Nicola Collins’s family says ‘excruciating’ trial was ‘second ordeal’

Relatives of Cork murder victim speak of relief at Cathal O’Sullivan’s conviction

Michael Collins, father and Carly Collins, sister of the late Nicola Collins after Cathal O’Sullivan (45) was convicted of murder. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney

Michael Collins, father and Carly Collins, sister of the late Nicola Collins after Cathal O’Sullivan (45) was convicted of murder. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney


The family of Nicola Collins have spoken of their relief at the conviction and jailing for life of Cathal O’Sullivan for the murder of their daughter and sister.

Speaking after O’Sullivan’s conviction at the Central Criminal Court, Cork, the family said the trial was an excruciating experience and a picture was painted of their loved one that bore little resemblance to her.

Nicola Collins’s sister Carly said they were aware that O’Sullivan had been given a three-year suspended in November 2013 for an assault causing harm to another woman which bore a shocking resemblance to the fatal assault that O’Sullivan inflicted on their sister.

“We already knew, but it was harrowing listening to it,” she said. “Our heart goes out to that girl but she got away and Nic didn’t and we wish that he might have got a sentence at that time which might have changed things but unfortunately that wasn’t the case,” she said.

After the jury returned their verdict of guilty of murder, prosecution counsel Tom Creed SC called Det Sgt Kieran O’Sullivan to give details of O’Sullivan’s previous convictions and there was a stunned silence in the court as he described how he had assaulted a previous partner in April 2013.

In what appeared almost like an echo of Dr Margaret Bolster’s evidence in the murder trial, in which she described how Nicola Collins had suffered a subdural haemorrhage in the brain and extensive bruising all over her body, Det Sgt O’Sullivan listed the injuries suffered by O’Sullivan’s previous victim.

He said the woman was left with bruises to her face, arms and chest, had clumps of hair pulled out, suffered four broken ribs, a fracture to the skull and a subdural haemorrhage and was so badly injured that it took her three days to make her way from the house to gardaí to report the assault.

O’Sullivan pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to the woman when he was arraigned at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on November 27th, 2013 and he was given a three-year suspended sentence for the assault which resulted in the woman having to be hospitalized for a period.

Harrowing experience

Speaking afterwards, Nicola Collins’s father, Michael said the family were relieved that O’Sullivan was going to jail for a long time, particularly in light of his previous conviction for a violent assault. He said the trial was a particularly harrowing experience for the family.

“It has been a second ordeal – it was excruciating listening to the medical evidence and the vilification of Nicola – she was besmirched by this man [in court] and he did nothing at all to help her even when she was in very bad pain,” he said.

In a Victim Impact Statement read in court on behalf of the family, Carly Collins described her sister as “a lovely, down-to-earth person” and it was only since her death that they had come to realize how many lives she had touched and how many people thought the world of her.

“So many have commented on her intelligence, said she could have done just about anything she wanted. Nic was very funny and made us all laugh easily about the most random things. She loved music, reading and was good at languages. Nic also wrote frequently, finding it therapeutic to put pen to paper.

“She was destined to be resilient and confronted many tough times in life. Nic was vulnerable. Her on-and-off struggles with alcohol were an emotional rollercoaster, the downside of which left her feeling alone at times.

‘Vivacious and fun’

“These issues however did not define her, did not change the fact that she was a vivacious, fun person who was dearly loved. It did not mean she was undeserving of dignity and respect.”

She said her sister struggled with very low self-esteem.

“To think of her, a person in need of love and kindness, being met with cold-hearted brutality, is beyond heart-breaking. It has been terribly distressing to hear of the devastating injuries she sustained. The thought of the pain she must have suffered, and the unimaginable terror she surely felt in her final hours, will forever haunt us.”

She said family and friends had held high hopes for the bright future she deserved but these had been replaced “by shock and inability to comprehend that we will not see her again”.

The days since March 2017 had been filled with waiting to comprehend what happened, waiting for answers “that we now know will never come”.

“Instead we have been subjected to vilification of Nic’s character in an attempt to explain what happened the night of March 26th, 2017,” she said.

Her sister was “not the person portrayed in court”.

“This has added to the hurt and pain we already felt. The vile allegations heard in recent days have left us feeling disturbed and embittered.

Nic was a sister, daughter, mother and friend. The shock of losing her still feels like a bad dream, one that we wish we could wake up from. Her loss will be felt permanently, for the rest of our lives.”

The family thanked their legal team and gardaí, “especially our family liaison officer, Paul Cogan, for their hard work and unwavering compassion and kindness throughout this horrific ordeal”.