herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

O'Hara Victim Impact Statement: 'When did Elaine realise this was not a game ... did she suffer, did she cry and was she left to die alone?'

STATEMENT

Victims father Frank O' Hara at court yesterday (Fri.) with his (L&R) partner Sheila Hawkins and daughter Ann Charles for the trial of Graham Dwyer who has pleaded NOT guilty to the murder of his daughter Elaine in August 2012.
Victims father Frank O' Hara at court yesterday (Fri.) with his (L&R) partner Sheila Hawkins and daughter Ann Charles for the trial of Graham Dwyer who has pleaded NOT guilty to the murder of his daughter Elaine in August 2012.
Elaine O Hara's father Frank

"We know that we are not the only victims of this crime. We recognise that other families are suffering too and we feel for every other person affected.

"Words cannot adequately describe how we are feeling and we would never want any other family to go through what we have endured over the past two and a half years.

"We have lost a daughter, a sister and a friend in the most brutal, traumatic and horrifying manner.

"We also have many unanswered questions which we will have to carry with us for the rest of our lives.

"Elaine was a very intelligent girl, who never fully realised her potential due to her psychological difficulties. She was prescribed a lot of medication and this did have an impact on her ability to be a regular teenager, particularly socially.

"She was emotionally immature and very trusting of anyone who showed her kindness.

formative

"In later years her medication was reduced, hospital stays became less common and she functioned more effectively. However, she had missed out on those important, formative teenage years.

"She had a strong work ethic and loved working with children, as she could relate to them better than to adults. She was always there to help and assist others, giving lifts, covering shifts at work or collecting many of the items for the Christmas Fair at school.

"Elaine adored her niece who was also her goddaughter and loved reading, painting and playing with her. For months after she went missing, her goddaughter would point out cars that were like Elaine's saying 'There's Elaine's car'.

"We smiled and nodded - how can you explain something to a young child that we couldn't understand ourselves? Since she left us, Elaine has two more nieces, but they will never know their aunt.

"Elaine's ambition was to be a teacher and she was studying Montessori. In 2014, we collected a BA in Montessori education which was awarded to her in St Nicholas Montessori school.

"She would have been so happy and proud to stand up in her gown and hat to accept that degree herself after overcoming many obstacles to finally get the qualification she longed for, but unfortunately this was not to be.

"When Elaine went missing in August 2012 we were devastated.

"At that time she appeared to us to be progressing well in life. She had a new apartment, was studying and working in two jobs.

"She had a setback in July 2012, and was voluntarily admitted to hospital.

"However, on weekend release, she was in very good form and was looking forward to the future.

"The assumed suicide in August 2012 was a surprise to all the family but lack of evidence pointing to any other cause for her disappearance meant we reluctantly needed to accept that she had most likely taken her own life around Shanganagh.

We spent many hours walking the shore from Blackrock to Bray searching for any sign of her. A year after her disappearance we laid flowers in the sea at Shanganagh in her memory and in an effort to find some closure for us as a family.

"Our attempt at closure was premature as in September 2013 Elaine's remains were discovered, and the Garda investigation changed from that of a missing person to murder.

"This led to further anguish for the family as we now faced the imaginable horror of Elaine having been murdered.

"The trial has been an incredibly difficult experience. It was distressing to see Elaine's private life laid bare before the nation, despite the fact that she was the victim.

"Some of the reporting in the print media was insulting to Elaine and deeply upsetting for the family. At times, Elaine's life was relegated to a lurid headline in a newspaper.

texts

"It was heartbreaking for us to listen to the texts Elaine received from a depraved and diseased mind. The manipulation of her vulnerability was apparent and when she tried to resist, she was reined back in.

"We can hear her voice in those texts, just wanting to be loved.

"Hearing the contents of the videos will haunt us forever.

"We were upset that the credibility of our evidence was questioned as throughout the two and a half years all we wanted was the truth and justice for Elaine.

"We will probably never know what happened in Killakee on the 22nd of August 2012, but there are questions that trouble us.

"When did Elaine realise it was not a game anymore?

"When did she realise that the intention was to kill her for real?

"Did she try to run away? Was she restrained? Did she suffer much?

"Could she and did she cry out? Was she left on the mountain to die alone? This is OUR life sentence. For us there is no parole."

Read by Sean Guerin SC on behalf of Frank O'Hara and his family

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