Thursday 22 February 2018

Quip from prosecutor raises a smile after a week of tension

Gemma Dwyer wept when shown a picture of her husband, writes Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

The laughs are few and far between at the murder trial of architect Graham Dwyer.

The atmosphere in courtroom 13 at the Criminal Courts of Justice is one of a near permanent state of tension. And on those rare occasions when laughter fleetingly enters the proceedings, they are as welcome as clear air after a thunderstorm.

Prosecutor Anne Marie Lawlor may not have intended to introduce some comic relief in the final hour of a long and heavy week of evidence. But introduce it she did yesterday when posing a series of questions to George Ryan, club secretary of Carron Model Flying Club.

Mr Ryan was shown a photo taken from a "fun fly day" at Carron on July 8, 2012, attended by himself and Mr Dwyer. Mr Ryan was asked about a blue plane owned by Mr Dwyer and identified himself in the photo as a man bent over the model plane, his posterior in the air. "And a fine plane it is too," quipped Ms Lawlor to spontaneous outbursts of laughter from the courtroom, including the accused.

Witness Niall Nugent
Witness Niall Nugent
Graham Dwyer and his wife Gemma
Elaine O'Hara

Mr Dwyer smiled broadly again when Colm Costello, a friend whom he knew since nursery school, was called to give evidence. Mr Costello explained to lead prosecutor Sean Guerin SC that the men had kept in regular touch and had attended a get-together in Mr Dwyer's home on July 2, 2011. Mr Costello agreed with lead defence counsel Remy Farrell SC that there was nothing unusual about the get-together - the group, at that time, were planning to celebrate 20 years since they left school. As he left the witness box, the school friends exchanged a smile.

Last Wednesday Gemma Dwyer, Mr Dwyer's wife - also an architect - was called by the prosecution.

Ms Dwyer was the 167th witness to be called and walked behind her husband before taking her seat, her face directed towards Mr Guerin, shielding her visibly pained visage from the courtroom.

Ms Dwyer quietly confirmed that she was the wife of the accused, steadying her hand when asked to write down the names of their two small children for the court.

It was confirmation in court of their everyday married life, leaving for work, tending to their children and sharing a family laptop that appeared to cause Ms Dwyer so much difficulty.

She wept quietly as she was shown a picture of her husband some years earlier at Gulistan Cottages, the home they had renovated together.

And she sat in silence as Mr Guerin read out the contents of a letter Mr Dwyer wrote in February 2014 in which he described Elaine O'Hara - whom Mr Dwyer denies murdering - as "that awful girl".

Ms Dwyer was asked by Mr Guerin about Friday September 13, 2013, and she confirmed that she was aware that this was the day Ms O'Hara's remains were found. Ms Dwyer told how she celebrated the same birthday as her husband and how he had not acted in any unusual way when they went for dinner in a Mexican restaurant on September 13, 2013.

She was asked if she remembered any particular reaction. "No," she replied.

It is the prosecution's case that Mr Dwyer murdered Ms O'Hara for his own sexual gratification on August 22, 2012, hours after Ms O'Hara was discharged from a mental hospital. He denies the charge.

Ms Dwyer told the court that her husband had a tattoo on his left shoulder, a small symbol from the Book of Kells, one found on the old Irish penny.

She knew nothing, she said, about her husband ordering a hunting knife off the internet on August 17, 2012 which was delivered to his workplace four days later.

But she had a very clear recollection about a spade that was missing from their garden throughout the summer of 2013, finding a different spade in the garden after the arrest and search of their home.

Ms Dwyer said she often used the spade to clear a neighbour's dog's droppings from their back garden, but noticed it missing that summer, mentioning it to her husband several times and using a plastic spade from the kids' sand pit to clear the droppings in the meantime.

Shown a photo of a spade found near Ms O'Hara's remains at Kilakee in September 2013, Ms Dwyer was asked if she recognised it. "I do," she told Mr Guerin. "That's the spade from our garden," she said, explaining that the stickers and spatters of orangey red paint were familiar, adding that paint had "gotten everywhere" when they painted their fence. The spade came to mind after her husband's arrest, said Ms Dwyer.

When defence counsel Mr Farrell rose to cross-examine Ms Dwyer, he sought to put the witness at ease.

"To coin a phrase," said Mr Farrell, "a spade is a spade".

"Oscar Wilde," confirmed Ms Dwyer - the phrase was once deployed by the writer in 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'.

Ms Dwyer confirmed to Mr Farrell that she had only recently given a statement to the gardaí to the effect that she knew this spade was their spade because of the red splashes. She said when she first spoke to gardaí, she told them the spade found at Kilakee was the same type of spade as they had in their home, but that she had subsequently noticed the paint.

The painting of the fence took place in 2007 or 2008, she agreed, after they had moved to their new home in Kerrymount Close in Foxrock. "There was spatter everywhere," said Ms Dwyer.

Called to the witness box, Detective Sergeant Peter Woods agreed that he did not think the spade was of interest until a picture was shown in the trial.

One man who had a prolific knowledge of spades was Niall Nugent, sales director of Ames True Temper, who has been selling garden tools for more than 30 years. Mr Nugent was shown the two spades in court.

The spade Ms Dwyer had found in her garden, a True Temper spade, was "unique" he told the court, one sold exclusively in Woodies with a '13 02' stamp on its shaft which came all the way from China. The second spade, found at Kilakee, was also a True Temper, said Mr Nugent, this time from the homeowner range. This spade was forged in Cork before 2009, he explained, outlining in great detail its "very distinctive label", which was 80pc green and 20pc white. Shown a picture from 2011 of a swing set from the Dwyers' garden, Mr Nugent boomed: "For sure, it's a True Temper Homeowner spade, I know all of our competitors' labelling."

The following day, the issue of spades and paint was pursued further when scientist Bridget Fleming of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) told the court that she was asked to examine the spade found at Kilakee after Ms Dwyer said she recognised the spade as the one from her garden, in part because of the paint splatters.

Ms Fleming testified that she was asked to examine tubs of paint and protector from Mr Dwyer's shed, a piece of his fence from his garden and the spade found near Kilakee. The object of the exercise was to see whether any paint traces of the spade matched any on Mr Dwyer's fence or in his shed.

The scientist explained in detail the chemical composition, how the comparative samples were similar in colour to look at.

Under the microscope, the appearance of the paint was similar to that from Kerrymount Close. But although they were similar in chemical composition, differences were observed.

"They did not match," said Ms Fleming,

The scientist explained to Mr Farrell how the main ingredients in the two samples of paint were the same. She again confirmed that the paint on the spade was not the same as any paint she examined from Kerrymount Close.

The Central Criminal Court also heard from other forensic scientists who concluded that Graham Dwyer's semen and Elaine O'Hara's blood were present on her damaged mattress.

Dr David Casey of the FSL said that the odds of the semen DNA profiles belonging to someone other than Mr Dwyer was considerably less than one in a thousand million.

The jury of seven men and five women also heard that no blood or DNA was found on items seized from a forested area where Ms O'Hara's remains were found or from Vartry Reservoir at Roundwood where a number of items were found. There was no evidence, too, that a hunting knife found in Mr Dwyer's office has been covered in blood and washed.

The trial, expected to last for another three weeks, has moved into a forensic phase including phone traffic.

It was forensics which uncovered that Ms O'Hara's profile on a BDSM website had, at one point, been viewed almost 10,000 times.

And it was a forensic search that uncovered a November 2010 'Dear Diary'-style entry in which she wrote "I'm angry because I'm so lonely".

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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