Man's tears after judge clears him of murder
A MAN accused of murdering a woman who disappeared 14 years ago wept as he walked free from court.
Martin Earley (50), from Co Mayo, was acquitted of the murder of Sandra Collins (29) yesterday, who disappeared in Killala in December 2000 and was never seen again.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Mr Earley and directed the jury to find him not guilty.
He said: "For legal reasons, ladies and gentlemen, I am directing you to acquit the accused."
The construction worker had admitted in statements to gardai to having a sexual relationship with Ms Collins but denied killing her.
On leaving the court yesterday he smiled for the cameras but declined to say anything.
Sandra Collins, from Killala, Co Mayo, was last seen leaving a takeaway at approximately 11pm on a date on or around December 4, 2000. Despite an extensive search of the area Ms Collins' body was never found.
During the trial it emerged that Mr Earley, a married man with a young daughter at the time Ms Collins vanished, had been involved in a relationship with her in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.
Evidence given by a GP confirmed that Ms Collins had been pregnant at the time of her disappearance and had made phone calls on the day to England with a view to travelling there for an abortion.
Speaking after the hearing yesterday Ms Collins' sister Bridie Conway said her family were "devastated" at the outcome.
"We were so devoted and so dedicated to her and to finding her and getting her back. We are so thankful and so grateful to everyone that has helped us the last 14 years in trying to find her.
"We're going to keep strong and we're going to keep the fight up for Sandra... We said it a long time ago that we would never, ever give up on her."
Ms Collins' brother Patrick said: "We are as determined today to find her as we were when this trial first started and when this all started. This isn't the end for us."