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Saturday 23 August 2014

Gardai probe internet dating links in Elaine O’Hara murder

Bag and phone discovered in reservoir days before body found

Tom Brady Security Editor

Published 18/09/2013 | 05:00

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GARDAI investigating the murder of Elaine O'Hara are examining her computer in a bid to see if she was murdered by somebody she met through an online dating website.

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Detectives are now re-examining her computer and mobile phone as the investigation into her murder gathers pace.

Both items would have been scrutinised last year year, shortly after her reported disappearance on August 22, 2012.

However, they are now being looked at again following the discovery of Ms O'Hara's remains on Friday, and a number of personal items at a separate location in Co Wicklow a week ago.

The investigation into Ms O'Hara's death took a sinister turn after gardai examined several items found at a reservoir including a pair of handcuffs. The discovery was made by a caretaker at the reservoir in Roundwood, Co Wicklow, last Wednesday.

By coincidence, Ms O'Hara's remains were discovered by a woman out walking her dog in a private forest in Killakee in the Dublin Mountains, two days later.

Officers are now satisfied that the 37-year-old  was murdered.

Gardai seal off a bridge at Knockraheen on the Roundwood reservoir in Co.Wicklow. Inset: Elaine O'Hara
A picture released by gardaí at Stepaside, seeking the public's assistance in tracing the whereabouts of 36 year old Elaine O'Hara who had been missing since the 22nd August, 2012.
A picture released by gardaí at Stepaside, seeking the public's assistance in tracing the whereabouts of 36 year old Elaine O'Hara who had been missing since the 22nd August, 2012.
Elaine O'Hara pictured prior to her disapperance
Elaine O'Hara pictured prior to her disapperance

The discovery of the keys and other personal items at Roundwood could indicate she was abducted before she was killed.

However, gardai stressed that further rigorous checks have to be made before any link can be established.

Underwater searches later at the reservoir yielded other items including the handcuffs, and gardai are working to establish if there is any connection.

The scene is about 20km from the location where Ms O'Hara's remains were found last Friday in undergrowth off the Killakee road, outside Rathfarnham, in the foothills of the Dublin mountains.

By a bizarre coincidence, Ms O'Hara's skeletal remains were discovered by a woman who had been out walking her dog, only two days after the items in Roundwood were discovered.

More bones have also been found in the undergrowth near Rathfarnham, close to where the remains were first spotted last Friday.

Gardai had already recovered a jaw bone, a tibia, a fibula, part of a pelvic bone, and a set of teeth. Officers will now widen the search in an effort to find the skull, which could help determine how Ms O'Hara died.

The two finds represented major breakthroughs in the case of Ms O'Hara who had been missing since August last year.

At the moment her death is being treated by senior gardai as suspicious, but officers say there is little doubt about their inquiries being turned into a murder investigation.

Officers said that while they are investigating the possibility that she could have been abducted, other lines of inquiry were also being checked out.

An initial post-mortem of the remains by the deputy State pathologist Dr Michael Curtis failed to establish the cause of death.

The examination has been left open, pending the outcome of further inquiries by gardai.

The second search scene was sealed off by gardai after the discovery of the personal items found by a caretaker at the reservoir in Roundwood.

It is possible that Ms O'Hara's personal objects were only dumped in the reservoir in recent weeks or even days.

Last night a renewed search was carried out by members of the garda underwater unit in a bid to find other items.

The caretaker spotted items from a bridge because of low water levels last Wednesday and notified the gardai.

Garda officers called in the underwater unit and the search was intensified from Monday, because of the discovery of the remains and the suggestion there might be a connection between the two scenes. This led to further finds on Monday and yesterday, with the divers backed up by the dog unit.

Items found included a key fob, which belonged to the Dunnes Stores branch where Ms O'Hara worked.

Gardai also found two mobile phones, large-sized clothing which could have fitted her, and a number of other items, including the handcuffs.

Gardai emphasised last night that it was not yet clear how many of those items could be positively linked to the dead woman – as they had been uncovered in a number of searches around the reservoir.

Senior officers expect the water unit to remain at the reservoir in Roundwood for another couple of days and say that when all of the items have been recovered a full check will be carried out to determine how many can be linked to the O'Hara case.

Technical experts are hoping to recover some data from the phones to help establish if she owned either of them, and pinpoint calls or messages in the days before she disappeared.

Investigators are anxious to find out who was in contact with her around the time of her disappearance on August 22 last year.

Ms O'Hara was seen leaving the Belarmine Plaza complex at Stepaside in south Co Dublin at 5.05pm that day.

The last confirmed sighting of her was at the family home at Ballinclea Heights in Killiney.

At around 6.15pm she was reportedly spotted near a footbridge over the railway line at Shanganagh in Shankill. Gardai believe she visited her mother's grave in Shanganagh cemetery.

UNDERGROWTH

Two days later her green Fiat Punto car, with an 05 D registration plate, was found at the cemetery, which is a 25-minute car journey from where her remains were found in undergrowth.

She was described as being 5ft 4ins, a stocky build with brown hair and when last seen was wearing jeans, runners and either a blue jacket or jumper.

An incident room has been set up at Blackrock garda station and officers have appealed to anybody with information about Ms O'Hara to contact them there or on the confidential line.

Irish Independent

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