Graham Dwyer trial: Elaine O’Hara gave no intimation she would harm herself, father says

Dead woman said she was seeing a married architect from Foxrock who tied her up, jury told


Elaine O’Hara gave no intimation that she was going to harm herself on the day she disappeared, her father told a jury in the trial of murder accused Graham Dwyer.

Giving evidence at the Central Criminal Court on Friday, Frank O’Hara, from Killiney in Dublin, also said during an argument in early 2008 his daughter told him she was seeing a married architect from Foxrock.

“I asked who,” Mr O’Hara told the court. “She said a professional. She was very reticent.”

He said he asked if he was married, she said he was.

“She said ‘he ties me up and masturbates over me … but we haven’t had sex’,” Mr O’Hara said.

He said he was shocked. His daughter told him it was over “at one stage” and they never discussed it again.

Childcare worker Ms O’Hara (36), from Stepaside, in Dublin, was last seen at 5.45pm on August 22nd, 2012, near Shanganagh cemetery in south Dublin.

Her remains were found in the Dublin mountains on September 13th, 2013.

Graham Dwyer (42), of Kerrymount Close in Foxrock, Dublin 18, was arrested in October 2013 and is charged with murdering Ms O’Hara. He has pleaded not guilty.

In his opening statement on Thursday, Seán Guerin SC said the prosecution would prove Mr Dwyer arranged to meet Ms O’Hara at Shanganagh on August 22nd, 2012, to take her up the mountains and kill her to satisfy his sexual desire.

On the second day of the trial, asked by Mr Guerin if his daughter gave any intimation on the day she disappeared that she would harm herself, Mr O’Hara responded “absolutely not”.

He said she called to him at between 1.30pm and 2pm and they drove, along with his granddaughter, to Shanganagh cemetery.

“We were in the car. I was minding my granddaughter. We were going out to Shanganagh. Elaine was in the car texting. I don’t know who she was texting. I remember telling her ‘would you to put the phone away for awhile’.”

Asked about her “form”, he was positive. “She was in extremely good form,” he said.

Under cross-examination from Remy Farrell SC, for the defence, he did concede when she disappeared it crossed his mind that she might have taken her own life, based on her history, which included three attempts at self-harm.

He also said he never saw stab marks on his daughter’s body. He said she wore long sleeves and long trousers to cover her self-harm.

“I wouldn’t have seen them anyway,” he said.

Mr O’Hara said they arrived at the graveyard, where his wife was buried, at about 3pm and spent about 10-15 minutes there.

Asked under cross-examination whether he recalled “anything unusual” about his daughter’s behaviour when they were at the graveyard, he responded that she “kissed the gravestone when we were leaving”.

They then returned to Mr O’Hara’s house, where Ms O’Hara spent approximately 15 minutes playing with Mr O’Hara’s granddaughter on the green across the road.

She left his home about 4pm or 4.15pm, said Mr O’Hara. He said she was due to start volunteering for the Tall Ships Festival the following morning.

“I can still visualise her standing at the door to the kitchen. She said she needed to go and get some rest as she was up early the next morning.

“She was a bit nervous but she had gone through the training and all. Elaine was always a little nervous going into a new situation.”

Mr O’Hara said his daughter had organised to get a lift to the festival, but he became aware she had not met that appointment.

“Sheila (his partner) rang me and said Elaine hadn’t turned up to the meeting place,” he said.

“I had a key to Elaine’s apartment so I went up around 11am. I saw her iPhone was in the charger, so I assumed she was late and had run out without it.”

He said he didn’t attempt to contact her until later that evening as he “assumed she was working”.

He said he texted her at 11pm that night, as he often did when he hadn’t heard from his children, “are you alive?”

The following morning, he began to get worried, and he called Volunteer Ireland. They returned his call and said Ms O’Hara hadn’t signed in on Thursday morning.

“Then I was extremely worried,” he said.

He rang his daughter Anne to say he would report to gardaí. She asked her husband, Mark, to check Shanganagh Cemetery and he found Ms O’Hara’s car.

