A 48-year-old man from Carrowmore-Lacken was before Ballina District Court on Tuesday where he was sent forward for trial to the next sitting of the Central Criminal Court.
Detective Garda Edward Naughton served the accused—Martin Earley, Banagher, Carramore-Lacken, Ballina—with the book of evidence on Tuesday morning. An application was made by State solicitor Vincent Deane to return the accused for trial on the charge marked one to the next sitting of the Central Criminal Court. The charge is that on or about December 4 2000, at a place unknown in the State, Earley did murder Sandra Collins, also known as Eleanor Patricia Collins.
Judge Mary Devins told Earley that he had now been sent forward for trial to the next sitting of the Central Criminal Court and then gave the accused the alibi warning. Earley did not speak during the brief appearance, he just nodded to indicate that he understood.
An application was made by his solicitor Alan Gannon for legal aid. Mr Gannon said that Earley is currently in receipt of €100 a week from the community welfare officer, pending assessment of social welfare. He told the court that Earley had worked for over a year in England as a plasterer, and had sent money home to his estranged wife and three children, however he was arrested when he returned home for holidays and this job is now gone.
There was no objection to legal aid and legal aid was granted for one junior and one senior counsel.
The defendant remains on bail which was granted by the High Court in January. The bail required a €10,000 independent surety and a €4,000 cash lodgement. John Golden, Fernhill, Kincon, Ballina—a long term partner of the accused’s sister went as independent surety. Part of the High Court bail conditions are that Earley surrenders his passport; that he signs on daily at Ballina Garda Station; and does not interfere with any witnesses in the book of evidence.
Mr Golden accompanied Earley to court, along with a woman, who is believed to be a family member.
Earley was arrested and charged with the murder of Sandra Collins in December 2012. Ms Collins (29 ) disappeared in Killala on December 4, 2000. She was last seen at a local takeaway. A few days after she had gone missing Ms Collins's fleece jacket was found on the pier at Killala, but gardaí firmly discounted the possibility that she had taken her own life.
Her disappearance sparked a massive investigation with several public appeals for help. A fresh campaign was launched last year.