Monday 19 March 2018

High emotion as a picture painted of an ordinary family life

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

There was a flurry of activity by detectives as Gemma Dwyer's name was called and a small, gaunt, bowed figure rose from the body of the courtroom.

She took the Bible and repeated the oath in a voice that was steady, if quiet.

"You are the wife of the accused man," said Sean Guerin SC for the prosecution.

"I am," she replied, her voice flat.

Gemma Dwyer
Gemma Dwyer

She wore a plain navy jersey dress and wore her hair in a blonde bob.

The mother of two was ushered in the path to the witness box that brought her directly behind the seated figure of her husband.

A photograph of a swing and slide set in the back garden was shown, for the purpose of displaying the Dwyers' garden spade which happened to be in the background.

The photo had been taken on March 5 2011, said Ms Dwyer, right before her daughter was born.

"We bought the swing set for my son and dad and Graham built it," she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

She had begun by explaining how she had first met her husband back in the mid 1990s, when they were both students of Architecture at Bolton Street in Dublin.

They began dating around 1997 and subsequently got married.

They bought a house together at Gulistan Cottages in Rathmines in 2000 and moved out in 2007 to leafy Foxrock.

She was asked to write down the names and dates of birth of their two children.

And afterwards, she wept silently, a tissue to her face.

It was the first in a series of deeply emotional points in Ms Dwyer's evidence which painted a picture of a very ordinary family life.

In identifying the household spade, recovered from the Dublin Mountains, she said she knew it from the paint splatters, which were "orangey-red". Graham "didn't do a very neat job" painting the fence and shed after they had first moved in.

"Paint spattered all over the place," she said.

She noticed the spade was missing in the summer of 2013 because she used to use it to pick up dog litter from the next door neighbour's pet. In the end, she used the plastic shovel from the children's sandpit.

Frequently, she broke down at simple memory triggers.

She wept when shown a video still of her husband, then much younger.

It had been taken at Gulistan Cottages, she confirmed. The judge rubbed his jaw as she sought to compose herself.

The tension in the courtroom was palpable.

She was asked how her husband used to dress for work. It had most frequently been a black polo neck and a jacket, she replied.

She was also asked about his hobby of model aeroplane flying. How much of an interest had this been, Mr Guerin queried.

"It was a huge interest," she emphasised.

He would work on his planes every evening and every weekend would be practising or taking part in competitions.

Meanwhile, we also heard how on Friday September 13 2013, the day Elaine O'Hara's remains were found by a dog walker in Killakee Wood in the Dublin Mountains, a family celebration had taken place in the Dwyer household.

"My birthday is the 13th of September and Graham's birthday is the 13th of September," she said.

"We went out to dinner. We went out to a Mexican restaurant on South Great George's Street and celebrated our birthday together."

But Counsel for Mr Dwyer, Remy Farrell SC, sought to question Ms Dwyer more closely on the spade.

"A spade is a spade," he said, in as close to humour as had yet been mustered.

"Oscar Wilde, yes," she acknowledged stiffly.

"The paint was the thing that made me remember that it was our spade," she said.

The painting had been done around 2007 or 2008, Mr Farrell asked.

"I believe so, yes," said Ms Dwyer.

She said she remembered it took place because there was paint all over the clothes and spatters everywhere.

And she noticed that it had gone missing in the summer of 2013, said Mr Farrell.

"Yes," she replied.

The spade had been in frequent use all the previous summers.

Silence hung in the air.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News