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'Yes, my client may be repellent... that doesn't mean he did it'


Defence counsel Remy Farrell SC

Defence counsel Remy Farrell SC

Defence counsel Remy Farrell SC

THERE are few, if any, closing speeches in murder trials where the lead defence counsel begins by acknowledging that their client may be regarded as 'repellent', 'abhorrent', 'disgusting' and open to the possibility of being convicted by a jury irrespective of whether they are guilty or innocent.

But that is the unprecedented territory that Remy Farrell, Graham Dwyer's Senior Counsel, found himself in yesterday as he began his closing speech after eight weeks of prosecution evidence and 194 witnesses - the defence's having lasted some 28 minutes with just three witnesses.

Prosecutor Sean Guerin SC had just drawn his own case to a close with the claim that Mr Dwyer, who denies murdering Elaine O'Hara, had shown himself to be "a sadistic and brutal pervert with nothing on his mind other than murder", as evidenced by text messages and documents the prosecution says he wrote.

One of the key documents relied on by Mr Guerin to satisfy the jury that Mr Dwyer is guilty of murder, was a document entitled 'Killing Darci' which - the State claims - was a template for the alleged murder.

And it was the graphic and disturbing opening lines of this document that Mr Farrell opened his two-and-a-half-hour closing speech with. "I had always fantasised about killing, ever since I was a teenager and I got hard every time I had a knife in my hand, wielding the power knowing that I could decide who lived and died. Just like my hero, God," said Mr Farrell, through gritted teeth.

Those words, said the Tipperary native, were "indisputably" the words of Graham Dwyer. "When you hear those words in evidence, indisputably they represent a most unpromising start to any speech in a murder trial," he said, adding that as a lawyer he had never had to refer to material like that when closing a case.

It was, said Mr Farrell, one of the unique features of this case, before honing in on a series of features he claimed are not only unique but serve to show that the prosecution has no evidence to lead to a murder conviction. Mr Farrell told the jury that much of the evidence they have seen in the case - including videos of Mr Dwyer stabbing Elaine O'Hara during sex - was difficult, distasteful, repellent even.

But he told the jury that although it must be easier to do in other cases, Mr Dwyer was entitled to the presumption of innocence. Central to Mr Farrell's speech to the jury was his claim that there is a huge gap or chasm in the prosecution's case. He said that every time the prosecution tried to make the distinction between fantasy and reality, they attempted to jump this gap but fell short.

"That's putting an elaborate theory not on the basis of any evidence," he said. In the prosecution's opening and closing speeches, the State acknowledged that there is no cause of death.

This was a factor that was also highlighted by Mr Farrell, who accused the prosecution of trying to shock jurors by pushing their emotional buttons in a case he described as "largely circumstantial".

Mr Farrell said that the prosecution's theory of an orgy of violence was not met by the forensic evidence which recorded no bony injury on Ms O'Hara's remains that might be present after an alleged multiple stabbing. The evidence of Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis effectively "blows the theory of the prosecution out of the water", he said.

Mr Farrell said that it was understandable that Ms O'Hara's family may have "fudged" difficult issues such as the discovery of a latex body suit and a rope in Elaine O'Hara's apartment at the time of her disappearance, but there was "no such excuse" for the gardaí.

Mr Farrell also questioned whether gardaí, who had access to certain material, including text messages backed up to Ms O'Hara's computer at the time of her disappearance, had kept an open mind about the possibility of suicide.

"Whatever evidence crops up in this case that might suggest something along the lines of a suicide," the gardaí either ignore it or pretend it doesn't exist, he said, adding that a rusty blade seen near Ms O'Hara's remains by a dog walker who found them appeared to have been discounted by gardaí.

"Anything that doesn't fit with the theory advanced by the prosecution is simply dumped overboard," said Mr Farrell, who highlighted a series of matters he says constitute shortcomings in the garda investigation, including the discovery of a second site at Kilakee.

Of the mobile phones the prosecution says are crucial to its case, Mr Farrell said simply that it is for the jury to accept if Mr Dwyer owned a particular phone.

Mr Farrell spoke of a "very real, invisible pressure on the jury," an expectation from the media and 'barstool jurors' that they must convict.

If the lawyer himself was under an invisible pressure, it didn't show as he a drew a rare, welcome burst of laughter from the court when he nominated actors George Clooney and Benedict Cumberbatch to play himself and Mr Guerin respectively in the inevitable movies Mr Farrell says will be made about this most unique trial.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt will charge the jury on Monday.

Irish Independent