Thursday 26 April 2018

Graham Dwyer Trial: Paint spots found on spade near Elaine O'Hara's body no match for paint samples taken from home of accused

Tests also showed there was no blood or DNA on spade

Graham Dwyer
Graham Dwyer

Andrew Phelan and Sarah Stack

PAINT spots on a spade found in woods near the remains of Elaine O’Hara did not match paint samples taken from the garden of Graham Dwyer’s home, his murder trial has heard.

A forensic scientist told the jury that she tested spots of paint on the spade discovered in the Killakee Wood and while it looked similar to paint found at Mr Dwyer’s home, differences in the chemical composition meant it did not match it.

Graham Dwyer
Graham Dwyer

Mr Dwyer (42), an architect 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, a childcare assistant from Killiney, was last seen alive near Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill that day.

Her remains were found by a dog walker in undergrowth in the Dublin mountains on September 13, 2013.

The prosecution maintains Mr Dwyer killed her for his own sexual gratification.

Bridget Fleming said she compared paint from the spade with samples taken from tins of paint from the shed and the fence in the back garden on Mr Dwyer’s address, Kerrymount Close in Foxrock.

Graham Dwyer Trial: Elaine O'Hara's blood, and semen matching the accused, found on mattress in her apartment 

All the paint was either brown or dark brown.

“They were similar to the others,” Ms Fleming said of the comparison between the spade and the Kerrymount Close samples.

Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara
Elaine O'Hara

She explained to Sean Guerin SC, for the prosecution, that they were all similar in colour with slight variations in appearance. They were also similar in chemical composition.

However, she said, differences observed in the chemical composition “meant that they did not match.”

Another forensic scientist, Dr David Casey, confirmed that tests on the spade showed there was no blood on it and no DNA profile could be obtained.

Graham Dwyer Trial: 'Don't believe the gardai.... I should have gone to the police when she went missing' wrote accused in letter to his wife 

Yesterday, the accused’s wife, Gemma Dwyer told the jury she believed a spade found near the remains of Elaine O'Hara came from the back garden of their family home.

The mother of two said she recognised it because of unusual stickers on it and splatters of an orangey-red paint which she said the shed and fence had been painted years earlier.

Dr Casey said he did not find any blood on the spade from Killakee Wood. He found skin cells with a low-level DNA profile.

Not only was this low-level but because it was from at least two people it “would have been unsafe for me to carry out any further analysis,” Dr Casey said.

He agreed there had been an extremely low expectation of finding semen or blood on items found at Killakee or the reservoir.

The jury heard Ms Fleming, from the Chemistry Section at the Forensic Science Laboratory, was asked to analyse the spade as well as three containers of timber paint or protector and a piece of the fence taken from Kerrymount Close. The purpose was to see whether any traces from the spade could have been from the samples of paint from Kerrymount Close.

Under cross examination, Ms Fleming was questioned at length by Remy Farrell SC, defending, about the spots of paint found on the spade located at Killakee.

She told the court that after Dr Casey saw what he thought were spots of paint on the handle as he examined it, she arranged to view it with him on December 12, 2013.

She examined it forensically between December 18, 2013, and February 4, 2014, when she published her report, the court heard.

“I understood that it related to that the suspect’s wife had identified it and said spots of paint had arisen while the garden fence was being painted. That was my understanding,” she said.

“That background information to the examination.”

Ms Fleming said she also had a piece of the painted fence from the garden in Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, along with several samples of paint taken from the Dwyer home.

The scientist detailed how she first examined the spots against the reference samples and any that were similar in colour were checked by microscopic analysis, which she said gives 200 times magnification.

Any which were still similar were examined again under infrared spectroscopic analysis and Ms Fleming looked at the chemical composition of the paints, she said.

She told the court all the paints were similar, had the same general use and had the main same ingredients, despite being manufactured by different firms.

However, she found small differences in the chemical composition between the spots on the spade and in the tins.

“That is why it did not match. It’s very similar but did not match,” she said.

“It wasn’t the same as any of the paint which I saw from 6 Kerrymount Close.”

Ger O’Donovan, a model plane club member told Anne Marie Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that he took photographs at flying events and put them on a Facebook page.

He said he attended an event at Carron, Co Tipperary, near Limerick Junction Train Station on July 8 2012.

