text messages which showed 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."

The trial was shown graphic videos of him knifing sexual partners.

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.

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