Father’s partner tells of concerns over Elaine O’Hara self-harming

Witness Sheila Hawkins tells Graham Dwyer trial of marks on late woman’s inner thigh

The partner of Elaine O'Hara's father has been giving evidence on Monday in the murder trial of south Dublin architect Graham Dwyer.

Mr Dwyer is charged with murdering Dublin childcare worker Elaine O’Hara (36) in Co Dublin on August 22nd, 2012.

He is on trial at the Central Criminal Court, and has pleaded not guilty.

Sheila Hawkins, who is in a relationship with Ms O'Hara's father Frank O'Hara, said she had offered Ms O'Hara a lift to the Tall Ships Festival on the morning of her disappearance.


“She did accept [the offer of a lift],” said Ms Hawkins. “She sent me a text message apologising for not getting back sooner, that she had been very busy the day before and was tired, but that she would be very grateful for the lift.

“I became niggly concerned on Wednesday evening because the lights were not on in her apartment and there was no activity.

“I sent her a very brief text saying something like ‘See you 7.15am’. I was to pick her up at a bus stop.”

Left message

When Ms O’Hara failed to keep her appointment with Ms Hawkins, the latter rang her doorbell and left a message on her phone. She was running late for work however, and left without Ms O’Hara.

When there was no activity at Ms O’Hara’s apartment that night, Ms Hawkins went to investigate whether Ms O’Hara’s car was in the underground car park at the facility the following morning.

When it was not and it seemed as though Ms O’Hara had not returned home the previous night, Ms Hawkins became more concerned. She said she contacted Ms O’Hara’s father at about 8.30am.

Under cross-examination, Ms Hawkins said she had had a number of conversations with Ms O’Hara that were “of a personal nature”.

“She told me she an interest in tying herself up in her adolescent years,” she said. “My knowledge of her interest in BDSM came from a conversation with her father where she disclosed she was meeting someone.”

She said Mr O’Hara had been “in an incredibly distressed state” after Ms O’Hara disclosed this information.

Ms Hawkins said Ms O’Hara also made claims to her around 2011 that she had “had sex for the first time” and, separately, that she had “had a miscarriage”.

Mental health

Asked whether these revelations were credible, Ms Hawkins said she believed they were credible due to Ms O’Hara’s mental health difficulties. She estimated Ms O’Hara’s emotional age to be about 15 years old.

“She wasn’t creative enough to come up with out-and-out lies,” she said. “She would embellish.”

Ms Hawkins said she had concerns about Ms O’Hara self-harming.

“On one occasion, in House of Fraser in Dundrum, I was helping her buy an outfit for a Christening,” she said. “She called me into a fitting room to give an opinion. As she was removing her trousers, I saw two marks on her right inner thigh.”

She said the marks were “reasonably fresh, symmetrical, and they mirrored each other in length”. They were three to four inches long.

“I knew they were’t accidental because they were symmetrical,” said Ms Hawkins. “I did ask her about them and she said she had cut herself.”

Body suit

Ms Hawkins also recalled finding a black latex body suit in Ms O’Hara’s apartment when she was there with Mr O’Hara looking for information that might explain her whereabouts.

She said she put her hand inside a basket and “recoiled because my hand felt this oily rubbery substance”.

“I pulled my hand out and saw a black latex outfit,” she said. “I didn’t tell her father at the time because he was very distressed.”

The trial continues.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter