Graham Dwyer legal saga may not be over despite latest court ruling – The Irish Times
“There was a lot more to this girl than the difficulties she had.”
That’s what Judge Tony Hunt found in the Central Criminal Court in 2015 after a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict against Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara.
The childcare worker was a “broader” person than the woman shown at trial, a likeable, ordinary person “who just wanted someone to take care of her,” the judge said. Instead, she was “used and abused” by Dwyer, whose exploitation she continued after her death, as he used her suicidal thoughts to “sneak out” of responsibility for her death.
The judge handed down the mandatory life sentence for Dwyer’s murder on October 17, 2013, when he was first taken into custody.
On Friday, nearly eight years after Dwyer’s March 27, 2015 conviction, the Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed another attempt by him to evade responsibility for O’Hara’s death.
More than a decade has passed since August 2012, when 36-year-old O’Hara disappeared, and her family’s plight has been evident throughout that time.
“We have lost a daughter, a sister and a friend in the most brutal, traumatic and horrific way,” the family said in their victim statement, read after Dwyer’s sentencing at the Central Criminal Court.
“We also have many unanswered questions that we will carry with us throughout our lives.”
A picture emerges from O’Hara’s testimony as “a very intelligent girl who never realized her full potential because of her mental difficulties.” Very popular, helpful and generous, she had a strong work ethic and loved working with children “because she could relate to them better than adults”.
She adored her young niece, who was also her goddaughter but didn’t live to see the birth of two other nieces and her BA in Montessori Education, which would have made her “so proud and happy.”
O’Hara disappeared from her home on August 22, 2012 and was last seen in a public park in Shanganagh, south Dublin.
Lacking evidence of any other reason for her disappearance, her family assumed she committed suicide. A year later they laid flowers in the sea at Shanganagh in memory of her.
Less than a month later, on September 10, 2013, two anglers discovered a pouch in the water of Vartry Reservoir near Roundwood, County Wicklow, where the water was unusually low after a prolonged hot spell. The bag contained items such as handcuffs and clothing and was dropped off at Roundwood Garda Station.
Garda James O’Donoghue conducted further searches at the reservoir and found other items, including a loyalty card from Dunnes Stores that belonged to O’Hara. A search of Lake Garda by Garda divers found other items, including two Nokia phones and a pair of glasses, that matched an optometrist’s notes for the missing woman.
On 13 September 2013, O’Hara’s remains were found on Mount Killakee in south Dublin by a dog walker. Only 65 percent of her skeleton, including a jawbone, was recovered and she was identified through dental records.
A careful investigation in Garda eventually led to the arrest of Dwyer, an architect living in Foxrock, south Dublin, and his trial for murder.
Evidence included recovered text messages from the phones found in the reservoir. A June 2011 text from a phone attributed to Dwyer read: “I want to stick my knife in flesh while I’m sexually aroused. I would like to stab a girl once.”
Another text from 2011 says: “My urge to rape, stab or kill is huge. You must help me control it or satisfy it.” Text messages from O’Hara included those relating to repeated threats sent from the phone attributed to Dwyer to stab and kill her.
The O’Hara family said it was “heartbreaking” to hear the content of texts they received from a “depraved, sick spirit” during the trial and said they could hear her voice in her texts, “the just wants to be loved”.
Dwyer’s attorney, Remy Farrell SC, argued there was “no evidence” connecting Dwyer to O’Hara’s death and no evidence that it was murder. Her cause of death was never determined by pathologists and she disappeared after being recently discharged from a psychiatric hospital where she entered with suicidal thoughts, he said.
It has been argued that the violent language used in the lyrics proves nothing other than Dwyer’s sexual fantasies. The jury disagreed and returned a unanimous guilty verdict.
Dwyer then pursued a determined campaign over the years to have his conviction overturned, which included hearings before the High Court, the Supreme Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) and most recently the Court of Appeal.
Cell phone text messages played an important role in his conviction, particularly text messages exchanged between phones called “master” and “slave” phones, which prosecutors attributed to the phones used by Dwyer and O’Hara, respectively became.
Traffic and location data from the phones was also part of the case against Dwyer, and the law under which this call data was retained and accessed was successfully challenged by Dwyer all the way to the Court of Justice of the EU.
[ Graham Dwyer loses appeal against conviction for murder of Elaine O’Hara ]
The appeals court found that the call data was duly admitted into evidence at its trial. Even if it was not properly admitted, it “cannot conceivably be considered a cause of error of justice” as the call data evidence was “limited” and there was other evidence against Dwyer, it said.
Dwyer’s data challenge has led to important decisions about the legality of the Irish regime for holding and accessing mobile phone metadata, with far-reaching implications for criminal investigations.
His request for release began with a successful push in the High Court, which ruled in 2018 that the Irish law 2011 which allowed his phone metadata to be stored and accessed by gardaí breached EU law as it prohibited general retention of data without required safety precautions or independent oversight permitted.
The 2011 law was not officially repealed until a state appeal led by then-Attorney General Paul Gallagher to the Supreme Court. That court referred EU law issues in the case to the ECJ, which heard the Irish case alongside related cases from French and German courts.
The deep concern of EU countries about the potential impact of the challenges was reflected in the fact that 14 member states had submitted submissions to the ECJ.
In a much-anticipated decision last year, the ECJ ruled in favor of Dwyer’s case when it confirmed that EU law barred the general and indiscriminate storage of traffic and location data related to electronic communications for the purpose of fighting serious crime.
Emergency legislation has since been introduced here to address the situation, although privacy advocates believe the new law itself could be challenged.
Following the ECJ’s decision, the Supreme Court was told that the state agreed to the effective dismissal of its appeal against the High Court’s data judgment, clearing the way for Dwyer’s appeal of his murder conviction.
The appeals court denial may not mark the end of the legal saga, as Dwyer may face another appeal to the Supreme Court.
Regardless of what happens next, the O’Hara family is likely to continue to be plagued with many unanswered questions.
“We may never know what happened in Killakee on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, but there are questions that concern us,” she said in a statement to the victims.
When, they wondered, did O’Hara realize it was “not a game anymore,” did she try to run, was she restrained, did she suffer greatly, could she — and did — scream and was she “down.” calmly? to die the mountain alone”? “This is our life sentence. There is no parole for us.”