Dramatic breakthrough as 48 year old charged over 12 years after disappearance
Twelve years after the disappearance of Sandra Collins in Killala, someone has finally been charged with her murder.
Gardaí and the Collins family have long believed that Sandra was killed, and Martin Earley (48) of Banagher, Carrowmore, Lacken, near Killala, appeared before a special sitting of Ballina District Court on Friday last, December 28, charged with her murder. Sandra Collins was 29 years old when she was last seen outside a chipper in the coastal village of Killala on December 4, 2000.
Detective Garda Eddie Naughton told the court that Earley was arrested at 4.55pm on Thursday. At 7.40pm at Ballina Garda Station, Earley was charged with the murder of Ms Collins on or around December 4, 2000 at an unknown location. Replying to that charge at the Station, Detective Naughton told the court Earley said ‘nothing to answer’.
Superintendent Pat McHugh told Judge Patrick Durcan that the State’s application was to remand Earley in custody to appear before Harristown District Court, Castlerea, on Friday next, January 4, at 10.30am, for the preparation of the book of evidence for trial on indictment in the Central Criminal Court.
Defending solicitor Alan Gannon said the nature of the charge meant he was unable to apply for bail before the district court.
Legal aid was granted to Earley. The married father had returned home from England, where he is working, for Christmas.
Earley was brought to the court in an unmarked Garda car and entered the court building in handcuffs with his head covered by a dark-green body warmer he was wearing over a red jumper and denim jeans. He entered the courtroom at 10.47am.
Sandra Collins’s brother, Patrick, sisters, Bridie and Mary, and stepfather, Joe, were in court. Members of Earley’s family were also present. The accused sat at the front of the court for the hearing, which lasted three minutes. The Collins family sat just two rows behind him. Earley remained impassive for the duration, only speaking briefly to his solicitor, Alan Gannon, before and after the hearing.
Groups of people stood on Kevin Barry Street, outside the courthouse, watching Earley arrive for the hearing and leave afterwards.
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