Man on trial over 2000 murder of Sandra Collins

Tuesday 06 May 2014 22.21
The body of Sandra Collins was never found
The body of Sandra Collins was never found

A 49-year-old man has gone on trial charged with the murder of a Mayo woman who went missing in 2000.

Martin Earley, with an address at Banagher, Carrowmore-Lacken, Ballina, Co Mayo denies the murder of Sandra Collins on or around 4 December 2000, at a place unknown within the State.

The body of Ms Collins has never been found.

She was last seen leaving a takeaway in Killala shortly after 11pm on 4 December 2000.

The trial is taking place before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy at the Central Criminal Court in Castlebar.

A fleece jacket belonging to the 28-year-old was found on the pier in Killala in the days after her disappearance.

An extensive garda investigation culminated in Mr Earley being charged with her murder in December 2012.

In his opening remarks to the jury this afternoon, Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the State, said the prosecution case was that Mr Earley had the motive and the opportunity to murder Ms Collins.

He told the jury that Ms Collins found out she was pregnant on 4 December 2000 and had told her GP that she intended to travel to England for a termination.

Mr Vaughan Buckley said a number of witnesses will tell the court about sightings of Ms Collins on the day in question.

Several people saw her in a phonebox in Killala during the course of the afternoon.

The State alleges that she called Mr Earley's mobile phone and that he made calls to the phonebox as well.

Other witnesses will confirm that Ms Collins was wearing a light pink fleece on the day of her disappearance.

This was subsequently found on the pier in Killala on 9 December 2000. A packet of sausages and two pieces of paper were found in the pockets.

Mr Earley's number was written on one piece of paper, while the other piece contained the numbers of two abortion clinics in Britain.

Mr Vaughan Buckley said evidence from a number of retired gardaí will be also be heard. One of these will detail a conversation he had with Mr Earley in 2001.

On that occasion, the State alleges he asked the detective if the Collins family would be "satisfied with a bone" and that he also inquired if a man could be convicted in the event that no body was found.

The jury will also hear about comments allegedly made by Mr Earley in a pub in Killala on 27 December 2010, when he wondered what had happened to Ms Collins.

He allegedly told a witness "they can do nothing if they haven't got a body".

Evidence from garda mapping and photographic experts was also heard this afternoon.

The trial is expected to take up to four weeks to complete.