THE prime suspect in the killing of a young woman more than a decade ago will be charged with her murder today.
The breakthrough came more than 12 years after Sandra Collins, who was just 29 at the time, disappeared after visiting a takeaway in Killala, Co Mayo.
A man who has been the gardai's prime suspect and who was home on holiday for Christmas from the UK was arrested and is to appear in court today charged with her murder.
Sandra was last seen in Killala on the night of December 4, 2000.
Gardai confirmed that a man in his 40s had been arrested in the Ballina area and was being detained at the local garda station.
A garda statement said that he would appear before a special sitting of Ballina District Court at 11am, charged in connection with her murder.
Since she went missing, gardai have been treating the case as a murder investigation, although a body has not been found and Ms Collins's family have accepted that she is dead.
She had called into the local takeaway, the Country Kitchen on George's Street, around 11.55pm on the night she disappeared. But it has remained unclear what happened to her after she left the shop.
Gardai believe that it was likely she met a man shortly afterwards and that she was killed some time later.
Officers also suspected that the man she met was already known to her and they issued an appeal for help in identifying a white van which was spotted in Killala around the time Ms Collins, pictured right, was last seen.
A few days after she had gone missing, Ms Collins's fleece jacket was found on the pier at Killala but gardai firmly discounted the possibility that she had taken her own life.
Her disappearance sparked a massive investigation with several public appeals for help. A number of people were arrested and released without charge.
In April of this year, a poster appeal in the form of a personal message was launched as part of a fresh campaign.
The posters, which went up in the north Mayo area, carried photos of Ms Collins and the message: "My family are desperately seeking any information so they can have closure to their nightmare."
Her brother Patrick Collins and sister Bridie said at the time that they hoped the posters would encourage somebody with information about where her body lies to come forward.
"We want to bring this terrible trauma for our family to an end," Mr Collins said at the poster launch.
"We just want closure, an end to the seemingly unending pain we have been experiencing."