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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C

"The fight goes on": Family continue their search for missing Sandra Collins

The Collins family will feature in a TV programme tonight that focuses on the recent trial of a man accused of Sandra’s murder.

10453204_10204228178693394_1013533036_n Patrick Collins Sandra Collins Patrick Collins

THE FAMILY OF Sandra Collins want just one thing: to find her body and bury her alongside her mother in Mayo.

It has been 14 years since Sandra went missing in 2000, and her brother Patrick Collins told that he will never give up looking for his sister.

Last week, after a 17-day trial, Ballina man Martin Early was acquitted of the murder of Sandra. The judge directed the jury that there was a lack of evidence to convict Early, who denied murdering Sandra.

Patrick said the filming was “tough”, but that the Prime Time team were “a wonderful group of people”. “I can’t praise them enough,” he said.

Naturally we were really upset after decision of the judge. But we respect the law and we respect the judge. We came home here, we regrouped and came back together.

Missing since 2000

Sandra was 28 when she went missing on 4 December 2000.

She was last seen buying a large bag of chips in a local takeaway at around 11.30pm that night. Four days after she went missing, her fleece jacket was found on the pier in Killala. Her family have accepted she is not coming home alive, and believe she did not take her own life.

Four people in total have been arrested in connection with Sandra’s disappearance.

Prime Time will show exclusive images of the fleece belonging to Sandra, as well as the pier where it was found, on tonight’s show.

Jogging memories

10437168_10204228180773446_1223492908_n Patrick Collins Sandra Collins Patrick Collins

The Collins family were filmed before, during and after the trial by RTÉ’s Prime Time, in an episode that will air tonight on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

Patrick said they hope the episode will help to jog people’s memories, which could provide the missing puzzle piece leading to the discovery of Sandra’s body.

The fight goes on

For the family, the documentary is a way of getting out “the message of Sandra’s life and what we’ve gone through and what we continue to go through”.

“The fight goes on for Sandra irrespective of what the outcome was last Thursday,” said Patrick. “I want people in Killalla or wherever they are watching tonight to sit down and watch what we’re going through.”

The Garda investigation into his sister’s disappearance is not closed, and the family are appealing for anyone with information, no matter how small, to contact the gardaí, anonymously if they wish.

Devastated family

Tonight’s show will lay bare “the absolute devastation” that having Sandra missing for the last 14 years has created for her family. “Mammy died not knowing where she was,” said Patrick.

Sandra was “an absolutely fantastic person with a big heart”, remembers her brother. He described her as kind, caring, and generous.

She would give you the last pound out of her purse, even if it meant that she would be stuck. She put everybody else, everyone else’s needs and wants before her own. She was so nice and so good and so kind.

“She was somebody who deserved to be recognised,” said Patrick of his much-loved sister. “She was important.”

‘Everybody will know about Sandra’

Tonight, the family will gather together to watch the show. “It’ll be hard because we filmed that before the trial, when we were full of a bit of hope. It will be emotional in a sense,” said Patrick.

But alongside that sadness will be the knowledge that “everybody in Ireland will get to know about Sandra Collins”, which brings with it the hope that someone, somewhere, will pick up the phone and pass on information to the gardaí.

Once the programme is over, the viewers can switch off. “For us, we can’t switch off,” said Patrick.

Once the programme is over tonight, it’s not over for us until I bury her with my brother and mother.

Such a traumatic incident, the disappearance of a sister, has a huge impact on a family.

But Patrick says they get through it because “we’re a close bunch anyway”, who have had “great support from our friends and family and community”.

They’ve also been supported by the gardaí, who Patrick describes as “absolutely wonderful”.

What drives the family to keep looking for Sandra?

Our memories of her and the wonderful person and great sister she was. We could never give up. We have to keep going for her. She has no voice.

Anyone with information on Sandra Collins’ disappearance can contact gardaí on 096 20560, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111, or any garda station.

Sandra Collins’s family will feature in Prime Time on RTÉ One at 9.35pm tonight.

"The fight goes on": Family continue their search for missing Sandra Collins
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  • Pier

    The area where the fleece was foundSource: RTÉ
  • Pier

    The pier where the fleece was foundSource: erRTÉ
  • Fleece

    Source: RTÉ
  • Fleece

    Source: RTÉ
  • Fleece

    The fleece worn by Sandra Collins, which is stored at Ballina Garda Station.Source: RTÉ

Read: Man arrested over 2000 disappearance of Mayo woman Sandra Collins>

Read: Man arrested over murder of missing Sandra Collins>

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