Wednesday 21 November 2018

Graham Dwyer trial: Wife tells hushed court about a life of suburban bliss

Packed gallery as accused's spouse, Gemma Dwyer, takes the stand

Graham Dwyer and his wife Gemma
Graham Dwyer and his wife Gemma
Graham Dwyer

Niamh O'Connor

Gemma Dwyer made her way into Court Number 13, unsure of what to do next as her name was called.

Petite, blonde and dressed in a simple A-line navy dress with dark black tights, the pale mother-of-two approached the stand, walking behind her husband - the accused Graham Dwyer - head bowed, with her shoulders hunched

A hush descended on the packed gallery, who for the past six weeks, sweets and sandwiches at the ready, sat as details of sexual encounters and mental health problems were heard in the court below. But it was the story of an ordinary suburban marriage that drew the biggest crowd for the trial so far.

Forty-two-year-old Graham Dwyer denies murdering Elaine O'Hara (36) on August 22, 2012, a woman the State contends with whom he had a BDSM affair and killed for his own sexual gratification

Ms Dwyer, her voice quivering, told the court how they'd begun dating as students in Bolton Street in 1997. They'd lived first in Gulistan Cottages in Rathmines from 2000 to 2007, and had done the house up together.

Writing the names of her children and their dates of birth on a slip of paper for the jury, Ms Dwyer passed it to the court registrar with a trembling hand.

The couple were both architects, and in August 2007 they'd moved to Foxrock in south Dublin. Graham would leave for work first in the morning because he was based in town, she said, taking a deep breath, whereas she would wait for the childminder to come before heading to Dun Laoghaire.

He normally wore polonecks to work, and owned a North Face jacket. In his spare time he would fly model aeroplanes. He'd joined Shankill Flying Club, then Roundwood, after becoming "more proficient", taking Wednesday afternoons off to fly planes, Ms Dywer told the court.

She'd sometimes go sailing on Thursdays herself, the court also heard. Graham had bought and sold "lots of cars", she recalled, adding he'd called a Porsche 911 "his baby".

She did not remember the day of Elaine's disappearance, - August 22, 2012 - but the date that partial remains were found in the Dublin mountains the following year - September 13 - she recalled, as it had been her birthday, and Graham's.

They went for a meal together in a Mexican restaurant in South Great George's Street and got the Luas home, she said.

She struggled to maintain her composure when she was shown a screenshot of her husband looking at a computer.

"Yes," she knew where it had been taken, she said looking away - it was at their previous home in Gulistan Cottages.

As the questions wore on, Ms Dwyer closed her eyes, sighed, covered her face with a hand, and took deep breaths.

She'd stayed just one night in Holles Street following the birth of their daughter. "The birth of a child, it's a wonderful time," she said almost to herself. But when it came to evidence about a garden spade found near Elaine's remains in September 2013, she was absolutely resolute: "It's the spade from our garden."

She'd spent a lot of time in the garden with the children and recalled the spade had been missing "most of the summer in 2013" because "the dog from next door used to litter on the garden. I often cleared the dog's dirt off the lawn. I mentioned it to Graham a number of times. In the end I just used a plastic spade from the sandpit."

It could be seen in a picture of her back garden, taken the day swings and a slide were erected for her son on March 5, 2011, she explained.

The spade discovered near Elaines remains also had paint on its handle. Graham had painted the shed and fence in wood preserve and "it got everywhere", Ms Dwyer told the court.

Forensic scientist Bridget Fleming would later tell the court that the paint samples from the fence compared to the paint samples from the spade found near Elaine's remains were very similar in their chemical composition, but did not match.

Ms Dywer became upset again when asked about a letter from her husband, which was written on February 28, 2014.

She agreed it read: "Do not believe the gardai. They actually have no evidence apart from my name and someone else's phone number in that awful girl's diary. I did know her, yes. I was helping her, and I was not totally honest with you. There is another man. Someone who likes Real Madrid and wears pink underwear is involved in this.

"I believe this girl committed suicide, and this man disposed of some embarrassing items on her behalf. She tried to kill herself several times. Why do you think none of her family are pushing this? I saved her life once.

"She was released from a mental hospital that day, and had a prescription. I should have gone to the police when she went missing. I could have known where she might be, but I did not."

Ms Dywer said she knew nothing about her husband's online order and delivery of a hunting knife. Model plane parts were the only thing usually delivered to their door by courier, or a neighbour's if they weren't home.

She did not recognise a photograph of a red-and-black rucksack, or knives, which, she said, did not come from her kitchen.

She also gave details of his whereabouts on certain dates; his ability on computers; a car that had "a catastrophic" event in the engine at huge expense; and a Celtic tattoo on his shoulder.

Mr Dwyer's barrister, Remy Farrell, focused on the spade when cross-examining his client's wife.

"Come now, Mrs Dwyer . . . when I asked you about this a few minutes ago, you were quite emphatic that it was just the paint that made you identify it [and not the paint and stickers]" Mr Farrell said.

Would she not agree, "to coin a phrase, 'a spade is a spade'," he probed.

"Yes, Oscar Wilde," she answered, finally finishing her evidence at 15.03, 49 minutes after her ordeal of giving evidence began.


July 2, 2011

Colm Costello, who was in nursery, primary and secondary school with Graham Dwyer in Bandon, Co Cork, testified that he was one of a group of six men, including Mr Dwyer, who went on a “lad’s night” to the pub and back to Kerrymount Close in July 2011 when Gemma and the children were away.

July 5, 2012

Mary Dorrian, owner of Dorrian’s Imperial Hotel, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal testified a Graham Dwyer stayed in Room 204 overnight on July 5, 2012 and that the booking was made online on July 3 2012.

July 8, 2012

George Ryan of Carron Model Flying Club, Co Tipperary, says Mr Dwyer attended a ‘Fun Fly Day’ event and can be seen in a photograph taken on the day in July 2012.

July 4, 2012

A tag registered to Mr Dwyer’s blue Audi TT and Landrover Freelander travelled through M4 East toll at Kinnegad (travelling Dublin to Galway) at 6.04am. It passed through the N6 toll at Ballinasloe at 7am and at 12.45pm and through the M4 West Kinnegad toll at 1.47pm.

July 4, 2012

Sinead Norman, a Galway resident whose house was designed by Mr Dwyer, testified she believes she spoke to Mr Dwyer on July 4, 2012. Photos of her 10-acre site were shown in court but she did not know they had been taken, the court heard.

April 3, 2012

A tag registered to Mr Dwyer travelled through tolls on the M7/M8 Portlaoise in the morning and returned that afternoon.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News