Belfast Telegraph

O'Hara murder trial jury retires

The jury in the trial of an architect accused of murdering a childcare worker has been told to acquit the accused if there is a reasonable chance the alleged victim killed herself.

As they retired to consider their verdict, Judge Tony Hunt told jurors Elaine O'Hara's medical history, including depression and borderline personality disorder, "brings suicide into the picture".

Graham Dwyer, 42, from Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, south Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to her alleged murder before Ireland's Central Criminal Court.

Ms O'Hara's remains were found in the Dublin Mountains on September 13, 2013.

Judge Tony Hunt said evidence during the nine-week trial confirmed she had been treated for self-harm, suicidal ideation and that she was discharged from a psychiatric hospital on the day she vanished a year before.

"If there is a reasonable possibility of suicide then you have to acquit," he told the jury of seven men and five women.

Ms O'Hara was last seen on the day of her alleged murder, on August 22, 2012, walking over a pedestrian railway bridge towards the sea, near Shanganagh cemetery, outside Shankill, south Dublin, where her mother is buried.

Judge Hunt said if the jury accepts she met Dwyer at the shore, as alleged by the prosecution, who says the pair were in a deeply manipulative BDSM relationship, it must decide what occurred next.

"One thing we can say for certain, two people met that night, only one person came home," he said.

"The question is why did one not come home and was the other person responsible for their not coming home."

The judge said 40 days of evidence, stretching back five years, really boils down to what happened in the three hours after Ms O'Hara vanished.

There was no doubt that "suicidality" was a feature of Ms O'Hara's life, he told them.

The prosecution says this was in fact a part of Dwyer's plan, as it made her a "good candidate" for murder as her disappearance in the circumstances would attract little attention, he said.

But he pointed out defence lawyers argue the possibility of suicide was given little scrutiny by investigators who put the theory aside with "unseemly haste".

Judge Hunt said the prosecution case is very stark. "This is not fantasy, it is fantasy turning into reality," he said.

The jury had to decide if messages between mobile phones read out during the trial were between Dwyer and Ms O'Hara and if so, were they a fantasy and expression of desire or an expression of intent as alleged by the prosecution, he told them.

There is no direct evidence in the case and the jury are being asked to make a finding on circumstantial evidence, which was not impossible, he added.

Taking two days to charge the jury, Judge Hunt read over much of the evidence heard throughout the case.

Referring to alleged lies told by Dwyer in police interviews, the judge warned them that "people lie for many different reasons" and that it doesn't necessarily mean he is guilty.

On a Buck special hunting knife ordered by Dwyer days before Ms O'Hara's disappearance and kept in his city centre office, the judge said it was "an oddity" even if the most innocent view possible was adopted.

He asked why a man "who's strapped (for cash) spent 100 euro (£73) on a knife for no purpose".

"Odd behaviour and Mr Dywer are not distant bedfellows, so maybe it's nothing more than that - one of the many head shakers in this case," he added.

The judge also referred to evidence given from deputy state pathologist Michael Curtis, who examined Ms O'Hara's skeletal remains.

He reminded the jury the cause of death was medically undetermined.


From Belfast Telegraph