Victim Date of Birth
Date of Death
Date of Conviction
Body Discovered Date
Elaine O’Hara wanted nothing more than to be loved. Graham Dwyer wanted nothing more than to stab someone to death. In the end, it was Graham who got what he wanted.
Elaine O’Hara’s early life
Elaine O’Hara was born on March 17th 1976, in Dublin, Ireland. She attended St. Joseph of Cluny secondary school but her time there wasn’t easy. Elaine was bullied and she had multiple mental health issues that started in her teenage years. Due to this, she regularly received psychiatric care in hospital. Elaine was diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder. Along with those she had asthma and diabetes. Elaine was also dyslexic. Sadly, Elaine’s mom passed away in 2002 and this set her mental health back greatly. Just 5 years later, Elaine’s psychiatrist passed away suddenly. Professor Anthony Clare had treated Elaine since she was in her teens.
Elaine O’Hara’s disappearance
Elaine O’Hara disappeared from her home on August 22nd 2012. She had last been seen in Shanganagh Park by a jogger. A witness had also seen a woman crying beside an old grave. While the woman couldn’t be positively identified as Elaine O’Hara, it is believed to have been her. She often used to visit her mother’s grave. Elaine’s car was soon discovered near the cemetery and the search of her home revealed she her handbag, purse, and mobile phone had been left behind. Elaine’s prior mental health issues coupled with the fact that she had been released from psychiatric hospital on the day she went missing, meant the assumption was made that Elaine had likely committed suicide by jumping from the nearby cliffs.
Discovering Elaine O’Hara’s body
Over a year would go by and what happened to Elaine O’Hara was still a mystery. The puzzle pieces began to fall into place with a discovery made on September 11th 2013. 3 men were out at Vartry Reservoir in County Wicklow when they spotted something in the water. The summer had been particular dry and the water level was far lower than usual. The men fished out the items and found some peculiar things including a woman’s top, a hoodie, a leather face mask, leg restraints, and handcuffs. One of the men ended up taking the items to the police. Mere days later, on September 13th, a woman made a call to police from Killakee Mountain, South Dublin. She had found what she believed were skeletal remains. Police didn’t know it yet but those were the remains of Elaine O’Hara.
Back at the reservoir, police uncovered two Nokias, house keys, car keys, loyalty cards, glasses, sex toys, sim cards, and more handcuffs. In an effort to trace the owner of the items, police spoke to a grocery story that one of the loyalty cards was from. Using the barcode on the card a name was found. The card belonged to Elaine O’Hara. It was soon after discovered that the remains found were that of Elaine.
Investigation and suspect Graham Dwyer
The ensuing investigation revealed that Elaine had been involved in sexual relationship that regularly featured knifes, bondage, and violence with Graham Dwyer. They had met on an adult website in late 2007. Graham was a 42 year old architect who was a partner in a firm in the Dublin City Centre. He was married to another architect, whom he had 2 children with. On the outside, Graham seemed like a normal guy. When police initially spoke to him he denied knowing Elaine. The problem with that was that police had evidence that proved the contrary. DNA evidence had shown that Graham had previously been in Elaine’s apartment as did CCTV footage from outside the building. Graham then changed his story slightly and admitted to having had a sexual relationship with Elaine but he denied knowing what had happened to her.
The messages uncovered between the two painted a very different picture. “I want to stick my knife in flesh while I am sexually aroused. I would like to stab a girl to death sometime.” and “My urge to rape, stab and kill is huge. You have to help me control it or satisfy it.” were just two of around 2600 text messages. The nature of these messages left police certain that Graham had been the one who killed Elaine O’Hara. He was then charged with her murder.
Of note, Elaine’s friends described how Elaine told them of her affair with Graham.
Criminologist John O’Keeffe said tragic Elaine O’Hara may have told her friends and family about her sex life as “an early cry for help”. Elaine described their sex life as including BDSM and showed them cuts on her body. Could her death have been prevented?
Graham Dwyer’s Trial
The trial started on January 22nd 2015. Graham’s defence argued that there wasn’t any evidence that linked Graham to Elaine’s death. They pointed at Elaine’s history of depression and at the fact that Elaine’s cause of death couldn’t be determined. Elaine’s hospital stay before her disappearance had also been for suicidal thoughts, which again the defence used. They denied that the language used in Graham’s messages proved anything more than sexual fantasies. The prosecution said that all of the evidence uncovered by police showed a detailed plan that Graham Dwyer had set out to murder Elaine O’Hara and get away with it. The prosecution also aimed to show the jury that Elaine wasn’t a willing participant in the sexual violence that Graham subjected her to. The text messages showed the hold he had established over Elaine and the manipulation he used to get her to continue with violent acts in the relationship even when she had wished to stop them. They also clearly showed Graham giving Elaine orders to meet him down past the cemetery on the day she went missing.
Graham Dwyer was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Elaine O’Hara on March 27th 2015. Unfortunately, it seems there may be a retrial on the cards for the murderous architect. His legal team claimed ground for an appeal based on legislature that cover how state agencies can use and access personal data. In April 2022, the Court of Justice of the European Union issued a ruling that the “indiscriminate retention of mobile phone metadata” did not align with EU law. This means Ireland’s Court of Appeal will need to determine whether the mobile data evidence was admissible in Graham’s original trial. The ruling could have major knock-on effects for cases that the Garda have used mobile phone data to get convictions in. Only time will tell.