'I immediately thought Elaine killing was foul play'
THE forensic anthropologist who examined the bones of murder victim Elaine O'Hara has revealed that she never had any doubt that the victim had been killed - despite a cause of death never been established in the case.
In an interview with the Herald, Laureen Buckley told how after being contacted by gardai, she quickly identified a woman aged in her 30s from an examination of the human remains in the Dublin mountains.
"I immediately thought it was foul play. The remote location where the remains were found meant that this was not somewhere someone would go on foot to commit suicide.
"I had been informed that there was no car found nearby," she revealed.
Ms Buckley, who played a key role in the early stages of the garda investigation into the murder, pointed out that she is still "very surprised" that Elaine's skull has never been recovered.
The Louth-based forensic specialist was called to the remote scene at Kilakee in the Dublin Mountains on September 14, 2013, just hours after Elaine's remains were found.
It was her expertise that established that the body was fully skeletal as there was no soft tissue or organs remaining.
She also established that there was still marrow in the bones and no more than two years had elapsed since Ms O'Hara's death.
"It was remarkable that her bones were scattered but we never found her skull. The most likely explanation for this is that her skull had been removed by animals after her death.
"It was evident that she had not been decapitated so that is the most likely explanation. Gardai spent almost a week searching in an area of couple of miles from where her remains were found but it has never shown up. This is unusual.
"Skulls are normally the first thing that people discover when human remains are found because people recognise the skull instantly compared to other bones but that was not happened in the Elaine O' Hara case," Ms Buckley explained.
She was requested to attend the scene with deputy State pathologist Dr Michael Curtis, the day after the grim discovery was made by a dog walker.
She later described at Graham Dwyer's high-profile murder trial that about 65pc of Elaine's skeleton was recovered. Although many of the bones were scattered around the site, she believed the body decomposed where most of the bones were found because of decomposing human tissue found underneath the skeleton.
While some gardai thought that Elaine's remains may have been scorched, it was Ms Buckley who revealed that this was not the case because decomposing organic material appears as black.
Ms Buckley was also able to determine that Ms O'Hara had not been buried as she observed that her bones had been exposed to the sun and water.
On September 15, Ms Buckley carried out a full examination at Dublin City Morgue where Elaine's remains were transported in two body bags, containing 17 evidence bags, including her clothes.
Graham Dwyer is serving a life sentence for her murder.