In what appears to be a major breakthrough in the murder investigation, Chief Supt John Kerin yesterday told a special sitting of Limerick district court that as a result of a significant development late on Monday night, the two men currently in custody can be linked to the killing of Mr Collins.
The victim died from a single bullet wound to the chest after he was fired at in Roxboro Shopping Centre last Thursday.
The court granted an application to gardaí to detain the two, aged 19 and 23, for a further 48 hours under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act.
At the outset of yesterday’s hearing, which lasted two hours, Chief Supt Kerin outlined the extent of the massive investigation on which more than 100 gardaí had been deployed.
The 19-year-old had been interviewed 27 times over total periods amounting to more than 34 hours since his arrest.
The 23-year-old had been interviewed 25 times over periods totalling more than 24 hours.
Gardaí had carried out more than 351 different inquiries and taken more than 200 memos and statements.
Up to 18 CCTV tapes from nine different premises had been downloaded and more will be accessed.
The men in custody were both arrested last Thursday, hours after the murder of Mr Collins, who worked for his father in the family’s pub and arcade business.
Chief Supt Kerin, seeking an order to have the detention period of the two men extended, said the significant new development “copper-fastened” his view of the involvement of the 19-year-old and the linking of the 23-year-old to the murder.
Chief Supt Kerin said they were very anxious to carry out certain aspects of the investigation while the two arrested men are in custody.
Cross-examined by Peter Madden, solicitor for the 19-year-old, Chief Supt Kerin said he did not believe it would be in the interest of the investigation to set out what the new development was.
The 23-year-old claimed in evidence that he was punched twice in the chest and spat on by gardaí while in an interview room at Henty Street Garda Station, while the interview was not being taped on camera.
The court was told that as a result of a complaint made by his solicitor at the time, gardaí called Dr Darragh Little to examine the prisoner.
Dr Little gave evidence of finding one old injury on the abdomen area. Dr Little said the man in custody told him he got a few digs in the chest.
Dr Little said the general impression he got from the arrested man was that he did not know why he had been called and had not asked to see him.
“He appeared grand for his age and did not appear as somebody subject to pressure and abuse. He did not appear to be frightened or harrowed or anything like that,” said Dr Little.
John Herbert, solicitor, said the treatment of his client was of great concern to him.
Chief Supt Kerin said they were very conscious that everything should be above board regarding people detained and any complaint would be fully invested.
Cross-examined by Mr Herbert why his client had not been charged following the significant development which it was stated linked this man to the murder, Chief Supt Kerin said it was incumbent on the gardaí to fully pursue an investigation. Just because one aspect of it had been “straightened out” did not mean that more aspects were not investigated and it was then up to the DPP to decide what should be done.
The court heard that the murder weapon had not been recovered and that many search teams were out in Limerick backed up with sniffer dogs and the Garda sub-aqua unit.