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An Architect Was Found Guilty in an Insane BDSM Murder Trial in Ireland

Graham Dwyer, architect, father of three, and BDSM enthusiast, has been found guilty after a murder trial that has captivated the Irish public for months with lurid details of an alleged BDSM affair gone horribly wrong.

by David Gilmour
Mar 27 2015, 4:25pm

Graham Dwyer, found guilty today. All images via AP Wire

Today, the most notorious ongoing murder case in recent Irish history came to a close when Graham Dwyer was found guilty of the murder of Elaine O'Hara. Dwyer was convicted by a jury of seven men and five women, putting an end to a two-month trial that has captivated the Irish public with tales of manipulation, bloodlust, depression, and brutal murder. The presiding judge Tony Hunt said that he "110% agrees" with the guilty verdict.

The prosecution's case against the accused horrified the public so much that for the closing weeks, Dubliners lined up in the hundreds for access to the courtroom. The defendant was Graham Dwyer, a 42-year-old architect with a successful career, a wife, three children, and a well-adjusted suburban life. Dwyer was charged in the stabbing death of childcare worker Elaine O'Hara, allegedly as part of his BDSM fetish, which included a fantasy to stab partners during sex.

The eeriness of the case was furthered by the fact that, barring a series of coincidences, the murder may never have come to light. In a normal dry year, the water levels at County Wicklow's Roundwood Reservoir can drop by six feet or so. In September 2013, they had fallen by about 15, just enough that two local fishing enthusiasts happened upon a rucksack in the unusually shallow waters.

The bag contained masks, knives, two mobile phones, and leg restraints. The strange findings were reported to the police, and over the course of the following days, more items were lifted from the thick silt: a bondage mask, two more knives, loyalty cards, a chain, rusted handcuffs, and rope.

Later that week, a local dog trainer discovered human skeletal remains in the woodlands nearby, identified as those of Elaine O'Hara, a 36-year-old missing person. Sex toys and house keys lay on the ground beside the body.

From the mud and murk, a grim story began to emerge. As therelationship between Dwyer and O'Hara emerged, Dwyer was swiftly linked to the victim and arrested.

The case brought by the prosecution contained no forensic evidence to place Dwyer at the scene of the murder, but presented over 320 exhibits and called forward 194 witnesses across 37 days—an intense avalanche of circumstantial evidence. Lead prosecutor Sean Guerin outlined the narrative of the State's case, alleging that Dwyer had pursued a relationship with O'Hara, a childcare assistant with a history of depression, and abusively exploited her psychological illness to his own sadomasochistic ends.

Many of the exhibits presented by the prosecution were collected through search warrants and sourced from Dwyer's home computer. It didn't take long to shatter the image of him as a happily married family man who enjoyed camping, gardening, and driving around in his Porsche. The files were shown in court, to the nausea and horror of those present, from short stories that explicitly described violent sexual abuse to countless graphic video clips. One such clip showed Dwyer allegedly stabbing himself and "bloodletting" his sexual partners while they groaned in pain. Other exhibits included video and photo files relating to asphyxiation, mutilation, and violence against women.

As days passed in court, Guerin constructed a picture of this hidden and dark corner of Dwyer's life, drawing the jury's attention to the online BDSM communities that he would frequent under the username "architect72." It was here that the prosecution suggested O'Hara and Dwyer first met. O'Hara had sought a "master" and Dwyer, according to Guerin, had sought a victim.

Elaine O'Hara

According to the prosecution, the two pursued and engaged in a BDSM-style relationship for a number of years. What the two referred to as "blood play" had been discussed and planned at length using disposable mobile phones.

According to the prosecution, these lurid text conversations between an alleged murderer and his would-be victim revealed a harrowing, manipulative relationship that climaxed in brutal violence. As prosecutors pointed out in long readings from the texts, the exchanges began taking a sinister turn after the pair took a small hiatus and reconnected in 2011.

