Graham Dwyer verdict ‘surprised’ State Pathologist
Prof Marie Cassidy expected not guilty result based on lack of pathological evidence
State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy said the lack of pathological evidence in the Graham Dwyer murder trial made her think he might be found not guilty. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Speaking after a presentation to staff medical students at the Postgraduate Medical Centre at University Hospital Limerick, Prof Cassidy described the case as “fascinating” when she was asked for her medical opinion of the two-month trial that gripped the nation.
The State Pathologist recalled examining the remains of Elaine O’Hara’s with her colleagues.
“We knew there was no pathology evidence to support anything so it came to what other evidence did they have, and it’s up to them to make a case and to present this case, and if they think the case is going to stand up in court then the DPP will go ahead with it.
Based on the pathology evidence, Dr Cassidy said she expected a not guilty verdict.
Dwyer has lodged an appeal against his murder conviction.
During her presentation; Trust me I’m a Forensic Scientist, Prof Cassidy welcomed defence autopsies, where a second postmortem is carried out by another forensic pathologist in cases of murder or homicide.
“One of the most useful things and probably keeping us in check and making sure that things are done properly is the defence autopsy. In most cases now where there has been a homicide or a murder there will be a second autopsy carried out by another forensic pathologist. Safeguards and checks are a marvellous thing,” she said.
According to Prof Cassidy some pathologists say they don’t like people checking over their work, however she described the process as “a marvellous thing from everybody’s point of view”.
“People are looking for two very different things. If you have a defence autopsy it means then that you’ve got someone coming in and checking to make sure you have got the facts right and then also reviewing our opinion and saying is that a fair enough thing to say?
“And that is a great thing to be doing and I welcome it, It took a long time for them to get it going here but now they are used to having it done . . . and that means we have got to make sure when we say something we can stand over it and we can stand by our opinion.”
Prior to her appointment as Deputy State Pathologist in Ireland in 1998 and later State Pathologist in 2004, Prof Cassidy worked in the forensic department at Glasgow university.
She is Professor of Forensic Medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland which involves teaching forensic medicine to medical students.
As part of her forensic work she has been involved with the UN since the mid-1990s. She has travelled to Bosnia on several occasions, as well as to Croatia and latterly to Sierra Leone as part of a team involved in the investigation of war crimes, in particular the examination of bodies from mass graves.