'Streets safer now Nicola's killer is finally behind bars'
The family of murdered mother-of-three Nicola Collins (38) said her killer is a dangerous man and Irish streets are safer now that he is behind bars.
Cathal O'Sullivan (45) has now started a life sentence for the brutal murder of Ms Collins on March 27, 2017.
The science graduate was convicted of Ms Collins's murder by a Central Criminal Court jury following a three-week trial.
Ms Collins was found with 125 different injuries in O'Sullivan's flat at Popham's Road, Farranree, Co Cork.
She died from a serious head injury due to blunt force trauma with a 117g blood clot found on her brain.
It emerged during the sentencing hearing O'Sullivan had subjected a previous girlfriend to another horrific beating in 2013.
He received a three-year suspended sentence for that assault which left the young woman physically unable to leave her home to get help for three days.
The deceased woman's father, Michael, and sister, Carly, admitted they felt overwhelming relief at the verdict and the fact O'Sullivan will now spend years behind bars.
"This was not just for us and not just for Nicola - this was a dangerous man," Mr Collins said.
"He needs to be taken off the streets and it was a relief and a weight lifted off us."
Both admitted they were shocked to hear the details of O'Sullivan's previous attack on another girlfriend - and the fact he received a suspended sentence.
The young woman suffered bruises and cuts to her liver, kidneys, ribs and head but survived the attack.
"We knew of a previous conviction but we did not know the extent of the injuries that girl received (until yesterday). It was very similar to Nicola," her father said.
"How he walked out of court practically a free man, a suspended sentence - it is astonishing."
He acknowledged that every case had its individual facets: "You have to be in court, I appreciate that, to know all the circumstances. But it is astonishing."
Her sister said they were now caught by "what ifs".
"You're thinking about how things could be different for both of them if he had gotten (a prison) sentence at that time," said Ms Collins.
Both said their family were deeply hurt by the manner in which Nicola's good character was "vilified."
"We don't believe the version of events that (O'Sullivan) gave - that was a fairytale. We believe she suffered excruciating pain and was terrified in her final hours," Mr Collins said.
"There was a version given that they were happy and singing - it is pure fantasy. It is heartbreaking to think about. It will haunt us."
Ms Collins said they wanted to speak publicly about Nicola because of what O'Sullivan had said about her.
"So many bad things had been said about her," she said.
"Nic struggled from low self-esteem and that was so hard to hear this person, on numerous occasions, call her a 'heavy girl' and that would have been the one thing really upsetting (for Nicola). She was actually not a heavy girl at all but she probably mentioned it to him that she felt she was.
"She was funny, she had a great sense of humour and she was really down to earth. But she had her struggles - there is no denying that. She did have an alcohol problem and would go through phases where she would be brilliant and we would all have so much hope.
"In March last year she started drinking and of course it put her at risk of meeting a person like this."
Her father said their entire family were very upset at what was said about Nicola.
"She did not deserve the lies that were told about her from the sanctity of the witness box," Mr Collins said.