Saturday 20 July 2019

Elaine's dad: 'She said she was seeing an architect who tied her up and performed sex acts'

* Told Frank O’Hara about the man four years before she went missing
* Told him it was over, and they never spoke of it again
* Elaine had attempted suicide on three occasions
* She was texting an unknown person in her father’s car as he drove her to a cemetery
* She began encountering mental health difficulties in her teenage years after she was bullied in school

By Andrew Phelan and Sarah Stack

ELAINE O'Hara told her father in 2008 that she was seeing a married architect who was performing sex acts with her while she was tied up, the Central Criminal Court heard.

Frank O'Hara said that Ms O'Hara told him this in early 2008 - four years before she went missing.

He was giving evidence this morning on the second day of the trial of architect Graham Dwyer, who denies the murder of Ms O'Hara.

Led through his evidence by prosecutor Sean Guerin, Mr O'Hara said his daughter had been speaking to him at his home in Killiney.

They had had an argument about something and Mr O'Hara said it could have had something to do with money because his daughter was "poor at handling money."

"She said I am seeing somebody and I said who?" Mr O'Hara told the jury. "She said 'a professional', I tried to enquire but she was very reticent to give me information."

Graham Dwyer, who is accused of killing Elaine O’Hara (inset).
Graham Dwyer, who is accused of killing Elaine O’Hara (inset).

"I said, 'is he married?', she said, 'yes'. She said, 'He ties me up and masturbates over me but we haven't had sex'. Then she told me he was an architect from Foxrock."

Mr O'Hara added: "I was shocked."

Read more: Cause of Elaine's death 'undetermined' and her skull has never been found - pathologist

He did not think he pursued the matter; his daughter told him it was over and they never discussed it again.

Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara

Over the years, she had also told her father that there was a "play in her mind" but she never discussed what it was. Mr O'Hara thought it "might be unsavoury."

He suggested she write it down and show it to her psychiatrist.

"She was always worried about this play, it upset her," Mr O'Hara said.

He also said Ms O'Hara had wanted to be a teacher and had an "incredible work ethic."

He said she suffered from a number of physical ailments including diabetes. She was dyslexic and "quite intelligent," he said.

Mr O’Hara returned to the stand for just a few minutes after lunch and told the court that after his daughter’s disappearance he hired a company to shred any documents which contained personal information on his daughters, like education certificates and bank statements.

As he finished giving evidence Mr Guerin asked him if he had any indication he daughter would self harm on the last day he saw her.

“Absolutely not,” he added.

Earlier, the deceased’s father agreed that his daughter attempted suicide on three occasions, but he regarded two as being serious.

He told the court there was no other history of psychiatric problems in the family.

The defence barrister again went through the timeline of Ms O’Hara’s disappearance, with Mr O’Hara recalling how his son-in-law found her car at the cemetery car park on the Friday around the time she was reported missing.

The family conducted a small search of the park area, he said, with gardai, the civil defence and the volunteers searching the area. The next day the search moved towards the coastline and involved the Garda helicopter.

Mr Farrell asked Mr O’Hara if he was concerned his daughter had taken her own life.

“I was confused... It obviously it had crossed my mind,” he replied.

“I had an open mind at that stage.”

The court heard Ms O’Hara’s apartment was searched on the Friday evening and among the items found was a black latex bodysuit and a rope.

Mr Farrell asked Mr O’Hara if he ever found any paraphernalia one might associate with unusual sexual activity in his daughter’s apartment.

“I don’t recall coming across anything,” he replied, adding he didn’t think he would know what it looked like.

Earlier Mr O’Hara said Elaine was texting an unknown person in her father’s car as he drove her to a cemetery to visit her mother’s grave on the day she disappeared.

Mr O'Hara told the jury that he did not know who Ms O’Hara – a childcare assistant - was texting but asked her to put the phone away.

Mr O'Hara said coincidentally he himself had texted her the next day at 11pm asking 'are you alive?' as he hadn't heard from her all day.

He told how he reported her missing two days after he last saw her.

Mr Dwyer (42), a father-of-two of Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Ms O’Hara (36) at Killakee, Rathfarnham on August 22, 2012.

Ms O’Hara, from Killiney, was last seen alive near Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill.

Her remains were found by a dog walker in undergrowth in the Dublin mountains on September 13, 2013, more than a year after she disappeared.

Mr O’Hara told the court that he reported his daughter missing on August 24, 2012, at around noon in Stepaside Garda Station.

Led through his evidence by prosecutor Sean Guerin, Mr O’Hara said he had been in contact with Ms O’Hara regularly, “probably every day.”

He said he would speak to her sometimes twice a day by telephone and would sometimes see her three to four times per week.

The last time he saw her was on August 22. She came to his house in Killiney after she was discharged from Edmundsbury Hospital that morning.

He explained that she had been there for four to five weeks and while it was initially on a 24-hour basis. She was later being released to work in a newsagent's and at weekends, which was mainly when he saw her.

He met her at between 1.30pm and 2pm that day after she drove to his house.

He was minding his granddaughter that day and they drove to Shanganagh cemetery, where his late wife was buried.

“Elaine was in the car texting, I don’t know who she was contacting,” Mr O’Hara told the court. “I remember saying, 'Could you put the phone away for a while?'”

