DAY TWO OF the trial of Graham Dwyer, the man accused of murdering Elaine O’Hara, got under way in the Criminal Courts of Justice this morning.
The first witness to take the stand was Frank O’Hara, Elaine’s father.
Mr O’Hara gave evidence that his daughter told him in 2008 that she was “seeing someone”.
He said the conversation took place one morning when she was in his house. He said they had been having an argument – he thinks it was about finances because “she was poor with money”.
He said his daughter told him: “I am seeing someone – a professional.” She said he was an architect from Foxrock. “I asked if he was married and she said yes,” Mr O’Hara added, before pausing.
Mr O’Hara said she then told him that he ‘ties me up and masturbates over me but we’ve never had sex’.
“I was shocked,” he continued from the stand. ”We never discussed it again,” he added.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyers for the accused, Mr O’Hara agreed that he had told gardaí that Elaine would sometimes say things to shock him at the end of an argument.
He said he was sometimes unsure if she said this to shock him or if it had actually happened.
Mr O’Hara also acknowledged that he had told gardaí in a statement that she had asked the man mentioned earlier to kill her — but that he would not go that far.
The witness said he spent part of 22 August 2012, the last day Ms O’Hara was seen alive, with his daughter. She had called out to see him at his home and they had both travelled to Shanganagh Cemetery to visit the grave of her mother.
Mr O’Hara said Ms O’Hara was “on her phone” texting on the journey. During their time together, he said she also called the newsagents where she worked to see what her hours would be as she volunteered to help out at the Tall Ships Festival.
Mr O’Hara also outlined the psychiatric issues Elaine O’Hara experienced over the years.
He said she had experienced some difficulty in her mid teens. “There was some bullying in school,” he said. She also lost a close friend who was killed in road accident. “That did affect her,” he said.
He said she became withdrawn – “very into herself”.The first incident of self-harm occurred when she was just 16 years old. The court was told she took pills and tried to cut her wrists. Her father said the family got her help and she was referred to a doctor.
Her father said that over the years his daughter spent both short and longer periods in hospital.
He said that her treatment involved a lot of medication. Mr O’Hara said that he thought it “affected her a lot”. He said it meant that she “never experienced those years like other kids do”. He said that in later years her medicines were reduced, and that psychological treatment featured more.
Mr O’Hara said there were other incidents in 2005/2006 in which she took an overdose of medication and was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital. He told the court that he had an argument with her and she had gone off in a “strop”. He recalled that he had asked his other daughter, Anne O’Hara, and her husband to check on Elaine. They found her on the floor of her apartment and called an ambulance.
Another incident occurred in 2006/2007, which he described: “One evening she phoned me, she was living in Blackrock at the time… ”
He said she ended the conversation by saying: “It doesn’t matter now anyhow because I’ve taken something.” She then hung up the phone. Mr O’Hara said he drove straight over to her apartment and found her on the floor. There were pills on the couch and floor, he told the court.
Mr O’Hara said he was surprised when his daughter said she was going to check herself back into hospital in August 2012. “I thought she was doing well… I didn’t think she needed to go in,” he said today.
He also told the court that she had said to him: “You don’t know what I’ve tried to do.”
He said that she had mentioned a noose on the bookcase in her apartment.
Mr O’Hara said that, over the years, his daughter said she had “a play in her mind”. He said it “upset her” and he thought it may have been unsavoury.
He suggested she write it down and give it to her psychiatrist. He said she was always worrying about this play. He said he did not know whether he thought it was of a “sexual nature” but said it could have been about self-harm.
Discovery of her body
During his evidence, Elaine’s father said that when her car was discovered at Shanganagh Cemetery, he went back to her apartment to search it for anything such as passports.
He was asked if, during that time, he recalled seeing any sex paraphernalia. He said no.
He was then asked whether he had seen a black latex bodysuit. He said he could not recall but noted that his partner, Sheila Hawkins, had mentioned it before.
The defence said that gardaí had said that a bodysuit was seen in the living room, along with rope. The father said that he could not recall seeing it.
Following lunch, a number of other witnesses gave evidence in court today.
The Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said he went to the area where the remains were found near the Dublin mountains in September 2013, going about 20 metres into the forest.
He said skeletal remains were found there, as well as clothing – tracksuit bottoms, a training shoe and a sock. He said the remains were spread out over several metres.
Dr Curtis also told the court that animal runs or tracks could be seen in the foliage in and around the area for several hundred metres.
He told the court that just 60-65% of the skeletal remains were found. This included the lower jaw bone, which bore teeth, virtually all the spinal cord, all the ribs, both collar bones, the right shoulder blade, the upper arm bones, the left side of pelvis, the base of spine, the right thigh and left thigh bone, both lower leg bones and bones from right foot.
