Man charged with murder of woman 12 years ago
A 48-year-old-man has been charged with the murder of a woman 12 years ago whose body has never been found.
Martin Earley of Banagher, Carrowmore-Lacken, Ballina, Co Mayo, appeared before Judge Patrick J Durcan at a special sitting yesterday of Ballina District Court charged with murdering Sandra Collins (29), from Killala, Ballina, on or about December 4th, 2000, at a place unknown.
After evidence of arrest, charge and caution was given by Det Garda Eddie Naughton of Ballina Garda station, Supt Pat McHugh said the Director of Public Prosecutions had directed that the accused stand trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Supt McHugh asked that Mr Earley be remanded in custody to Harristown court (Castlerea Prison) next Friday, January 4th, to allow for the preparation of a book of evidence.
Alan Gannon, solicitor for the accused, said the case involved “a matter of some antiquity” and he wanted to know when the book of evidence would be ready.
Earlier, Det Garda Naughton said that when he arrested Mr Earley at 4.55pm on Thursday at Carrowmore-Lacken, on a charge of murdering Ms Collins, the accused replied: “No comment.”
Det Garda Naughton conveyed the accused to Ballina Garda station, where he charged him at 7.40pm.
Replying to the charge, Mr Earley said: “Nothing to answer.”
A small crowd gathered to watch as Mr Earley was taken away in a prison van.
During the five-minute hearing, members of Ms Collins’s family, including her brother Patrick and sisters Mary and Bridie, sat in the courtroom listening intently to the proceedings.
Sandra Collins was last seen in Killala at 11pm on December 4th, 2000, when she went to buy chips.
Four days later, her fleece jacket was found on the pier at Killala.
Despite intensive and protracted searches, no trace of her was ever found.
A recent appeal for information yielded information that had previously been unknown – details of a white van seen in Killala on the night of the disappearance.
Following yesterday’s hearing, Mr Collins told reporters: “This has been a very difficult day for our family.
“Our dearest wish is to get Sandra’s remains back so we can give her a decent burial.”
Mr Collins said the family wanted to express their heartfelt thanks to the gardaí for the manner in which they had stuck with and conducted their investigation and also for the emotional support they had provided.
He also said people from all over Ireland had supported them over the years and had sent messages that had helped keep up the family’s courage.