Wednesday 21 March 2018

Graham Dwyer Trial: Therapist tells court Elaine O'Hara was 'cheerful', 'smiley' and excited day before she went missing

Therapist treated Elaine as patient for almost five years before she vanished

Sarah Stack and Andrew Phela

A therapist who saw Elaine O’Hara the day before she vanished has told the Central Criminal Court she was not suicidal at the time.

Stuart Colquhoun, a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT) St Edmundsbury Hospital, said he treated the childcare assistant as an inpatient and outpatient for four years and eight months before she vanished.

He was giving evidence in the trial of Graham​ Dwyer at the Central Criminal Court this morning.

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.

Read more here: Graham Dwyer Trial: Elaine O'Hara felt she 'wasn't born for life', that nobody liked her and she was a bad person, doctor noted in medical records  

Ms O’Hara, a childcare assistant from Killiney, was last seen alive near Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill that day.

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

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

The prosecution maintains the accused killed Ms O'Hara for his own sexual gratification.​

Mr Colquhoun told the court Ms O’Hara suffered from major depression which was recurrent and that she would have had more than one episode at a time. She also had general anxiety disorder.

Read more here: Graham Dwyer Trial: Seventh man tells court of his contact with Elaine O'Hara through 'alternative' website 

Graham Dwyer: accused of the murder of Elaine O’Hara.
Picture: Courtpix
Graham Dwyer: accused of the murder of Elaine O’Hara. Picture: Courtpix

He described how Mr O’Hara would often feel stronger emotions to situations than most people, would react more, and would take longer to return to a baseline.

The court heard Ms O’Hara was treated in St Edmundbury’s in July and August 2012, but he thought it had been a couple of years or more since she was an inpatient.

The pair had an appointment to meet on August 20, 2012, at 4pm but she texted and cancelled and the appointment was rearranged for the next day.

“She was in cheerful form, she was spontaneous, smiley, she was alert. She seemed kind of happy really, excited,” the therapist told Sean Guerin, prosecuting.

“I took it she was excited for the Tall Ships she was involved with. She was planning to do some work with the Tall Ships as a volunteer.”

Read more here: Trial hears Elaine met man online 

The court heard the therapist had previously seen cuts on Ms O’Hara’s arms an stomach, which she said was caused from harming herself and from someone else, and mentioned back in 2008 that she had asked someone to kill her.

Mr Colquhoun said that compared to previously her mood “was good”.

“Looking back I thought most of 2012 was good,” Mr Colquhoun continued.

“She was brighter generally in 2012. But her mood was probably a bit better than that that day.”

Read more here: Jury shown DVD clips of Dwyer flying model planes 

During the meeting, the therapist worked with M O’Hara on meeting more people and not spending so much time alone and they arranged an appointment for September 3.

Mr Guerin asked if there was any indication Ms O’Hara was suicidal on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 – the day before she disappeared.

“No,” Mr Colquhoun replied.

In cross-examination, Remy Farrell SC, defending, asked Mr Colquhoun if Ms O’Hara had said anything on August 21, 2012 about a noose and hanging herself.

“Not on that date,” he replied.

Asked if it would surprise him if she had spoken to somebody else about this, he said it would.

Referring to a planned meeting which Ms O’Hara did not attend, texting that her bus had broken down, Mr Farrell said it would be clear from garda enquiries that there was no bus breakdown.

He asked if this surprised him.

“It’s a surprise because I didn’t know that,” Mr Colquhoun replied.

Mr Farrell told the court that in his statement to gardai on August 30, 2012, Mr Colquhoun had said she was involved in the BDSM lifestyle and “it was what she liked, it was what she was into.” She had also told him she had gone to a fetish night at one point.

He agreed that the summers were particularly hard on Ms O’Hara because she was less active when the schools broke up and “that gave her an opportunity to dwell on things and become sad and depressed.”

Mr Farrell said the background to Ms O’Hara’s admission to hospital in 2012 was that she rang the Samaritans and said she had a noose.

“Yes, she told me about that,” Mr Colquhoun said.

Mr Farrell said there was clearly a background of suicidal ideation and asked Mr Colquhoun if it went beyond that.

“There’s suicidal ideation and suicidal intent and I’m not sure it stretched to intent,” he replied.

A number of treatment progress records kept by Mr Colquhoun were referred to by Mr Farrell. In one, on April 21, 2008,  he noted that she had told her father she was engaged in BDSM and said he was “speechless.”

On June 30, 2008 she had expressed being “overwhelmed” by sadness and fearful feelings. She said she had written a couple of e-mails to “the man from alt” asking him to visit her again but she had not sent them.

She had experienced a “letting go of emotion” when school finished, the record stated.

Mr Colquhoun had noted Ms O’Hara mentioned tying herself up and feeling she deserved to be punished.

On July 12, 2012, two days before she was admitted, she said she only felt free when she left home and was an inpatient.

The court heard the text she sent Mr Colquhoun about the bus breaking down stated: “These things always happen to Elaine O’Hara.”

Re-examining Mr Colquhoun, Mr Guerin said Dublin Bus records showed that the Number 66 from Merrion Square on August 20 did break down and its last recorded movement was at 3.49pm.

The text from Ms O’Hara was at 3.42pm, he said.

Mr Guerin asked Mr Colquhoun about his note that Ms O’Hara often misinterpreted other people’s behaviour.

“It is significant because she avoided interacting with people,” he said. “She had a skewed view that if they were being nice to her it was not genuine and if they were being nice or genuine, she didn’t deserve it.”

Mr Colquhoun said Ms O’Hara “did not have a safe place” - referring to an imaginary safe image used in therapy.

In relation to her feeling like a bad person and feeling she deserved to be punished, Mr Colquhoun said: “She found it very difficult to cope with criticism from others.”

He agreed that Ms O’Hara had problems trusting others.

The court heard on June 11, 2012, Ms O’Hara said: “I don’t like letting people down, I don’t like hurting people, I don’t like saying no.”

Asked if Ms O’Hara had difficulty saying no, Mr Colquhoun replied that she did, but it depended on her emotions and “if she was more relaxed it would be easier to say no.”

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

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