"My urge to rape, stab, and kill is huge. You have to help me control or satisfy it," Dwyer allegedly messaged Elaine O'Hara in 2011. "Control sir, not satisfy," she replied.

The prosecution went on describe how O'Hara, on numerous occasions, expressed a desire to end the blood play but was punished for even suggesting that she'd want out. A disturbing cycle of events within the text message narrative was presented to the jury: any talk of leaving resulted in a stabbing during one of their "sessions." Likewise, O'Hara was badgered and manipulated into thinking that she was responsible for finding a murder victim or, as one message termed it, "offer her own flesh."

"Will have to find me a victim to stab. That's an order. We will go out for remote walks... and strike if conditions are right."

He wrote to her again, "I will prepare hunting bag with things for the murder."

With the stabbing murder an openly stated relationship goal, O'Hara was consistently hounded and reminded that she could be the victim at any time.

"I might just snap and stick you anyway, against your will."

"It will be all worth it when I kill you ;)."

The woods where O'Hara's remains were found

For anyone, let alone a person of O'Hara's psychological disposition, this would have been torturous. And yet she stuck around. The most disturbing provocation came after O'Hara admitted to her Master that she had visited the doctor and was feeling quite down.

"Unfortunately, I'm not suicidal," she messaged.

"Here to help in any way I can, including painless end. I have everything ready if it all becomes too much," the reply came. "Just think, all your worries gone. I can fit you in Thursday."

"Stop," she later wrote back.

"I know you want it. 30 seconds to slip into oblivion."

Guerin drew attention to this instance in particular, referring to Dwyer as "wickedness hiding behind a mask of pity offering a suicidal woman 'help,' a 'way out.'"

Six weeks before her death, O'Hara was admitted to the hospital, again due to psychological issues. She was released on the day she disappeared. In court, Guerin outlined how she spent time with her father and niece, walked her dog, and visited her mother's grave. It was late that afternoon that a message came through to meet at the railway bridge near Shanganagh Cemetery and to only bring keys. It's suspected that at some point that evening she was murdered and buried outside of Dublin.

The prosecution ended their case by asking Dwyer more questions about videos on his mobile phone titled "gore" and a particular image called "lovely disgrace.com" which seemed to depict a young girl immobilized and stabbed on a bed. Dwyer explained that one was a "live murder" from Russia.

When asked why he needed to look at content like this, he replied, "I can't explain, I know it's sick."

With his final comment, Dwyer maintained that he was "not guilty," saying that there were many other possible suspects the cops should be looking into.

The next day, many of those lined up outside to hear just how Dwyer was going to defend himself couldn't find a seat before it was over. Consisting of three witness testimonies, Dwyer's defense clocked a mere 27 minutes and concerned itself largely with an allegation from the text messages that Dwyer had stabbed a dead sheep. The main defensive line of questioning was that O'Hara had been suicidal. The third witness claimed to have seen a woman like O'Hara in the cemetery on the day she disappeared.

In his closing speech last Thursday, prosecutor Guerin said that O'Hara was "the perfect victim." "[Dwyer] told a woman with the difficulties that she has that he is there to end it," Guerin concluded. "He used her weakness to isolate her... her ill health was his opportunity to do what he always wanted."

The most problematic element of the prosecution's case, as Dwyer's defense lawyer Remy Farrell SC alluded to, was that much of the evidence presented was circumstantial and did not tie Dwyer to the crime directly.

According to the Irish Independent, the nail in Dwyer's coffin may have been "harrowing" texts between O'Hara and Dwyer that "revealed he had found a remote place deep in the forest where she would be bound, gagged and knifed in the guts the night she was released from the hospital. Dwyer's own work number was picked up on mobile phone cell sites at Edmondstown Golf Course and St. Marks GAA in Cookstown, which cover the area of Killakee where [O'Hara's] body was found."

Dwyer now faces life in jail. Sentencing will occur on April 20.

The judge has excused the jury from further jury duty for the next 30 years, due to the at times traumatic, gruesome, and drawn-out nature of this trial.

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