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Nine years for wife killer judge dubs `a danger to life'

A MAN jailed for nine years yesterday for the manslaughter of his wife is ``a danger to life'' and should be held until it is safe to release him, the judge said.

The man has a history of violence and had allegations of serious assault pending against him from a previous partner he lived with in England before she died of natural causes.

Mr Justice Paul Carney said he would have preferred to protect the community by detaining him until psychiatrists said it was safe to release him, but he had to deal with him under the law as it now stands.

The man was and would continue to remain ``a danger to life'', the judge said.

CONFESSED

Patrick Joseph (PJ) Collins (51) had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife Angela Collins, nee Keane. He was originally charged with Angela's murder but when the DPP accepted a manslaughter plea, Collins pleaded guilty on February 8 last.

The court heard he had not made any application for bail since he walked into a garda station on the day of his wife's death and confessed to having strangled her.

Sentencing Collins in Dublin's Central Criminal Court, the judge said he had given Angela ``an unhappy marriage'' and ``an utterly pointless death''.

The court heard that on the May Bank Holiday weekend in 1996, Collins went with his wife from her family home in Hermitage Road, Ennis, Co Clare to one of two houses he owned in Ballingary, Co Limerick.

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The night before the killing, the couple drank in a local pub and Collins accused Angela of entertaining advances from a musician there. This would seem to have been the start of a row, the court heard.

The following morning, Collins strangled his wife with his own hands and then got into his car and drove to Newcastle West garda station, arriving there at 1pm.

Inspector Joseph Roe told Maureen Clark, prosecuting, that when he entered the station, PJ Collins repeatedly said to gardai: ``I'm the man who murdered my wife lock me up forever.''

Angela was one of nine children born and reared in Ennis. For 18 years, she worked in a local shop, leaving it in 1990 and taking up work as a nurse's aid in 1992.

Throughout this time she continued living at her parents' house, which was eventually passed to her.

Her family, some of whom were present in court yesterday, were ``extremely traumatised by her death''.

Angela Keane was a very outgoing person prior to her marriage to PJ Collins but became withdrawn almost immediately afterwards.

Relatives and friends noticed her appearance deteriorated. At one point she expressed unhappiness about her marriage to one of her sisters and at a family wedding just before her death she told her sister she would meet her on May 8 to talk about her problems. This meeting was never to take place. She was strangled on May 7 by the husband she met through a Ireland's Own lonely hearts column.

DISCHARGED

Her husband was born in the Channel Islands of a father from Ballingary. He was educated at the CBS college in Cork but left before his Leaving Certificate.

He then moved to England and worked on building sites for many years. On his return to Ireland he spent 14 months in the Irish Army before being discharged for repeated absences and for having a bad influence on other recruits.

Inspector Roe said that Collins was known for his ``over-the-top reaction'' to everyday disagreements. He had spent time in a psychiatric hospital in Birmingham, where he was diagnosed as having a severe personality disorder. He also had previous convictions in England, including one in 1984 for possession of a handaxe, but had never served a jail term there.

A report from Dr Helen O'Neill of the Central Mental Hospital, Dundrum, where he has been receiving treatment, found him to have chronic paranoid schizophrenia and an underlying paranoid personality.

Angela Keane was never aware of his history of violence or disorder. They got in contact through the Ireland's Own advertisement in 1991 and a relationship slowly developed. In 1995, Collins returned to Ireland after his mother's death and in August of that year, he married Angela.

Psychiatrist Dr Frances Knott felt Collins would continue to need treatment rather than ``a punitive environment''.

Despite the medication, she could not be sure he would not be a danger to society, she told the court.


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