A BROTHER has spoken of his hopes that his sister's remains will be found as a man was charged with her murder.
Sandra Collins, who was then 29, disappeared 12 years ago after visiting a takeaway in Killala, Co Mayo, and despite an extensive search, her body has never been found.
Yesterday, members of her family, her brother Patrick, sisters Bridie and Mary and stepfather Joe were in court as Martin Earley (48) was charged with her murder.
"This has been a difficult day for our family," Patrick Collins said after the hearing.
"Our dearest wish now is to get Sandra's remains back so we can give her a decent burial.
"She was so dignified, such a lady," he said of his sister.
"The amount of support we've had from people, we can never thank them enough – people who never knew Sandra, up and down the country, who were praying for Sandra. If there's such a thing as heaven then Sandra is looking down on us."
Mr Earley of Bannagher, Carrowmore Lacken, Ballina, Co Mayo, appeared before Judge Patrick Durcan at a special sitting of Ballina District Court and will go on trial before the Central Criminal Court.
Detective Garda Eddie Naughton told the court that at 4.55pm on Thursday, Mr Earley was arrested, and at 7.40pm at Ballina garda station he was charged with the murder of Ms Collins on or around December 4, 2000, at an unknown location.
Superintendent Pat McHugh told Judge Durcan that the State's application was to remand Mr Earley in custody to appear before Harristown District Court, Castlerea, Co Roscommon, on Friday next, January 4, at 10.30am for the preparation of the book of evidence.
He said the Director of Public Prosecutions had instructed for trial on indictment in the Central Criminal Court.
Defending solicitor Alan Gannon said the nature of the charge meant he was unable to apply for bail before the District Court.
Legal aid was granted to Mr Earley. He had returned home from England, where he is working, for Christmas.
Mr Earley was brought to the court in an unmarked garda car and entered the court building in handcuffs with his head covered by a dark green body warmer he was wearing over a red jumper and denim jeans.
Ms Collins was last seen in Killala at 11pm on December 4, 2000, when she went to buy two portions of chips.
Four days later, her fleece jacket was found on the pier at Killala.
Despite intensive and protracted searches of the coastline and farm buildings, no trace of Sandra was ever found.
A recent appeal yielded information that had previously been unknown – details of a white van that was seen in Killala on the night of the disappearance.