The miscalculation: The Christmas card with a veiled threat
The Garda investigation demonstrated Graham Dwyer's ability to manipulate vulnerable women whom he met online. One of them, young US woman Darci Day, would prove critical as a witness for the prosecution, as Dwyer knew only too well.
There was one final witness that Dwyer believed he could manipulate: Darci Day. When he read Day's statement, his mistake in discussing Elaine O'Hara's suicidal ideation would have been clear to Dwyer. Her evidence would clearly be of huge benefit to the prosecution. She could confirm his connection with Elaine and his intention to kill her. She could also corroborate his predilection for rape and murder
Like Elaine, she had been self-harming from the age of 12. She had met Dwyer as she sought out someone to help take her own life.
Day's witness statement was a reminder of her vulnerability, such of which she had shared with Dwyer in the past. He had plenty of experience in pulling the psychological strings of a fragile woman. So he decided to get in touch.
On December 22, 2014, Darci Day contacted Detective Ryan Brockway from the Major Crimes Unit of the Maine State Police, who had been liaising with her on behalf of the guards. She was in panic and seemed terrified. That morning, out of the blue, she had received a Christmas card from Graham Dwyer. The message inside was short and to the point. Dwyer told her that he was being wrongly blamed for a murder that had really been a suicide. He said there was no forensic evidence linking him to the death and that there was no evidence to suggest that Elaine O'Hara had been murdered. The lack of evidence meant that he was confident of an acquittal - and freedom. Dwyer wanted Darci Day to know that he knew where she lived if he ever fancied a visit once he had regained his freedom. He signed off by wishing her and her dog, Bruno, a merry Christmas.
The card subtly conveyed the message that Day's evidence would make no difference to the outcome of the trial, which was a foregone conclusion, and it was obvious that he knew where she lived and could come and visit her.
Day was frantic. Her only contact with Dwyer, which had ended over three years earlier, had been via email. He should not have known her home address.
Dwyer's ploy proved a massive miscalculation. The Maine police contacted the Gardaí in Blackrock and the police on both sides of the Atlantic agreed that this was a classic example of attempting to intimidate a witness.
Despite Dwyer's attempts to intimidate her, Darci Day agreed to testify from Maine, via video-link.
Darci Day appeared to be an emotional wreck. Her hands fidgeted constantly on the table in front of her and her laboured breathing was audible in her microphone. Several times she broke down and sobbed as her evidence was tested…
…[Senior Counsel for the prosecution] Seán Guerin then asked her if the name Graham Dwyer meant anything to her?
"It does… I can't remember what website I found him on or anything, but we talked a lot through gmail."
They had mainly been in contact through her dial address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and via some texts, but they had never met.
"A lot of our discussion was about similar fantasies and I unloaded all this stuff on him about things I was going through and feeling like a failure to my family and we discussed him basically ending my life," she said. "I told him a lot of stuff going on in my life. I needed someone to talk to. He was there and he listened to me and offered me a solution."
Darci Day said a lot of the fantasies that they exchanged were about rape and murder… "We sent lines to videos - YouTube videos - of throat cutting or strangulation videos. There were some pictures, I don't remember them all. I do remember diagrams being sent," adding that the diagrams were of arteries "so you couldn't miss".
Day said she knew Dwyer had a wife, but she didn't know too much about him, except that he liked planes.
Seán Guerin asked if he had mentioned any other person?
"Yes, he did mention Elaine O'Hara. I knew they had an intimate relationship and he told me she was similar to me and was suicidal."
When Seán Guerin asked if she knew anything else about their relationship, she began to sob again, and put her head down in her hands. Then she recovered her composure and continued. "He said that he used to cut her… on the stomach area and stuff… his fantasy was basically wanting to stab a woman to death during sex…
"… he didn't talk too much about Elaine but in reference to me, he was looking at places in Maine that were likely disposal sites."
The lawyer asked if there had been any discussion about the method that he had planned to use in killing her. Darci Day hesitated and then agreed that there was. Seán Guerin asked what that was.
"That he would have me meet him somewhere and then from there I would leave my car and get in the car with him and he would drive me to the location and basically from there… he wanted to have sex and then cut my throat until I lost consciousness during intercourse," she said slowly, her voice wavering.