herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

Graham Dwyer Trial: Defence case closes after three witnesses give evidence in less than 30 minutes

Elaine O'Hara (left) and murder accused Graham Dwyer
Elaine O'Hara (left) and murder accused Graham Dwyer

Two sheep farmers who own land in Co Wicklow and a visitor to Shanganagh Cemetery, where Elaine O’Hara was last seen alive, were the three witnesses called by the defence.

Landowners Richard O’Connor and John Donohue both told the court that neither could recall a sheep being killed or found dead don their farms in April 2011.

Mary Crosbie told the jury she was in the cemetery visiting her own mother’s grave when she saw a woman with “mousy brown hair” and casual clothes weeping on the ground with her head in her arms at around 5.30pm on August 22, 2012 - the day Ms O'Hara disappeared.

Jury on the murder trial have been excused until tomorrow, when prosecution and defence will start to deliver their closing arguments.

Judge Tony Hunt, who told again told the jury to put the case out of their minds, also indicated he will charge jurors on Monday morning.

Giving evidence today, Ms Crosbie spoke about a woman she saw weeping on the ground on 22 August, 2012.

She did not see the woman’s face but it “never left her mind” and she remembered the incident when she read in the newspapers about the discovery of Ms O’Hara’s body a year later.

She was giving evidence today as the defence opened its case.

The trial is now in its ninth week and there were 194 witnesses for the prosecution.

Read more: 'It's not that bad' - Dwyer told Elaine in stab film

Mr Dwyer (42), an architect of Kerrymount Close, Foxrock, is pleading not guilty to the murder of Ms O’Hara (36), a childcare assistant, at Killakee, Rathfarnham on August 22, 2012.

She was last seen near Shanganagh Cemetery in Shankill that day.

Her remains were found by a dog walker in undergrowth in the Dublin mountains on September 13, 2013.

The prosecution maintains Mr Dwyer killed her for his own sexual gratification.

Ms Crosbie said the incident happened no later than 5.30pm. August 22 was the anniversary of her mother’s death and she first took her dog for a walk and dropped her son off at a bus stop before going to visit the grave.

She said the woman was wearing dark pants and a medium to dark grey jacket. The soles of her runners were white.

Read more: 'I know it's sick,' Dwyer told gardaí of 'gore' sites on his phone

Remy Farrell SC, defending, asked her if she had seen anything unusual.

She said there were very few people in the cemetery and as she walked back toward the car park she thought she heard somebody crying.

She thought it was unusual and started to walk towards the person.

“I saw a woman facing down on the grass, it wasn’t exactly on the grave, it was at the edge of the graves and she appeared to be very very upset, she was crying very loud,” Ms Crosbie said.

She saw the woman from behind and was not able to describe her because the woman’s face was “down in her arms”.

Asked about her build and hair colour, she said the woman was a “biggish girl” with “mousy brown hair” and indicated shoulder length,

She was wearing very casual clothes and the runners caught Ms Crosbie’s eye. The top was what she presumed was a tracksuit jacket.

The grave the woman was near did not appear to be a new one and “that was what had struck me,” that the woman was not recently bereaved.

“I was reading an article in the Sunday papers and the description of her clothes and everything - it never left my mind,” she said.

In cross-examination, she told Sean Guerin SC, prosecuting, that she did not know Elaine O’Hara. Of the woman crying, she said: “I thought it was all very strange”.

Ms Crosbie said she told gardai about what she saw because “I thought it was very strange”.

Mr Guerin also asked Ms Crosbie to mark with an “X” exactly where she saw the woman who was crying.

“The map is very confusing,” she told the judge.

“I won’t disagree with you there,” replied Judge Hunt.

The second witness for the defence, Richard O’Connor, told the court he has a holding at Kilmurry, Co Wicklow, adjacent to Roundwood.

He said Shankill Flying Club has permission to land and take off aircraft on about four acres of his site.

“It is surrounded by my land,” he said, agreeing that he was a sheep farmer.

He was asked by Mr Farrell about October 2013.

“I think two guards came to me from Shankill station and they inquired about a dead sheep,” he said.

“I had no idea why they were making these inquiries.

“I thought maybe a dead sheep was reported and that I was in trouble.”

Mr O’Connor said when gardai left he was still unsure what they wanted and had been “fairly vague over a period of time”.

He said he could not really assist with the dead sheep.

“There was a possibility there had been a dead sheep in the field. There are rushes and things in that part of the field. A sheep might die and you wouldn’t see it for a couple of days,” he said.

He said sheep die “from time to time”.

“It might have been damaged while lambing and effects set in later,” he said, adding that liver fluke could also pose a risk.

“Occasionally one would get trapped in the fencing but that’s not too serious because one sees that,” he said.

These were “natural consequences”, he agreed.

“The trouble is if a sheep dies and it’s there more than two days there’s usually very little left,” Mr O’Connor continued.

He said there would only be a skeleton and wool after foxes and other predators, and the wool would not degrade for months.

If a sheep had died recently it "required to get the knackers to take it away," he added.

Under cross examination he was asked by Mr Guerin if he could say “yeah or nay” to a sheep being killed in April 2011.

“If one died it would have been my sheep,” he said.

“I can’t verify that one died. I can’t say yay or nay to that. It would have been my sheep.”

Mr O’Connor said if a member of the flying club saw a sheep in trouble they would ring him, but they would be less likely to contact him if one was already dead.

John Donohue, a sheep farmer in Roundwood whose land is adjacent to Roundwood Flying Club, said he was asked to make a statement in May 2014 to gardai who were inquiring about sheep being killed in April 2011.

“I couldn’t remember. I had none killed that I found,” he told Mr Farrell, SC for Mr Dwyer.

He was asked what would he do if one were killed.

“I would get the knackers to collect it,” he replied.

Under cross examination he agreed with Mr Guerin that his land was nowhere near Shankill Flying Club.

“That is the evidence for the defence,” said Mr Farrell at 12.28pm.

Read more: 'Animal' sounds far worse than video images

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt and a jury of seven men and five women.

Judge Hunt told the jury he expected closing speeches in the trial to take place tomorrow and on Friday. After that, he would begin his charge to the jury next Monday, and the jury should be able to begin their deliberations next Tuesday.

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