We will carry many unanswered questions for the rest of our lives, says Elaine O’Hara’s family

Judge sentences Graham Dwyer to life in jail, says be thankful a dangerous man is out of the way

Elaine O'Hara was an intelligent girl and was lost in a "brutal, traumatic and horrifying manner", the sentence hearing of her murderer Graham Dwyer has been told.

In a victim impact statement read into the record by Sean Guerin SC, for the prosecution, Ms O’Hara’s father Frank O’Hara said the family knew they were not the only victims of the crime.

“We recognise that other families are suffering too and we feel for every other person affected,” he said.

The statement said the family have lost a daughter, a sister and a friend in the most brutal, traumatic and horrifying manner.


“We also have many unanswered questions which we will have to carry with us for the rest of our lives.”

It said Ms O’Hara was an intelligent girl, who never fully realised her potential due to her psychological difficulties. She was prescribed a lot of medication and this had an impact on her ability to be a regular teenager, particularly socially.

“She was emotionally immature and very trusting of anyone who showed her kindness,” it said.

Ms O’Hara’s medication was reduced in later years, the statement said, hospital stays became less common and she functioned more effectively. However, she had missed out on the important, formative years.

The statement said Ms O’Hara’s ambition was to be a teacher and she was studying Montessori.

“In 2014, we collected a BA in Montessori education which was awarded to her in St Nicholas Montessori School,” it said.

“She would have been so happy and proud to stand up in her gown and hat to accept that degree herself after overcoming many obstacles to finally get the qualification she longed for, but unfortunately this was not to be.”

When Elaine went missing in August 2012 the family was devastated. The statement described how they spent many hours walking the shore from Blackrock to Bray searching for any sign of her.

“A year after her disappearance we laid flowers in the sea at Shanganagh in her memory and in an effort to find some closure for us as a family,” the statement said.

The family’s statement described the trial as “an incredibly difficult experience”.

“It was distressing to see Elaine’s private life laid bare before the nation, despite the fact that she was the victim,” it said.

It also said some of the reporting in the print media was “insulting to Elaine and deeply upsetting for the family” and at times, “Elaine’s life was relegated to a lurid headline in a newspaper”.

It also said it was heartbreaking for them “to listen to the texts Elaine received from a depraved and diseased mind”.

“The manipulation of her vulnerability was apparent and when she tried to resist, she was reined back in,” it said.

“We can hear her voice in those texts, just wanting to be loved.”

He also said hearing the contents of the videos would haunt them forever. They were also upset that the credibility of their evidence was questioned and said throughout the two and a half years all they wanted was “the truth and justice for Elaine”.

“We will probably never know what happened in Killakee on Wednesday the 22nd of August 2012, but there are questions that trouble us,” the statement said. These included when Ms O’Hara realised it was a game, and whether she tried to run away, if she suffered much and whether she was left on the mountain to die alone.

“This is our life sentence. For us there is no parole,” the statement said.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said Ms O’Hara was well loved and well cared for and her family should not reproach themselves. They showed great composure and dignity in court, he said and at no point “tried to gild the lily” during their evidence.

He also said Ms O’Hara was not “all about her illnesses”, and she was extremely hardworking and coped with her illnesses “in a remarkably strong way”. She was “much broader than she had been portrayed” and only wanted someone to look after her, “no different fro manyone else”. She was cynically misused and abused by Mr Dwyer. He also used and abused her after her death “in an attempt to slither out from under her responsibilities”.

“Mr Dwyer had absolutely no regard for this woman except for what he could get from her; the satisfaction of his perverse and debauched desires,” Mr Justice Hunt said.

He told the family the trial was not designed to provide answers to all the questions people who have lost a loved one would wish answered, but he hoped they had some insight into what happened and some light had been shone into “some dark corners of this very dark story”.

Inclining his head toward the defendant, Mr Justice Hunt said shame and embarassment was “in very short supply in that corner of the court”.

“He was lying to cover up the obvious truth that emerged from 20 feet under water,” he said.

He also said the defence was forced to concede his client was a “repulsive misogynist”. He gave credit to gardaí.

“We may be thankful that a dangerous man is out of the way ... if you think he is not, you only have to look at his Buck Special knife,” the judge said. He queried why it was “secreted away” in the basement of the office where Mr Dwyer worked, “if not for use in the future”.

The judge also said a statement by Mr Dwyer’s wife Gemma after the conviction to the O’Hara family had required a broad back and a generous spirit.

The judge has no discretion in the term of imprisonment he imposes on Dwyer as murder carries a mandatory life sentence.

Last month, 42-year-old Dwyer, an architect from Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, Dublin, was found guilty of murdering childcare worker Elaine O’Hara (36).

Ms O’Hara disappeared from Shanganagh Park, Shankill, Dublin, on August 22nd, 2012.

Her remains were found on Killakee Mountain, Rathfarnham on September 13th, 2013. Dwyer had stabbed her to death for his own sexual gratification, the jury found.

The 45-day trial included evidence from 197 witnesses gave evidence, three of them for the defence.

The case centred on more than 2,600 text messages sent to Ms O’Hara’s phone, from an 083 phone bought by Dwyer under an assumed name and from two Nokia phones, known as the master and slave phones, recovered from the Vartry reservoir and also bought by Dwyer.

Graphic fantasies about the kidnap, rape and murder of women written by Dwyer were included in evidence during the trial, as were videos made by the defendant of sexual encounters with women that involved stabbing and simulated stabbing.

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist