Graham Dwyer shakes head at guilty verdict as if baffled

During nine-week trial Dwyer’s surreal air of confidence and good cheer seemed to grow

Architect Graham Dwyer has been found guilty of the murder of childcare worker Elaine O’Hara. Colin Gleeson reports.


For a few moments, in mid-afternoon, it seemed like just another confused question from a confused jury.

The seven men and five women had already been out for about seven hours.

They said earlier they wanted to be out of there by 4.30pm and Mr Justice Tony Hunt had declared there would be no weekend deliberations. Only half-an-hour before, the foreman had answered an emphatic “No” when asked if they had agreed on a verdict.

Now, just returned from a smoke break, they were back to ask for guidance on “the ingredients of murder”.

Veterans of this nine-week trial, who had sat through every shocking, sordid, tragic detail and in some cases were having nightmares about it, were beginning to reconsider plans for Easter week.

Up to this point, Dwyer’s surreal air of confidence and good cheer had seemed to grow by the hour. Unusually, he had been wearing the same blue and pink tie for several days running. Onlookers inferred it to be his lucky tie.

The man who was overheard during the week predicting he would be having a steak and vino on Saturday, clearly felt the omens were good. Earlier, as he left the courtroom after the usual relaxed chat with his father, Seán, he gave playful little handwaves and tipped a wink to him and his sister Mandy, the family stalwarts, sitting together a few feet away.

Look of anxiety

Something in the atmosphere had shifted.

As the judge and jury departed again, his legal team gathered for discussion just beyond his hearing range. He craned forward, like a fearful schoolboy, straining to get the drift of the conversation. When they finally turned to him, he stood, hands in pocket, laughing nervously.

Only seven minutes later, the jury keeper was back. There was no knock on the door – the traditional signal of a verdict – or none we could hear. She walked up to the bench and whispered “verdict” in the ear of the registrar. Suddenly the lethargic courtroom was full again, crackling with tension and adrenaline.

The O’Hara family, led by Elaine’s father Frank and his partner, Síle, took their usual seats in the second-last bench, protected on either side, as always, by volunteers from Victim Support in court.

Dwyer, alone on his roomy bench, settled with his hands tightly folded on his lap. Last to enter were Seán Dwyer and Mandy. She stood briefly beside her seat and very deliberately caught her brother’s eye, giving a firm bow of her head, as if sending a signal or a reminder of some pre-arranged plan.

This was it.

Silence in the court

He needn’t have worried. There was a barely audible exhalation along the ranks of the O’Hara family. Seán Dwyer never moved. Mandy’s strong face seemed stunned for a moment, then she began to dab at her eyes with one hand, rifling through her handbag for a tissue.

Meanwhile, the man described by the prosecution as “a sadistic, brutal pervert with nothing on his mind other than murder”, curled forward, puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head as if baffled by this turn of events.

He tried to catch his father’s eye, but his father eyes were unseeing.

Eventually, roused by the prison officers, he rose and scuttled out at a speed not seen in him before, leaving his father and sister desolate. As Seán Dwyer walked out of court, tears trickled down his face. On the other side, Frank O’Hara’s partner Síle was weeping too.

Dwyer later issued a statement thanking his legal team, family, friends and colleagues for their “continued unwavering support”.

There was no reference to Elaine O’Hara, the profoundly fragile woman who he had preyed upon for years and murdered for sexual gratification

Later, as the media gathered in strength outside the Courts of Criminal Justice, the jury left together, unsmiling, wary and weary.

Soon after, a dozen members of the Garda Síochána, whose tenacious, inspired work on this case has been widely acclaimed, walked out two by two, also in silence.

Meanwhile, a Garda van with an R2 plate, took Graham Dwyer away.

And somewhere in Ireland, Gemma Dwyer and her two small children must begin to rebuild their shattered lives.