Wednesday 13 December 2017

Elaine 'wanted someone loyal and caring as well as strict'

Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara
Witness Robert Cullen Jones leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Court
Witness Dr Matt Murphy. Photo: Collins
Retired nurse Rosetta Callan leaving Dublin Central Criminal Court after she gave evidence in the trial of Graham Dwyer. Photo: Collins Courts.
Architect Graham Dwyer is accused of the murder of Elaine O’Hara (inset), from Killiney, Co Dublin
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

The Children's Act 1908 was a landmark law that saw, among other things, the abolition of the death penalty for children under the age of 16.

One of the more obscure provisions, Section 115, banned children from attending trials unless they were "an infant in arms".

The law was repealed in Ireland in 2001. But one wonders if a retention of the ancient edict might have called a halt to the presence of gaggles of young schoolgirls attending the trial of Graham Dwyer at the Central Criminal Court.

Few parents, I suspect, would be comfortable with the prospect of their teenagers witnessing a procession of men registered to alternative sexual websites enter the witness box to explain their sexual preferences or how their details ended up in Elaine O'Hara's phone.

Elaine O'Hara, whose skeletal remains were found in the Dublin mountains on September 13, 2013, was a member of ALT.com, an alternative sexual website.

The prosecution alleges that architect Graham Dwyer murdered Ms O'Hara by stabbing her to death for his own sexual gratification on August 22, 2012.

The married man, who has two small children - as well as an adult son - denies the charge.

Earlier this week, the Central Criminal Court heard Ms O'Hara's ALT.com user name was "helpmelearn-36/F" and that she listed kidnapping, knife play, mummification and verbal humiliation among her fetishes.

But her profile , which invited prospective suitors to call her "f*** meat", also revealed that this self-professed, submissive "slave" wanted someone loyal, trustworthy, caring as well as strict.

Robert Cullen Jones was the first of seven men called by the prosecution to outline his contact with Ms O'Hara.

Many onlookers presumed him to be yet another model plane enthusiast who had testified last Tuesday morning.

Instead, Mr Cullen Jones explained in quiet tones that he met Elaine O'Hara through ALT.com where his own username was "dublin_master".

Remy Farrell SC, Mr Dwyer's lead defence counsel, sought to put Mr Cullen Jones at ease, reassuring him that he wasn't interested in prying into his personal relationships. But it fell to Mr Cullen Jones, who once had sex with Elaine O'Hara, to explain to the court terms familiar in the BDSM community such as breath play (asphyxiation), knife play (cutting) and wax play (candles).

The explanations proved too much for several of the slackjawed transition-year students, some of who were ushered out by concerned adults. Others stayed to hear the evidence of Mark Guerin, who agreed with Mr Farrell that Elaine O'Hara's interests were at the "more extreme" end of the sub/dom spectrum. Mr Guerin, whose username was "time2killindublin" and whose interest lay in wax play and light kink, agreed with prosecutor Sean Guerin SC that Elaine O'Hara was more into restraints, bloodletting, degradation and humiliation. It was at least one of these elements, restraints, that led a young Elaine O'Hara into the care of the late, celebrated psychiatrist Professor Anthony Clare.

Prof Clare, who died in 2007, treated Elaine O'Hara from the tender age of 16. She was suffering from an "obsessional" fantasy about being restrained or imprisoned, probably since the age of 12, the court heard. Prof Clare thought his young patient might have been developing psychosis, but her condition was later diagnosed as borderline personality disorder with depression that saw Elaine O'Hara admitted - often for months at a time - to St Edmundsbury mental health hospital 14 times in 20 years.

A year before his death, Prof Clare wrote to a colleague of his fears that it may not be diabetes or a straightforward depressive illness that would determine Elaine's fate.

Rosetta Callan was a nurse on duty at St Edmundsbury the night before Elaine O'Hara disappeared on August 22, 2012. She told the trial that Elaine told her she was "pissed off" about a man who was "constantly" calling to her apartment and had a key. Ms Callan said Ms O'Hara, who was due to be discharged the following day, told her about a man who was interested in bondage who lived nearby and she "passed the house every day". Nurse Callan queried why she wouldn't go to the gardaí if she was being harassed. But Ms Callan testified that Elaine would not do so "because he had young children".

The respectful, forensic review of Elaine O'Hara's psychiatric past could not conceal its harrowing and at times disturbing nature. The court heard Elaine confided to a friend, a fellow patient she had met, that she was in a sexual relationship with a man who cut her. Edna Lillis said she warned Elaine she was playing a dangerous game, but said Elaine enjoyed the attention and sexual gratification she appeared to derive from the relationship.

"She just wanted to be loved, she just wanted some attention," said Ms Lillis.

Dr Matt Murphy, the consultant psychiatrist who treated Elaine O'Hara after Prof Clare's death, spoke of his optimism about his patient at the time of her discharge.

When Stuart Colquhoun first met Elaine O'Hara in 2008, she mentioned to the cognitive behavioural therapist at St Edmundsbury that she had asked someone to kill her. Mr Colquhoun said he last saw Elaine on the day before she disappeared, but he said she disclosed nothing then because she was in such a good mood.

All who attended courtroom 13 this week were educated about aspects of sexuality and psychiatry that featured in Elaine O'Hara's life, a life - she once told Prof Clare - that she felt she wasn't born for.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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