A murder trial which was in its closing stages has collapsed after three members of the jury did not attend court this morning.

The judge said one of the three jurors would probably never be in a position to return to the trial while the availability of the other two was "unknown" and would not be clear for at least a week.

However, it was not clear if the absence of the three jurors was related to the Covid-19 emergency. 

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said she was conscious of the privacy of the three jurors and did not want any "unnecessary reporting" as to the reasons the three could not attend. 

The issue arose in the case of a man accused of the murder of his wife. The jury had been due to hear closing speeches today but three jurors contacted the court to indicate they were not in a position to attend. 

Ms Justice Eileen Creedon granted an application by the prosecution to discharge the jury. The case will now be returned to the list and a new date for hearing is expected to be fixed. 

Rafal Karaczyn,(34), of Crozon Park, Sligo, has pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to the manslaughter of his 30-year-old wife Natalia Karaczyn, at their family home in Crozon Park between 29 April, 2018 and 1 May 2018. 

Prosecuting counsel Bernard Condon had made the application to discharge the jury saying "nobody knows" when the trial could resume and it would be "unfair" on the jury to be expected to reassemble at some unknown point in the future. 

Defence Counsel Michael Bowman said it was a "matter for the court", adding that it was "unsatisfactory" but "nothing could be done" and he was leaving it in "the court's hands".

In turn, Ms Justice Creedon said everybody was conscious that the trial had "nearly concluded".

She added that in the interest of the "fair trial rights of the accused", while acknowledging that things are "entirely uncertain at this stage, given the seriousness of the situation", she would accede to the application for the jury to be discharged and put the case back for mention. 

The judge then asked the jury minder to tell the nine jurors, who didn't appear in the court, that they were discharged and would have no more dealings with the trial. She also asked the minder to thank them and to apologise to them. 

Mr Karaczyn was then remanded in custody with consent to bail, under the same terms and conditions, until 30 March.