herald

Sunday 20 August 2017

cuffs, kniv es, hard-drives: the 'mount ain' of evidence

Searches of Vartry reservoir, Dwyer's home and workplace and Elaine's apartment uncovered vital clues

WHEN Elaine O'Hara's skeletal remains were found in undergrowth in the Dublin mountains more than a year after she vanished, they offered detectives no explanation as to how she died.

During the course of the investigation, gardai would come to rely on a huge range of physical evidence as they built their case against Graham Dwyer, with 327 exhibits in total.

The prosecution described this as a "mountain" of evidence that helped prove that he killed Elaine.

The reservoir: Elaine's decomposed remains were found at Killakee Mountain in Rathfarnham on September 13, 2013, but three days earlier, a fisherman coincidentally pulled a haul of bondage gear out of Vartry reservoir, 26km away in Roundwood, Co Wicklow.

William Fegan said he first noticed rope and something shiny in the water while standing on a bridge. With his brother James and a friend, Mark Quinn, they got a tension strap with a hook and "out of curiosity" started fishing out the items.

What came out of the water was a double set of handcuffs with chains, bondage cuffs with restraints, a ball gag - a rubber ball, a strap and a buckle - a blindfold, a vest and hoodie, which they left on a wall.

The find was "niggling" at Mr Fegan and he returned the next day, bagged the items and gave them to Garda James O'Donoghue at Roundwood Station.

Garda O'Donoghue returned several times, eventually retrieving keys, a leather bondage mask, a large black-handled kitchen knife and a rusty chain.

Supermarket loyalty cards on the keyring were traced to then-missing Elaine O'Hara. The search was stepped up and the garda water unit found Elaine's glasses and some of what the prosecution maintained was her clothing, the 'Master' and 'Slave' mobile phones, more handcuffs, two black-handled knives, a white vibrator, three anal plugs, a pair of shorts and a Real Madrid dressing gown, a red and black-coloured rucksack and the sawn-off barrels of a double-barrelled shotgun.

Dwyer would later tell gardai in interview that the rucksack was Elaine's and admit that he was seen on CCTV leaving her apartment with it on August 15, 2012, a week before she went missing. He could not explain how it or any of Elaine's belongings or the phones got in the reservoir.

The woods: Dwyer's DNA was not found at the scene where Ms O'Hara's skeletal remains were found. Decomposed tissue inside her tracksuit bottoms suggested she had been wearing them when she died.

Her remains had been scattered by animals and there were no marks to the bones that would indicate a cause of death.

A rusty blade was found on the ground, but no blood or DNA was on it.

A spade seized near the site was "virtually identical" to one that was later found at Graham Dwyer's home.

His wife, Gemma, would give evidence that this spade belonged to them and had been in their garden, but forensic examination of paint splashes on the spade in the woods and paint found at Dwyer's home did not match.

At another site nearby, items including a diving mask, used condoms, waterproof trousers tied to a tree, cable ties, a bull clip, wires, twine, clothes and plastic sheeting were found, but the prosecution offered no definitive explanation for these items.

The apartment: Elaine O'Hara's apartment was searched several times. Initially this was cursory as she was a missing person, but gardai returned when it became a murder investigation.

In the initial search, gardai found "heavy metal chains", bondage cuffs, a gas mask, a PVC body suit, a rope, a gag and a leather mask.

Later, printouts of a document called the 'Gorean Lifestyle' and details of a 'Buck Special' hunting knife were found.

The 'Gorean Lifestyle' was from a website that detailed in an extract from a novel the domination of women by men.

The 'Buck Special' knife, searched for on the website Active Hunting Ireland, was the same type as one that Dwyer had ordered and had delivered to his workplace.

On Elaine's phones and computer were details of her contacts with Dwyer and other men she had met through fetish websites.

There were also downloaded images of mutilated bodies, pornography and naked and semi-naked photographs of Elaine.

Stories of being abducted and tortured written by unknown authors were also retrieved from the hard-drive of the Apple device.

In a follow-up search, Elaine's blood was found on the mattress on her bed as well as on a bean bag cover in her apartment and both had "stab cuts" on them.

Semen stains found on the same mattress had a DNA profile that matched Dwyer's.

Dwyer's home: A total of 219 exhibits were seized when the address was searched on his arrest on October 17, 2013, but the focus was on computer hardware. In the master bedroom gardai seized a Hewlitt Packard laptop, Seagate hard-drive and two media storage devices on a desk in the corner. In an office upstairs in the house, gardai located a HP desktop PC under the desk.

The hardware contained videos he had recorded of himself having sex with and stabbing Elaine and two other women. Also found was evidence that he visited websites to view images of murdered and mutilated women.

Gardai retrieved two 'fantasy' documents Dwyer had written - 'Killing Darci' was an imagined account of arranging for an American woman he had met online, Darci Day, to come to Ireland. He wrote in graphic detail about raping her, knifing her to death and having sex with her mutilated corpse.

In 'Jenny's First Rape', he wrote about abducting a random woman from a bookshop in the UK and brutally raping her.

A spade was photographed in the garden but gardai did not take it until later.

Financial papers in a filing cabinet were among documents seized and they included letters detailing Dwyer's pay cuts.

Gardai searched an 03 D Audi A4 outside the house, and seized a grey and black Northface jacket found in the boot. An 02 D Land Rover Freelander was also parked outside. None of the cars contained any trace of Elaine's DNA.

Dwyer's offices: The search at his workplace, A&D Wejchert Architects, Baggot Street Lower, resulted in the seizure of two laptops, a memory stick, computer towers and multiple documents.

One of the computers contained documents including a "fantasy" story about the rape of a woman in a cave and traces of the same sex videos found at his home.

On February 17, 2014, four months after his arrest, Dwyer had his solicitor Jonathan Dunphy fax gardai a map of the basement at A&D Wejchert's, showing where a 'Buck Special' hunting knife and flick knife were in a file box.

The Buck Special had been purchased in Dwyer's name on his credit card online from Active Hunting Ireland on August 17, 2012. The knife was mailed, marked private and confidential, to his workplace on August 21, 2012 - two days before Elaine disappeared.

Gardai had considered it "hugely significant" that the knife had not been found.

However, it had no traces of blood or DNA when examined.

hnews@herald.ie

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