Thursday 23 November 2017

Ghosts of Elaine and Dwyers' past emerge in court

Accused's ex-partner tells of his knife obsession, Elaine's most private thoughts revealed in letters

Namh O'Connor Twitter: @crackingcrime

Sean Guerin turned at the waist and glanced to the back of Dublin's Central Criminal Court.

"Would Emer McShea please make her way up to the stand," the towering state barrister said, pushing his glasses up his nose.

An attractive brown-haired woman bustled through the crowd, head down as she skirted the belly of the packed court on Friday, passing Graham Dwyer to her left.

The 42-year-old architect and married dad is on trial for murdering 36-year-old childcare worker, Elaine O'Hara, on August 22, 2012.

McShea climbed the steps to the stand and swore on a bible to tell the truth, her Northern lilt barely audible.

"Ms McShea, I think you were in a relationship with the accused man, Graham Dwyer in the early 1990s, isn't that right?" the senior counsel led, reading from Ms O'Shea's statement to gardaí.

Witness Emer McShea leaving court yesterday after she gave evidence in the trial of Graham Dwyer (inset)
Picture: Courtpix
Witness Emer McShea leaving court yesterday after she gave evidence in the trial of Graham Dwyer (inset) Picture: Courtpix
Elaine O'Hara
Graham Dwyer
Witness Brid Wallace

"Yes, that's right," she agreed quietly.

"I think you were in college at the time, isn't that right?"

"Yes, that's right."

"I think in 1992 you gave birth to your and his son, Sennan McShea, isn't that right?" Sean Guerin probed.

"Yes, that's right."

"I think you recall one night during the course of your relationship when you had a discussion with him about fantasies, is that correct?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"And Graham Dwyer told you his fantasy was stabbing a woman while having sex with her?"

"Yes, that's right."

"And I think after that you began to bring a kitchen knife into your shared bedroom, isn't that right?"

"Yes, he did."

"And I think he would pretend to stab you during sex, is that right?"

"Yes, that's right."

"But I don't think he actually did, is that correct?"

"That's correct."

Ms McShea went on to agree in the same stilted question-and-answer format that she had identified her ex in CCTV footage recorded at Elaine O'Hara's address in Belarmine Plaza in Stepaside on varying dates for gardai.

She'd also given them a birthday card which Graham Dwyer had sent to their son in November 2014. It read: "'Everything going well here, all forensics clear and we are sure of an acquittal now we have a mountain of evidence that it was suicide'?" Sean Guerin queried.

"Yes that's right," Ms McShea said stiffly.

"With Sennan's consent, you handed that card and the envelope to Detective Sergeant Peter Woods. Is that correct?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes I did."

And with that, Emer McShea's evidence of what happened behind closed doors more than 20 years ago, and took less than five minutes to tell a court, became national news.

But it was Elaine O'Hara's most private thoughts, letters, photos, and intimate communications that dominated most of the fifth week of the trial.

The childcare worker's partial remains were found in Killakee, Rathfarnham in September 2013. Her glasses, keys, inhaler, rucksack, and the clothing she was last seen wearing, were discovered along with bondage paraphernalia, sex toys and mobile phones in Roundwood reservoir more than 20 miles away.

Over two days, Detective Garda Brid Wallace, attached to the Computer Crime Unit, told the jury what she had discovered when analysing files (including deleted information) on Elaine's computers.

Naked photographs of Elaine displaying partially healed scars on her torso and a mole on her right breast, an image of her chained and doubled over on the floor - used with her profile - were discovered, the court learned.

Elaine had been in contact with several users, including one calling himself Architect72, linked to an email address, the jury was told.

An email sent from that account to Elaine's computer read: "I hope you are keeping ok. Assumed you are trying to get better and stay away from what we do together. I completely understand. You should know I am always thinking of you and hoping you are safe and not suffering too much on the inside. Anything you want I will gladly carry out what I promised I would do, regardless of the consequences. You can always call me from a phone box - even if it's months away or years. I am always waiting. Get in touch anytime for a chat or for the simple harmless things you like to do. Take care x Sir."

On Elaine's computers, Detective Garda Wallace also found books entitled 21 Techniques of Silent Killing by Master Hei Long, and Serial Violence: Analysis of Modus Operandi and Signature Characteristics of Killers by Robert D Keppel and William Birnes.

She also found graphic images of mutilated bodies in a desktop folder called "Dead Files", downloaded from a site called

The Google and Safari browsers revealed that "Graham Dwyer" and "architect" had been entered as searches, while a document, "My Story", described a "fantasy" of being abducted by a man on the street, locked in the boot of a car, tied up in a room filled with instruments of torture, including electrocution devices.

Intimate chats that Elaine had had on the Yahoo messaging service about bondage, discipline (or domination), sadism and masochism (BDSM) activity were also laid bare, as was a downloaded document entitled "Outline of a slave", which told of the writer having been locked up and cut with knifes.

Detective Garda Wallace testified she believed the document to be a "fantasy"… "fiction". But it was in two letters to Stuart Colquhoun, Elaine's therapist in St Edmundsbury Hospital, that Elaine's own voice could finally be heard through the static. In the later letter (dated June 25, 2012) to the counsellor, who previously testified about his attempts to help Elaine deal with her issues, Elaine wrote: "Dear Stuart, I'm sitting here and I'm so mad at you. I know you're only doing your job, but I'm so f**king mad. Every day people have to make small talk, superficial talk. I do it everyday and I understand why people have to do it. I always talk about the weather and how terrible it is, and how the summer is now over, and the children back at school in their coats ... 'Are you having a good day giggle giggle; how was your weekend?; how is your mother doing?; did you go to the Westlife concert; that photo's lovely, she is so cute.'

"See I can do it, but I am scared to go any further. I know what I do is wrong. I know, I am not stupid, but I don't need people shouting at me, making me mad. If you want to help that's fine but you're sounding like my dad, and sister, Sheila, my brother. You're just imaging them and that makes me mad.

"I don't need that - I've had that all my life. When I get mad, it makes me want to cut myself to release some of the anger. Every Tuesday I go to the Red Cross and volunteer… I volunteered to help out in the Tall Ships in August.

"I didn't like your tone when you said I have to get out there and meet people because as you can see I am doing that, but it takes time. I don't know what you want me to do otherwise, but making me mad won't help me and I want to hide away.

"Is it worth me going back?

"Well as I find it hard to speak when I'm mad I thought I should write it down as sometimes I can't explain it. I hope you don't mind.

Elaine O'Hara."

The trial resumes on Wednesday.

Sunday Independent

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