Graham Dwyer appeal: Still ‘overwhelming’ evidence to preserve murder conviction, court told

Court has reserved judgement in Dwyer’s appeal against his conviction for the murder of care worker Elaine O’Hara in 2012

There is still “overwhelming” evidence against Graham Dwyer to preserve his conviction for the murder of Elaine O’Hara and the State was not dependent on mobile phone call data used in his trial, a senior counsel told the Court of Appeal on Friday.

Dwyer (50), who murdered the vulnerable care worker for his sexual gratification in 2012, is appealing his conviction. His lawyers are arguing that the retention of mobile phone data used in the case is an “opportunistic form of mass surveillance” that transforms phones into tracking devices that can reveal a detailed picture of every aspect of a person’s life.

Dwyer denies being the person who bought and used a phone found in Vartry Reservoir, Co Wicklow, to send messages about stabbing to Ms O’Hara and denies sending a text telling her to “go down to the shore and wait” on the day she was last seen, August 22nd, 2012.

Dwyer, a Cork-born architect with an address at Foxrock in Dublin, was convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in 2015 of the murder of the 36-year-old. His victim had been discharged from a mental health hospital hours earlier. Dwyer fantasized about stabbing a woman during sex and used Ms O’Hara to fulfil his fantasy. After murdering her he disposed of some of her belongings in Vartry reservoir and tried to make it look like she had taken her own life. He dumped her body in a forest where it was found in 2013.


Sean Guerin SC, for the State, said there was still “overwhelming” evidence in the case that Dwyer was the user of the phone central to the case and that there had not been a dependence on using the disputed call data in securing the guilty verdict at trial.

“The appellant is over-stating, significantly, the use of the call data,” said Mr Guerin, who said there was also the Garda process of investigating a suspect during an investigation to be considered.

The barrister said Dwyer was identified at trial through three different routes. “One was call-data. At the same time, there is an old-fashioned detective job in Blackrock garda station which involved reading the text messages and identifying personal information which would point towards the identity of the suspect,” he said.

He added that there was also scientific analysis regarding DNA and genetic materials that also produced the same suspect.

Mr Guerin said there were four elements to the DPP’s case at the trial that had not changed.

“The first point was that he [Dwyer] was the author of the text messages and connected to Ms O’Hara. The second thing we sought to do was to show the desires expressed in the text messages were real and reflected the intention to kill. Thirdly, that the circumstances of Ms O’Hara disappearance and death could only be explained by the realisation of that intention. The fourth element was to eliminate any other possibility, in this case suicide, as an explanation,” he said.

Anne Marie Lawlor SC, also for the State, said that the playing of videos to the jury of Dwyer being intimate with other women were “relevant and probative”.

Dwyer’s lawyers submitted that the jury could have been “overwhelmed” and “overborne” by the nine videos of Dwyer being intimate with different women.

The videos were introduced in the trial to show the extent of Dwyer’s interest in bondage, discipline and sado masochism (BDSM) and to challenge his claim that he “wasn’t really into” BDSM and that it was more Ms O’Hara’s interest.

On Friday morning, Dwyer was warned by Mr Justice Birmingham for repeatedly interrupting Mr Guerin to deny text messages attributed to him.

Court of Appeal President Mr Justice Birmingham threatened to remove him from court, after which Dwyer’s legal team then spoke to him about his behaviour.

Remy Farrell SC, for Dwyer, has told the three-judge Court of Appeal that mobile phone data should not have been admitted as evidence in his client’s trial as the retention of that data was a breach of his rights under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. Mr Farrell said that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has said “again and again” that the retention of mobile phone data cannot be done and the Irish courts must now “internalise” what the European court has said.

Mr Farrell said he wondered if the prosecution in the case were now feeling “buyer’s remorse” regarding the call data evidence.

Mr Farrell said the notion that the prosecution could now say that the call data retention was not important was “unsustainable”. Counsel said a “big chunk” of the 47-day trial was spent on introducing call data and cell site evidence through maps and extrinsic evidence through a number of exhibits put before the jury.

The court has now heard both side’s submissions in the appeal and the court has reserved its judgement in the matter.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, sitting with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice John Edwards, told both sides not to expect a judgement “imminently” due to the amount of material in the trial.