Michael Dwyer’s family supports new film questioning his death

Irishman (24) was allegedly killed in a shoot-out with Bolivian police in 2009

File photograph of Michael Dwyer. Photograph: PA Wire

File photograph of Michael Dwyer. Photograph: PA Wire


For the family of Michael Dwyer, deciding to allow a documentary film crew follow them on their campaign for justice was a heavily fraught decision.

They remain deeply scarred by the portrayal of their son in much of the Irish media in the aftermath of his death at the hands of Bolivian police in Santa Cruz in the early hours of April 16th, 2009.

They witnessed his reputation destroyed at home as they tried to work out how the fun-loving 24-year-old, who went to South America to do a bodyguard course, ended up dead, supposedly in a shoot-out with authorities, who accused him of being a mercenary planning to kill president Evo Morales.

The Irish Jackal

Newspapers, including The Irish Times, published photographs, released by the Bolivians, of Mr Dwyer handling guns.

A video of him in what was described as a terrorist training camp was posted. For many, it proved conclusive.

However, information has emerged pointing to Mr Dwyer’s extrajudicial killing by police in a carefully planned operation that was then used by the government to criminalise the main political opposition.

The Dwyers never believed the official version of how their son died, and allowing the film-makers to follow them as they campaign for the truth was done in part in the hope it will help undo some of the damage from the initial reporting.

“After all that happened after Michael was killed, we were very nervous about giving the media access,” said Mr Dwyer’s mother, Caroline.

“But the narrative surrounding the case has changed so much in the intervening years we have to try to get that message across.”

Death of a Son – The Killing of Michael Dwyer, is both a personal film about a family’s efforts to come to terms with tragedy and an examination of the disturbing weight of evidence pointing to an Irishman’s murder by a foreign government.

(Full disclosure: I was interviewed about the case for the film.)

Disputes authorities

The film does not shy away from the mysteries and ambiguities of the case and Mr Dwyer’s place in it. But it also shows how these very ambiguities were used to later smear him.

The family know their campaign for justice is likely to be a long one. “It might take me the rest of my life,” said Ms Dwyer.

“But I do believe that some day we will get the truth.”

Death of a Son – The Killing of Michael Dwyer will be shown on RTÉ 1 tonight at 9.35pm