| 17.7°C Dublin

Elaine's vulnerability led her to a predator

Let us not forget that Elaine O'Hara was a human being. Let us be mindful that her sex life, parsed, scrutinised and analysed in grotesque and lurid detail, was not the entirety of Elaine's existence.

It was not the whole story of her life - merely an errant thread in the complex weave of her personality.

And let us remember that her life was a precious thing; that she cherished and was cherished in return by family and by friends - though perhaps she never knew, never felt, that she was valued.

Those friends remain vehement that the portrait of Elaine, necessarily laid before the courts in the search for justice for her cruel murder, was not the woman they knew.

Yes, Elaine was vulnerable and damaged, yet there were swathes of her life that were normal.

In many respects her life was much like the rest of us. She went to work and held down two jobs, offered, obligingly, to cover for workmates when they had appointments.


Elaine O'Hara

Elaine O'Hara

Elaine O'Hara

She loved children, attended the occasional family wedding, went shopping and visited the grave of her mother, whose death was to have such a profound impact on an already fragile psyche.

Elaine lived under a constant shadow of depression and psychological hurt.

Yet in the one-dimensional portrayal that was laid before the court and devoured by a public voracious for every detail, there were some glimpses of the real Elaine.

She sent a profile of herself into the dark waters of cyberspace and onto the fetish website alt.com.

Elaine called herself "helpmelearn" and wrote that she loved being in chains and serving a master "but still had a lot to learn".

Then she wrote a curious additional portrait of her ideal master that is sharply at odds with the bizarre, seedy and often dangerous world of fetishistic sex and bondage with strangers.

Her ideal master, she wrote, would be "honest, loyal, frank and trustworthy, possibly caring as well".

That list of qualities might have been taken decades ago from the personal adverts in the Farmers Journal where the lonely and lovelorn sought solace and a life partner.

"Honest," "loyal," "trustworthy," "caring," was a checklist of someone looking for a loving relationship.

Elaine was overweight and had no confidence. In earlier, more innocent times in the ballrooms of romance she might have been the wallflower never asked onto the dance floor for a slow set.

Was it Elaine's diminished, almost zero, level of self-esteem that drew her like a fly into Dwyer's twisted web?

Dwyer, sharply intelligent, ruthless, sadistic and disarmingly plausible must have figured pretty quickly that, in Elaine, he had found the perfect target for his perverted, macabre and violent proclivities.

She was a lamb to the slaughter.

A troubled childhood punctuated by bouts of self-harm and self-loathing was laid bare in the courtroom.

She had been bullied and was isolated in childhood. In, later years, ultimately, Elaine felt friendless.

The loss of her only friend in childhood, who was killed in a road traffic accident, was another terrible blow.

She withdrew into herself and became extremely introverted. Elaine tried to cut her wrists for the first time at the age of 16.

Into that vacuum in her soul, dark fantasies rushed in. She became obsessed with being restrained.

She wanted to hurt herself or let another person hurt her.

The celebrated psychiatrist Dr Anthony Clare treated Elaine and his case notes reveal that he initially believed she was experiencing a gradually-emerging psychosis when he first began to treat her in 1992.

Later his view changed and he came to believe that she was suffering from borderline personality disorder and depression.

Elaine's own words recorded in cases notes are profoundly sad.

"I wasn't born for life. No-one likes me. I'm a bad person," she said in one hospital interview.

That harrowing onslaught of self-hate must also have been apparent when she was drawn into the orbit of the psychopathic Graham Dwyer.

Manipulative, devious and calculating, Dwyer was intent on fulfilling his blood lust.

Elaine wanted only to be loved and to love in return.

She wanted honesty, loyalty and someone who cared; someone she could trust

She got Graham Dwyer.

Sunday Independent