GRAHAM DWYER WAS sentenced to life in prison today, a sentence Justice Tony Hunt said he “richly deserves”.
Eleven of the 12 jurors who sat through some of the most horrific evidence of any Irish murder trial were in court earlier today to hear the sentencing.
Justice Hunt, the judge who presided over the trial for more than two months, told the jury that he was “surprised” to see them in court, but was delighted to welcome them back.
Dressed in a navy suit and tie
Dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and navy blue tie, Dwyer looked calm and collected in court and listened to the evidence of the case being summarised by the prosecution.
Mr Dwyer’s father Sean, and Ms O’Hara’s family were also in court 13, which was filled to capacity.
A victim impact statement from Elaine’s father, Frank O’Hara, was read to the court by senior counsel for the prosecution Sean Guerin. The statement said that their family is serving a life sentence, for which there is no parole.
Addressing the court, Judge Hunt said that it had been a “harrowing” trial for all families involved. “There are three family units embroiled in this horrendous business.”
While he said it was hard to harbour any good thoughts towards Mr Dwyer, he said that he did have a family who were also suffering.
He told the court that he was now free to comment on the case.
Dignity throughout the trial
The judge commended the O’Hara’s for conducting themselves with dignity throughout the trial. He said that it was clear that Ms O’Hara was well cared for. “My heart went out to them, it still does,” he said.
“They did the best they could… they have no need to reproach themselves.”
He added that the family were subject to a “nightmare scenario” where they had to hear such personal aspects of Ms O’Hara’s personal life.
The judge said that Ms O’Hara was a person broader than the person displayed in the criminal trial. He said she was an ordinary person, who “only wanted someone to mind her”.
He said the family conducted themselves with great composure and said the attack on their truthfulness and credibility was by a person whose “own credibility is on the level of the floor”.
“There was much more to this girl than the difficulties she had,” said the judge, who said it came across that she was likeable and that people had a lot of time for her, “despite her occasional oddities” for which the judge said: “We all have those.”
Speaking about Dwyer he said his observations were that Ms O’Hara was “used and abused” by Dwyer. He said this continued, even after her death where he continued to misuse and abuse her by using her suicidality in “an attempt to slither out” of taking responsibility for her death.
“But the jury saw through all that,” he added.
He said Mr Dwyer was a very “unlucky man” in so far as evidence surfaced a year after Ms O’Hara’s death due to the good weather, a diligent garda officer and some curious anglers.
‘A dangerous man’
“A dangerous man is now out of the way, and I am satisfied he is that,” said the judge.
Making reference to particular aspects of the trial, the judge said the Buck Special knife he researched to the “nth degree” with the help of Ms O’Hara.
“Ordered by a man with multiple pay cuts, on interest only and hidden away” in his workplace, said the judge. “Why was it kept there?”
In the year up the trial Dwyer made multiple attempts for bail, said the judge, who commented that he was refused bail as he “presented a clear and present danger” which was evident by the knife.
Describing Dwyer he said he displayed “arrogance” and “delusion” in his demeanour.
The judge also said it was worth mentioning Mr Dwyer’s wife, Gemma, who gave evidence in the trial.
He said it was hard to imagine what she is facing now with two young children. He commended her also for the statement she released after the conviction in which she offered her condolences to the O’Hara family. He said this required a broad back and a generous spirit.
Abused his wife
Justice Hunt said she was another person to have in our thoughts as he too misled and abused his wife. Upon mentioning his wife, this was the first time Dwyer showed any real reaction in court, dropping his head, looking down at the ground.
Describing her condition in court that day, he said that Mrs. Dwyer was in a “pitiful position”.
He specifically mentioned how just days before his wife was due to give birth in March 2011, Dwyer was texting Ms O’Hara to start up their sexual relationship again. “That says all you need to know about Mr Dwyer,” said the judge, as Dwyer slightly shook his head.
Justice Hunt said the questions the O’Hara family asked in the victim impact statement about Ms O’Hara’s last hours alive “jump off the page”. However, he said that murder trials are not designed to provide answers to all questions.
However, in saying that he said he hoped that the “horrendous ordeal” the family had been subjected to over the two months gave some insight into how their daughter and sibling was taken from them.
He said he hoped some light had been shone upon the “dark corners, in this dark story”.
He said while it will be difficult not to dwell on these unanswered questions, there is only one person who knows those answers, and he has “continued to manifest untruths” so that the answer to those questions may never be known.
“No remorse of any kind was expressed,” said the judge, while also mentioning it as “a bizarre spectacle” that Dwyer issued a press statement following his conviction.
“Another first in my experience.”
He also pointed out that the statement made no reference to the deceased, her family or indeed his own wife.
The judge has no discretion in the term of length of the sentence and imposed a mandatory life sentence on Dwyer dating from 17 October 2013.
“It’s difficult to look beyond the chilling and premeditated murder, execution almost, carried out after a protracted campaign of the most vile manipulation and abuse of a woman who was too weak to resist and who made the fatal mistake of trusting Mr Dwyer that we wasn’t going to go any further than he indicated on August 22.”
“When you read the booklet of texts you want to cry out to her to stop and turn back. Of course it was too late for that.
“So that is it. Life it is,” concluded Judge Hunt.
Dwyer, a successful architect and father of three was found guilty of the murder of Elaine O’Hara last month. The jury of seven men and five women returned a unanimous guilty verdict after a trial lasting more than two months.