Graham Dwyer trial: Dog walker describes finding remains

Magali Vergnet used animal tracks to get to area where Elaine O'Hara's bones lay

 Magali Vergnet leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court after giving  evidence in the trial of Graham Dwyer. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Magali Vergnet leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court after giving evidence in the trial of Graham Dwyer. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

The woman who was out walking dogs when she discovered the remains of Elaine O’Hara has outlined in court how she came to find them in a wooded area on Killakee Mountain.

Magali Vergnet, originally from France but who has been living in Ireland for 13 years, told the Central Criminal Court that she would visit the area on Killakee Mountain where the remains were found about five days a week.

Ms Vergnet, who is a professional dog trainer and walker, said she would normally walk between four and eight dogs for about an hour a day after arriving at about noon.

She said the land, which belongs to Frank Doyle, is gated and that a key is required to gain vehicular access. Inside, there is a platform where she parks, she said.

Ms Vergnet said the area was forested and that the dogs would normally run loose. Asked by prosecution counsel Seán Guerin SC whether the animals stay on the track, she said they tend to run into the woods. She normally would not follow.

The court heard that on August 3rd, 2013, Ms Vergnet left a red plastic suitcase in the area with a horse lead inside. When she returned from her holidays on August 20th, the horse lead was missing from the suitcase.

It was about this time her dog, a cross between a cocker spaniel and a King Charles, came out of the forestry with a “part of the leg of a deer” in its mouth. Asked what she did with this, Ms Vergnet said she placed it on top of a pile of stone blocks, out of the dog’s reach.

On August 23rd the dog found another bone. It was about 15cm long and Ms Vergnet again said she placed it on top of the blocks. On December 6th, another dog strayed into this same area where the bones were being retrieved by the dogs. It lost its collar, the court heard.

A week later, on September 13th 2013, Ms Vergnet said she was back walking in that area, but later in the day than usual, at about 2.05pm.

She finished walking the dogs and was waiting to load them back into the car when she noticed her own dog, Millie, was missing. “I could hear her tag,” Ms Vergnet said, as well as a “scratching noise”.

She went into the wood to search for the dog. Conditions were “quite muddy” she said, and she had to access the area via an animal track. She said she followed the path some distance and turned to her left.

There, she saw bones, but the dog was still out of sight.

She said she could still hear the dog and moved again to search for it, manoeuvring through branches and trees to do this.

About five metres away, Ms Vergnet saw clothing, which she thought was a tracksuit bottom. She also thought there was a shoe there.

When she found the dog, it had two bones with it, she said. There was also a “white greasy material” on the grass where the bones were.

Ms Vergnet said she became concerned the bones may be human remains because of the tracksuit nearby.

She made contact with Mr Doyle that evening and told him she was going to come back. He agreed to go with her. Another man, a friend of Ms Vergnet’s, joined them.

When they returned to the area, Ms Vergnet caught sight of a mandible bone, or lower jaw bone, and “realised they were human remains”.

The group were not initially able to get a phone signal, but went back to Mr Doyle’s home and contacted gardaí from there.

Ms Vergnet also said she found a blade sticking in the ground at the area where she parked her car.

Mr Doyle told the court there were three people apart from himself who had keys to the gate, including Ms Vergnet.

Asked if it were ever left open, he said “not to my knowledge”. He added: “I’d never leave it open myself.”

He said he would be in the area in question “at least every two weeks” but “more often” during the hunting season, which is from September to February.

He also said “courting couples” had been known to occupy the area, and he would occasionally come across condoms and McDonald’s wrappers.

Mr Doyle added that, on a separate part of his land between September 2011 and January 2012, he came across a “big sheet of plastic, some string, a bottle, Vaseline, and a stick with nails sticking out of it”. He said he alerted Gda Sgt Ronan Lawlor to the discovery.

Architect Graham Dwyer (42), of Kerrymount Close in Foxrock, Dublin 18, is charged with murdering the 36-year-old Dublin childcare worker on August 22nd, 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.

The trial continues.