She also made a call to the newsagent’s in Blackrock to see what her hours were before they visited the grave.

The trial, before Mr Justice Hunt and a jury of seven men and five women is expected to take between six and eight weeks.

Mr O’Hara told the court that after they visited Shanganagh cemetery, his daughter and grandchild went back to his house at 3pm and she took the child for a walk.

She left her father’s home shortly after 4pm.

“She was in extremely good form,” Mr O’Hara told Mr Guerin.

He said she had volunteered at the Tall Ships festival, which was opening the following morning, and his partner Sile Hawkins had arranged to pick her up early.

Mr O’Hara told the court he can still visualise seeing his daughter standing in the doorway, as he held his grandchild in the hall.

“She said she needed to go home to get some rest because she needed to get up early the following morning,” he said.

“She was a bit nervous of it but she’d gone through the training, she was happy to do it... but Elaine always a little nervous going in to a new situation.”

The next morning Ms O’Hara failed to meet Ms Hawkins as arranged, and Mr O’Hara called to her house and found an iPhone on charge.

He presumed she had slept in and rushed out, but when he didn’t hear from her all day he texted her at 11.30pm that night.

“Ironically,” he said he texted the words: “Are you alive?”.

The following morning Ms Hawkins said Ms O’Hara’s car was not at the apartment. He called again and found her phone still charging and became concerned – ringing her sister Ann and St Edmundsbury Hospital to see if she had checked herself in again. Staff there said she’s been in “quite good form” when leaving.

He also called the group that arranged the volunteers for the Tall Ships, who revealed she had never checked in.

Her car was found at Shanganagh Cemetrey, and he reported her missing.

Her sister Ann later handed her phone to officers and a search was carried out of the area, while gardai checked her apartment.

Mr O’Hara said he didn’t get the keys back from gardai until September or October that year, and continued to check the apartment regularly until August 2013 when the EBS was going to hand it over to a management company.

He took several personal items from the property before it was due to be let - including bank statements, equipment from a Montessori course, and kitchen equipment.

However her body was found before it was rented out and the keys handed back to the gardai, Mr O’Hara added.

The court heard Ms O’Hara, who was born on St Patrick’s Day 1976, went to school in Ballybrack and Killiney, before her final year in the Institute of Education.

However she began encountering mental health difficulties in her teenage years after she was bullied in school and a close friend of hers was killed in a road accident.

“She became very withdrawn, very in to herself,” he said.

“She tried to cut her wrists at one stage when she was probably around 16.”

He revealed she was referred for treatment and spent most of her late teenage years on heavy medication.

Things improved when her treatment turned to psychology.

“I thought she was doing pretty good,” he added.

Mr O’Hara said Elaine tended to get agitated and this happened more after her mother died in 2002.

She had a full time job as a childcare assistant at the time she died. She had moved to Belarmine Plaza, Stepaside in 2010, after buying an apartment under the affordable housing scheme.

She was working part time in Ken’s newsagents in Blackrock and studying to be a Montessori teacher.

She had not required the same level of care in the years before her death as she had previously. Mr O’Hara said her psychiatrist had been trying to gradually reduce her medication.

In July 2012, Mr O’Hara said, his daughter went into hospital again, saying she was going to ask her doctor to take her in.

Mr O’Hara thought she had been doing very well and did not need to.

“She said ‘you don’t know what I have tried to do’, and mentioned something about a noose on a book case in her apartment,” he said.

Mr O’Hara said there had been incidents of self-harm - one involving harm to her wrists when she was a teenager in 1992.

In 2005 or 2006, she took an overdose of medication and had to be brought to St Vincent’s Hospital, he said.

His other daughter, Ann, and her husband found Ms O’Hara when they went to check on her because they had been worried about her.

In another incident in 2006 or 2007, Ms O’Hara had been on the phone to her father one evening while she was living in Blackrock.

At the end of the conversation, she “sounded a bit strange” and said: “It doesn’t matter now anyhow, because I have taken something.”

He got into his car and drove to her home, finding that she had collapsed on the floor.

He put her into his car and brought her to St Vincent’s, where she was in a coma for almost 24 hours.

After her recovery, she was treated at St Edmundsbury Hospital.

For more than 20 minutes the jury were shown a series of CCTV images of Ms O’Hara entering and leaving her apartment from 21st January 2012 to the day she disappeared.

The last was of her getting in to her car at 5.06pm on August 22.

The jury was also shown a photograph of Ms O’Hara, taken in a property she once lived in which Mr O’Hara described as having “shiny curtains, very damp, and not very well decorated.”

Items he handed over to gardai that he thought “might be useful” were also presented before the court.

They included Ms O’Hara’s diary – a deep red-coloured A4 hard back diary -  her purse, her handbag, an address book.

Mr O’Hara told the court he had never noticed any unusual wounds or marks before she disappeared.

“You have to understand Elaine wore long sleeves and long trousers to cover the self harm, so I wouldn't have seen it,” he said.

After more than an hour in the witness box Mr Dwyer’s defence barrister Remy Farrell began his cross examination.

Mr O’Hara admitted his daughter’s mental health problems “absolutely” affected their relationship as she could be difficult to deal with.

She also had problems with money and paying for her mortgage, which he helped her out with from time to time.

Mr Dwyer has pleaded not guilty, and the trial continues before Judge Hunt.

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