He took a large number of pictures there including one at 10.11am. The photograph was shown to the jury and enlarged to show a blue model plane with an “Extra 300” logo on it.

Asked if he knew Mr Dwyer, Mr Donovan said: “Not really, no.” He was pretty sure Mr Dwyer had been in attendance on the day but he could not say for certain.

Chief Superintendent Peter Kirwan said he was stationed at the Crime and Security Section at Garda Headquarters and had dealings with telecom service providers.

Mr Guerin explained that legislation required providers to retain records for phones, with data for dates, times and locations of calls as well as numbers from which calls were sent and received.

Phone companies had to keep this for two years.

Requests for records in the investigation into the disappearance of Ms O’Hara were routed through Chief Supt Kirwan’s office. He received requests at different times for data in relation to five telephone numbers.

They were 086 3311207, 086 1759151, 083 1103474, 086 1759076 and 087 2100407.

He agreed with Ms Guerin that his role was to satisfy himself that the information being sought was information that should be sought and he then made the request to the service providers.

He sought subscriber details and data for a specified period in 2011 and 2012. His office then acted as a recipient for the information and passed it on to the investigation team

Chief Superintendent John Gilligan said he also carried out this task in the Crime and Security Section and was responsible for requests coming in for three numbers in late August 2012.

The numbers in question were 083 1103474, 086 1759151 and 086 3311207.

Conor O’Callaghan, a telecoms engineer with Vilicom Engineering Ltd, said the firm worked with telecom operators with respect to the data they collected.

He gave an account for the jury of technical aspects of the operation of mobile phones on networks.

He told Mr Guerin information on calls and texts needed to be recorded by phone companies for commercial and billing reasons. A copy of the records was kept centrally and the data “flushed out” after the legally required amount of time for data retention.

In relation to 3 Ireland, he said his company had  a laptop that linked into it and could generate coverage plots for cells.

He told Mr Guerin that when a call was set up or received, the cell was recorded. However, when a phone passed through successive cells, subsequent cells were not recorded.

In relation to prepay calls, he said each electronic voucher had a serial number and could not be used again once it was “burned.”

There were no errors that he was aware of in any of the vouchers he had been asked about in the case.

Mr O’Callaghan said Vilicom Engineering Ltd also had access to the same information for Telefoncia – o2 Ireland – through a laptop.

The court heard all systems had been working correctly at the time, and that it would not have been possible to edit or change the data records he had access to.

It also heared that information from 458 unique mobile phone cells by o2 had been compiled for the court, including the ID for each cell, its address location co-ordinates and antenna location.

He also supplied coverage plots for 46 individual cells from Telefoncia o2 radio based stations showing the strength of signals.

The jury were then shown several maps of mobile phone cells across the country including ESB/Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin; Parnell Street, Dublin; Ely Place, Dublin; as well as the Rochestown Hotel, Deandgrange, Rathfarnham, Sandyford Road, Edmondstown Golf Course, Leopardstown; Kilternan; Rathmichael.

Maps of cells in Co Wicklow which were shown included two in Ballynahinch near Rowndwood; Laragh; Bray Leisure Bowl; Fassaroe near Bray; Shankill and Kippure.

Mr O’Callaghan agreed that he did a similar exercise for 3 Ireland and showed maps of cells including the former Stepaside Garda Station, Edmondstown Golf Course, sites in Dublin city centre and one that extended in to Killakee woods.

He also told Mr Guerin he provided call data records on behalf of O2 Ireland for the number 086 1759151. The data provided included information in relation to the purchase of the phone and credit topping up.

This was an unregistered, prepaid Nokia 1616 that was bought with a prepaid SIM card at the O2 Store on Grafton Street on November 30, 2011 at 4.30pm.

It was topped up on August 18, 2012 through Paypoint at 1.27am, at 1.39pm on July 24, 2012 through An Post, on December 30, 2011 at 4.05pm through Paypoint and on December 1, 2011 at 7.21am through Payzone.

Mr O’Callaghan will continue giving evidence tomorrow when the trial continues.

The trial before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of seven men and five women continues.

Graham Dwyer Trial: Accused and his wife celebrated joint birthday in restaurant on day Elaine O'Hara's remains were found 

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News