The Sliabh Liag Cliffs in Co Donegal.

Man (38) charged with murder of man whose body was found off Sliabh Liag cliffs in Donegal

Alan Vial was charged with the murder of Robert Wilkin at a special sitting of Ballyshannon Court this afternoon.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 14th 2023, 5:50 PM

A MAN HAS appeared in court charged with the murder of a man whose body was found floating in waters off Sliabh Liag cliffs in Co Donegal.

Alan Vial appeared amidst tight Garda security at a special sitting of Ballyshannon Court this afternoon.

The 38-year-old had been arrested in an early morning Garda swoop at an address in Letterkenny yesterday morning.

He had been questioned throughout Thursday before being taken the short distance from Ballyshannon Garda Station to Ballyshannon Courthouse to appear before Judge Éiteáin Cunningham.

Vial, of Drumanoo Head, Killybegs, was charged that on 25 June 2023 at a place unknown within the State, he did murder one Robert Wilkin (also known as Robin Wilkin).

The charge was Contrary to Common Law and as provided for by Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1964.

Dressed in a striped t-shirt and dark tracksuit bottoms, the accused did not speak during the short hearing.

Members of Vial’s family were also in court for the hearing.

Detective Garda Ciaran O’Brien of Ballyshannon Garda Station gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.

He told the court how after being charged, the accused made no reply.

Vial’s solicitor, Patsy Gallagher, said that because the nature of the charge there was no application for bail.

He asked that the case be adjourned back to Letterkenny District Court by videolink on Monday next, 17 July for the service of a book of evidence.

He said he appreciated that a book of evidence was unlikely to be ready due to time constraints.

He also asked for the accused to receive all required medical treatment including an updated prescription for a medical condition while in custody.

Garda Superintendent Karen Brady agreed to all matters including having the case referred back to Letterkenny District Court.

Judge Cunningham adjourned the case and agreed to all requests by Gallagher.

Vial had been previously arrested along with a woman in her 20s on Monday, 26 June on suspicion of a serious assault.

It followed information received by Gardaí which led to a large-scale search off the popular tourist destination at Sliabh Liag.

Despite being questioned for two days, the pair were released without charge.

Following an extensive search involving Gardaí, the Irish Coastguard including Rescue 118 and the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team, a body was recovered in water off the cliffs on 3 July.

The body was taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where a full post mortem was carried out by the State Pathologist’s Office.

The findings of that post mortem have not been released for Garda operational reasons.

The victim Mr Wilkin, was aged in his mid 60s and from Northern Ireland.

In August 2021, Mr Wilkin, who had been living in Tilbury in Essex at the time, was questioned by officers from the NCA after the lorry he was driving was stopped at the Coquelles Channel Tunnel terminal.

The vehicle, which was registered in Poland, had been carrying a load of Belgian chocolates which were to be delivered to a location in Maidstone, Kent.

During a search of the lorry, Border Force officers found tape-wrapped packages of drugs hidden in two pallets of the chocolates.

In total, 63 kilos of heroin and 32 kilos of cocaine were seized.

Officers from the NCA later charged Wilkin with attempting to import a class A drug.

He appeared at Folkestone Magistrates Court on 14 August 2021, and was released on bail.

It is understood that Mr Wilkin’s remains were released from Letterkenny University Hospital to his family on Wednesday last.

Stephen Maguire