Dr Curtis said that the skull was never recovered. Neither the forearms nor the hands were ever recovered.
He said there was no damage to the bones after death. He said he could not form a view of cause of death, stating that medically it is categorised as undetermined.
Sama Yazbeck, the pharmacist from Belarmine Plaza, also gave evidence in court today. The court heard that Elaine O’Hara had gone to the pharmacy to fill a prescription the day she was discharged from hospital on 22 August 2012.
Yazbeck said Ms O’Hara came into the pharmacy every single month and recalls seeing her that day, just after lunch. She told the court Ms O’Hara had a prescription from hospital to be filled.
There were prescriptions for diabetes and asthma, one for vertigo, another for stomach, two for nerves and two for anti-depressants.
A bag from the Belarmine Pharmacy which contained the medications collected that day was presented to Ms Yazbeck in court today.
She said Ms O’Hara told her she would pay later, when she got paid. Ms Yazbeck said she only knew Elaine as a customer but she said she appeared normal that day.
Under cross examination, the court was told that in just under a two-year period Ms O’Hara took medications amounting to €8,470.
The next witnesses to give evidence were two of Elaine O’Hara’s co-workers from Robertson’s Newsagents where she worked in Blackrock.
Jane Cahill, the former manager of the shop, told the court she had known Ms O’Hara for over 10 years. She had worked with her previously in a newsagents in Dun Laoghaire.
She said she knew about Ms O’Hara’s personal life in so far as she knew about her mental health struggles. She said Ms O’Hara was very open about that.
However, she told the court that she could also be “quite an introverted person”, only letting you know “what she wanted you to know”.
“I thought we were friends but some parts of her life she kept very private,” she added.
Ms Cahill said she was aware that Ms O’Hara had self-harmed as she had seen marks on her arms when she wore short-sleeves but clarified that Ms O’Hara never told her personally.
The witness also mentioned how Ms O’Hara was also very down about flood damage caused to her apartment in 2012 as she had “just got the apartment the way she wanted it”.
Ms Cahill told the court that the use of dating sites and bondage had been mentioned by Ms O’Hara, but she said she thought she was “joking”. ”Some things she would say to shock you – we didn’t take her seriously,” said Ms Cahill, who told the court that they told her it could be “dangerous” if she was meeting up with these people from the websites. She said they told her to “be careful”.
She also told the court about the call she received from Ms O’Hara in relation to her working hours on 22 August. Ms Cahill told the court that she called “to remind me to put her down for hours the following week”.
“The week following on from 22 August?” asked the prosecution. “Yes,”she replied.
Emma Robertson, the daughter of the previous owner of Robertsons Newsagents, was then asked to give evidence.
She told the court that she often worked with Ms O’Hara. When asked if she knew about Ms O’Hara’s personal circumstances, she said that her colleague was open about her mental health and would say if she had to go to the doctor or if she was going back into hospital.
Ms Robertson was also asked if Ms O’Hara ever spoke to her about her dealings with men. “She mentioned a married man,” Ms Robertson replied, saying she and her co-worker warned her to be careful. She said she believed her co-worker said that Ms O’Hara could “get yourself into trouble”.
She told the court that one evening in 2012, Ms O’Hara said: ”I think I might be pregnant.” Ms Robertson said she told her to go get a pregnancy test in the pharmacy next door, but that Ms O’Hara said that she didn’t want the girls who worked there to know, as she knew them.
Ms Robertson said that she wasn’t sure whether to believe her, telling the court: “Everything she kind of said you would take with a pinch of salt, you never knew what was true or what wasn’t true.”
“I would take what she said with a pinch of salt,” she said.
On another evening she said Ms O’Hara was showing her photos of her young niece.
“She adored her little niece,”said Ms Robertson. She said that Ms O’Hara flicked through photos on her phone, when Ms Robertson saw items of a sexual nature. She said she couldn’t see what it was but she thought it looked like handcuffs, possibly a whip – “something weird like that”. She said she never would have asked her what they were.
Ms Robertson said Ms O’Hara told her she was meeting men online. The court was told that another work colleague said Ms O’Hara told her she had met a married man “from the country” and it involved “sex games”.
Ms Robertson said that she did not recall Ms O’Hara saying he was from the country and said she was not told about any activity such as sex games.
She said that Ms O’Hara worried about money a lot and was concerned about making repairs following flood damage in her apartment.
She also recalled asking her if she could cover her shift on her birthday but Ms O’Hara said she could not as she had already volunteered at the Tall Ships festival.
The trial continues.