Evil is unspectacular and always human
And shares our bed and eats at our own table.
he bright, functional canteen on the second floor of the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) was noisily a-bustle with the strikingly disparate groups gathered at the various tables over take-out cups of tea and coffee: in one corner sat a quartet of gowned legal-eagles going through documents; another table hosted a bunch of disgruntled-looking lads and women in tracksuits, clearly not in the CCJ through choice. In another corner, a few garda detectives quietly conferred.
Over by a wall, about a half-dozen women were squeezed around a small square table, immersed in an intense conversation. It being Friday morning, the chat could’ve been about plans for the weekend or the swapping of nuggets of gossip from the endless rumour-mill that is the journalism industry.
But it wasn’t any of these enjoyable, ordinary everyday topics. Instead the subjects under discussion were rape, torture, a leather bondage mask, a video of a man stabbing a wailing woman as he penetrated her for his sexual gratification.
Moreover, there was nothing strange about the conversation. For the phalanx of journalists and various professionals whose job required their presence every day for the duration of the ten-week trial, they had found themselves sharing the ghastly, cruel and inhuman world of Graham Dwyer.
Even experienced reporters who had covered other trials involving the violent deaths of women had never experienced the like of the horror-show which unfolded day after day in Court 13. This was one which got deep under everyone’s skin, the ugliness seeping like an invisible, poisonous miasma through the atmosphere. The sheer bottomless pit of Dwyer’s hatred towards women, his disgusting, disturbing musings on the pain he wanted to inflict on an innocent, unsuspecting women he saw on Stephen’s Green. No doubt as he walked around Dublin city centre, he may have caught the eyes of passing women and they may have smiled at the clean-cut man, an unassuming-looking chap. A common courtesy which polite, normal people do many times in the course of a day.
But those who found themselves incarcerated in Court 13, sitting feet away from Graham Dwyer, were no longer capable of seeing a clean-cut, unassuming chap. All anyone who endured the at-times unbearable evidence could see was a relentless predator, a bloody-fanged wolf in a suit-and-tie. Scrutinising his every entrance and exit from the court-room, his jaunty strut, his smirk, and his utter self-belief that he’d be tucking into a nice meal washed down by a glass of claret by the weekend, it became increasingly difficult for many of those present to quell a rising tide of revulsion.
Even experienced journalists spoke of having bad dreams infested with the malign presence of Dwyer; of the rage that would engulf them if he walked out of court a free man. Of their overwhelming feelings of sympathy, not just for his victim Elaine O’Hara and her family, but for all the other lives shattered in his destructive wake - his agonised wife Gemma, his kind father Sean who kept vigil in the seat nearest his son, supported by his daughter and Graham’s sister Mandy.
It was entirely understandable how decent, normal people resented having to wade through gore and depravity, and having to sit over cups of tea and weigh up whether a document written by Dwyer titled Jenny’s First Rape - read out to an almost-empty court cleared of members of the public - would be regarded by the jury as a repellent fantasy tale, or a grisly blueprint for murder, or whether the harrowing litany of twisted texts from the Master and Slave phones would be sufficient to nail the accused firmly to the mast of justice.
Nobody was left untouched by the evil of court 13 - even the presiding judge, Justice Tony Hunt, revealed his own struggle to maintain his composure throughout. After the verdict was delivered, he told the jury, “I wholeheartedly think you came to the right conclusion.” He highlighted the difficulties the seven men and five women had faced in dealing with this case."There's no doubt you are human like myself, when you're cut you bleed. These things are not easy,” he said.
There is a famous quote from Friedrich Nietzche, author of ‘Beyond Good and Evil’:
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”
But it can be certain that all the witness of the drama in Court 13 - jurors, lawyers, supporters and media - won’t follow Graham Dwyer into any abyss or any further into the darkness.
Instead they will turn their back on the abyss, and inhale the sweet air untainted by horror.
Because that’s what normal humans do.