Monday 22 October 2018

Graham Dwyer: Profile of a cold blooded murderer

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

It was only 18 months ago that architect Graham Dwyer appeared to have it all.

A successful career, a partnership in one of the country’s leading architecture firms, and a young family with his bright and beautiful wife in a leafy south Dublin neighbourhood.

But that all ended early one crisp autumn morning when detectives probing the disappearance and death of Elaine O’Hara knocked on the door of his family home in Foxrock.

Just five weeks earlier - on Friday 13th September 2013 - Dwyer and his wife Gemma had been jointly celebrating their birthdays completely unaware that a dog walker had made a grim discovery in the Dublin mountains and found Ms O’Hara’s skeletal remains.

This apparent near perfect life was shattered by a catalogue of bizarre coincidences which uncovered what some claimed was almost ‘the perfect murder’.

Dwyer, who is suing the State for the manner in which gardai accessed his telephone records, is making plans to appeal his conviction.

Born in 1972, Dwyer was said to have had an ordinary childhood in his native Bandon, Co Cork, and still remains contact with old school friends, including Colm Costello who went to nursery with him.

He attended Primary School in Crossmahon, just outside Bandon, and Hamilton High School.

His teenage years were said to have passed largely without incident. He was in the scouts, worked weekends on a chicken farm and his love of music was evident as he played bass in a band with friends called ‘Strangeways.

He also enjoyed childhood camping trips with his close knit family – parents Sean and Susan, sister Mandy and brothers Brendan and James – who have been a pillar of strength supporting him throughout his murder trial.

Dwyer moved to Dublin in the early 1990s to go to college and while studying at Bolton Street he began a relationship with Donegal woman Emer McShea.

It was after the birth of their son, Sennan, in1992 that Dwyer first revealed a dark sexual interest. His fantasised about stabbing a woman during sex, he had confided in his ex, and he started to bring a kitchen knife in to their bedroom, holding it as they had sex.

The relationship ended around 1996 and a year later he began dating fellow architecture student Gemma Healy, now aged 37.

They lived together in Gulistan Cottages in Rathmines, buying it in 2000 to renovate.

That year the budding 27-year-old architect appeared on RTE home makeover show ‘Beyond the Hall Door’.

Dwyer and Gemma - the daughter of an esteemed surgeon - wed in Sligo Cathedral in 2002 and five years later they moved to what would become their family Kerrymount Close, Foxrock.

Early in his career Dwyer hit a stumbling block and was fired from a job with a leading firm after he trashed a colleague’s workstation following a night out, a former colleague claimed.

The ambitious architect was said to be soaring through the ranks - and was even earmarked to become an associate with the company – until a drunken argument on a staff night out.

The co-worker’s computer and work station was thrashed in the early hours of the morning and an investigation found Dwyer was the only person to use a key fob to enter the premises over night.

One man who worked closely with Dwyer at the firm said always got on well with him and never had any problems with him.

“Some of the others didn’t like him, they said he could snap and get angry, but I honestly never saw it,” he added.

Despite this, Dwyer’s career took off and he started work for A&D Wejchert Architects on Lower Baggot Street on July 2, 2001.

A talented and successful architect, he was appointed a director in June 2006 and was involved in a range of major developments at home, including Carlow Institute of Technology and Leopardstown racecourse, and in Poland, where the founding partners were from.

He was particularly skilled in 3D visualisation and artist's impressions, colleagues said, and his wife agreed “Graham could so anything” on the computer.

In his spare time, he flew expensive model planes and drove luxury cars, while his wife enjoyed sailing.

Publicly, Dwyer appeared to have it all, but in private he kept a dark secret which involved meeting women, including Elaine O’Hara, for BDSM sex involving knife play and blood let.

It was in late 2007 - not long after Dwyer and his wife Gemma sold their Rathmines house and moved to Foxrock - when Dwyer met Ms O'Hara on the fetish website.

Graphic homemade sex videos and fragments of emails retrieved on laptops revealed they had had a sexual relationship that involved bondage and knives throughout 2008.

It is not known when his relationship with Ms O’Hara dwindled, but it was rekindled four years ago this week – on March 25 2011 - when Dwyer made contact through a prepaid phone, which became known as the “Goroon” phone.

They met the next day and the story of an affair – one that involved her desire to be chained up and his lust for rape, knives and blood – was detailed in thousands of text messages retrieved from Ms O’Hara’s laptop.

That same week Gemma Dwyer gave birth to their baby daughter, who turns four this week. They also have a six-year-old son.

Dwyer’s family life was busy and apparently normal - down to the sloppy paint job he did on his garden fence that left orange splashes everywhere.

Just weeks before his daughter’s birth he and his father-in-law had also built a swing and slide set in their back garden for the children where Gemma had planned to spend many summer evenings.

They both held down jobs and worked around crèche runs and childcare arrangements.

But it was not without its stresses.

Dwyer himself told detectives he had stopped paying maintenance for Sennan when he finished college.

“I was deeply in debt. We had good prospects in 2007. We had a cottage in Rathmines, bought the house in Foxrock to renovate. Then the crash happened. Gemma lost her job and I had huge pay cuts,” he had said.

His trial had heard directors at the firm had suffered a 50pc pay cut since 2009, including a 21pc cut in the first six months of 2011 cutting his wages to €70,000.

“There must be an error,” he protested in a letter to the firm.

Dwyer continued to enjoy his fast cars, including a Porsche 911that he called his “baby”, and he continued to fly model aeroplanes from clubs in Shankill and Roundwood.

Just three days before Ms O’Hara disappeared he was pictured with his wife and children to a family day at club grounds at Roundwood.

It was that family image, his family unit, marriage and standing in the community and at work, that the self-confessed sadist was most concerned about protecting during a media frenzy while he was being questioned under arrest.

He told detectives he wanted to preserve his marriage.

“I'll not air my dirty laundry here if it's going beyond here,” he said during questioning.

“I think I know what's coming next and I don't want my wife hurt...I am terrified of my laundry being aired but at the same time, I didn't kill anybody."

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