Asked under cross examination, why it was suggested to check the cemetery, he said “my daughter just got a feeling”.

Mr O’Hara said he reported his daughter missing at Stepaside Garda Station at around noon on Friday.

When Ms O’Hara’s car was located, Mr O’Hara said they enlisted the assistance of the AA in order to open it.

“One of the concerns was whether there was somebody in the boot,” he said.

Giving evidence of Ms O’Hara’s medical history, Mr O’Hara said his daughter began to encounter difficulties from the age of 14 or 15.

“There was some bullying in school,” he said. “Also, a close friend of hers had been killed in a road accident, which affected her.”

Asked by Mr Guerin whether he noticed a change in her behaviour at this point, he said “absolutely”.

“She became very withdrawn, very into herself. She tried to cut her wrists at one stage, probably from when she was around 16.”

He said she was hospitalised and her treatment involved “a lot of medication”.

If they took her out for coffee, she would sometimes fall asleep in the cafe, she was so medicated, he said.

“That affected her throughout her teenage years. There was on and off hospital treatment, sometimes for periods of months.”

He said that in the last five years of her life, she became “proactive psychologically”.

“They also reduced the medication significantly,” he said. “I thought she was doing pretty good.”

He said she had physical ailments also and suffered from asthma, diabetes, polycystic ovaries and dyslexia.

When Ms O’Hara’s mother died in March 2002, Mr O’Hara said she became “very agitated very quickly, and after that she probably (was anxious) more frequently”.

She was still living at home when her mother died. She moved out in 2005 and lived in two properties before buying her apartment in Belarmine, Stepaside, in 2010.

She had been working as a child care assistant and part-time in a newsagents as well as studying the Montessori method of child care.

In July 2012, Ms O’Hara told her father she was going into hospital again. She said she was going to ask the doctor to take her in.

“I thought she had been doing very well,” said Mr O’Hara. He said she told him he didn’t know what she had tried to do.

“She mentioned something about a noose on a bookcase in her apartment,” said Mr O’Hara.

The court heard how Ms O’Hara had a history of self-harm and suicidal ideation. This included an overdose on prescription medication, which led to her being brought by ambulance to St Vincent’s Hospital.

During cross-examination, Mr O’Hara conceded his daughter was upset when she was told his partner Sheila Hawkins had a job opportunity abroad.

“Sheila said she had an opportunity of a job in the UK,” he said.

“Elaine had asked if that would mean spending more time in the UK.”

He said he came into the room and heard his daughter say “please don’t take him away from me”.

“Elaine probably looked on me as her best friend over the years,” he told the court.

Mr O’Hara also said his daughter was concerned about “a play” that she had in her mind. He said he believed it was “unsavoury”.

Asked what he meant by that, he said “it could have involved cutting herself”. He told the court he encouraged her to write it down and to show it to her psychiatrist.

Mr O’Hara also outlined how after her death, he removed furniture, clothes and other items from his daughter’s apartment because the EBS, with whom it was mortgaged, were going to take it over. He said he handed them the keys at the end of August 2013.

Under cross-examination, he conceded he had given the key to family members before that date to remove items from the apartment, including a washing machine.

He said on the day Ms O’Hara went missing, he searched her apartment, but denied he saw “any paraphernalia” related to her sexual activity.

“Would I recognise it?” he asked.

Mr Farrell said a garda had said he saw a body suit and a large rope.

Mr Farrell also highlighted a statement made by Mr O’Hara to gardaí about the conversation he had with his daughter about the man she said she was seeing.

The statement included the line “I think I remember her saying also she had asked him to kill her, but he wouldn’t”.

Mr O’Hara said he didn’t recall.

In another statement, he told gardaí “Elaine would often say something to try and shock … it was her way of changing the subject”, Mr Farrell said.

Questioned about whether gardaí told him of the text messages they allegedly found on Ms O’Hara’s mobile phone in the weeks after she went missing, he said they did not.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt.