THE family of nanny Aoife Phelan have told of their heartbreak as a truck driver appeared in court today charged with her murder.
Robert Corbet (24) of Sheffield, Timahoe Road, Portlaoise, Co Laois looked dazed as he was brought into a special sitting of Portlaoise district court.
He will be held at Cloverhill prison, where he is to receive psychiatric treatment at the request of his solicitor.
He was whisked to court in a plain black car, having being held overnight.
Gardai said he shook his head and said "no" when asked if he had anything to reply to the charge, made against him last night at 11.55 pm.
He was charged with murdering Ms Phelan at Capoley in Portlaoise on October 25.
Mr Corbet, bearded and with his hair in a mass of curls, wore a black suit and black and white striped shirt.
A crowd of about 60 people gathered outside the courthouse on the main street of Portlaoise this morning as Mr Corbet was brought to court.
He had been held for questioning for 24 hours.
After the brief four minute hearing, he was escorted out of court by gardai and driven away, as onlookers heckled him, shouting: "scumbag."
Following the court appearance, Ms Phelan's family issued a statement through local priest Father Gerard Phelan.
"We are happy to have Aoife back with us, her family," the Phelans said.
"Her death has left us sad and heartbroken. She was a loving daughter and sister and we will miss her dearly.
"We are overwhelmed by the support and the kindness we have received over the past two weeks. We would like to thank all the people who helped in searching for Aoife and who have been there for us, especially family members, neighbours, friends and the Ballyroan community.
"We would like to acknowledge the efforts of An Garda Siochana, who have worked tirelessly to have Aoife returned to us.
"We ask now for privacy as we spend our remaining precious time with Aoife today and attend to her funeral tomorrow."
The funeral of Aoife Phelan - who was four months' pregnant - will take place in Ballyroan tomorrow.
An application for legal aid was made but Superintendant Yvonne Lundon objected, saying the defendant had his own hauliage firm.
Judge Catherine Staines said a statement of his means would be required, with the question of legal aid to be dealt with next week.