Belfast Telegraph

IRA informer Eamon Collins killers should be expecting us, say police on 20th anniversary of 'grotesque' murder

Eamon Collins
Eamon Collins

Police have renewed their appeal for information into the killing of the IRA informer Eamon Collins on the 20th anniversary of his savage murder.

And they say those responsible should expect to hear from the police in the coming weeks.

The 45-year-old father of four was deliberately knocked down while out walking with his dogs in the Doran's Hill area of Newry in a revenge attack for turning on his former comrades.

What followed was an attack later described as "grotesque" and thought to have been carried out by the Provisional IRA. Collins was stabbed in the face and head numerous times until he was unrecognisable and so the family were unable to have an open coffin for his funeral.

Police later recovered a DNA profile from one of the killer gang and believe the attacker himself suffered a serious injury in the attack.

Detective Inspector Conor Sweeney from Legacy Investigation Branch said: “Eamon Collins was attacked while out walking his dogs in the peaceful, lonely early hours of the morning.

" A car full of people pulled up beside him and launched a sudden, sustained and savage assault. Beaten about the body with blunt objects and stabbed repeatedly in the head and face, Eamon never stood a chance that morning.

“It’s a fact that elements of Eamon Collins’ life have been highly publicised in the media and other public records. However, that past was behind him and he himself had publicly rejected violence and turned away from those involved in such violence.

"At the time of his brutal murder, Eamon was simply a devoted husband and a loving father. The killers left in their destructive wake a grieving widow and four fatherless children."

A recklessly courageous individual.

Hunting knife similar to one used by killers.
Hunting knife similar to one used by killers.
Compass from handle of similar hunting knife.
Murder scene on Dorans Hill

Collins played a role in the IRA's intelligence and internal security network although said he never directed killed. In 1985 he turned supergrass after being arrested by police in but relented and retracted his statements under pressure from his family.

He was subsequently charged with five murders and dozens of terrorist offences but was not convicted and returned to live in Newry in the staunchly republican Barcroft Estate.

In 1996, Collins wrote a devastating expose of the IRA, Killing Rage, based on his life as a terrorist. He described the torture and murder of the undercover British Army officer Robert Nairac in 1977 and how his body was disposed of in a meat mincer.

He also infuriated the IRA by describing it as a chaotic, anarchic organisation whose members were happiest when they were in the pub.

Collins also wrote and featured in numerous articles for national newspapers. He was vocal in criticising republican violence and had been threatened numerous times by the IRA before his death.

Coroner John Lecky, at the inquest into Collins' death, said his murder was one of the most brutal, horrific and grotesque murders they had encountered.

Neil Belton, an editor for publishers Granta described Collins as "a recklessly courageous individual who seemed to have found some way of publicly atoning for what he had done through the book. It is a tragic, tragic waste".

We are close to identifying killers.

Detective Inspector Conor Sweeney continued: “Detectives will be following a number of lines of enquiry in the weeks ahead and those responsible should expect police attention. 

"A full DNA profile has been recovered from the crime scene. We believe this DNA profile was left by one of the killer gang.  With the advances in DNA technology, I believe we are close to identifying this person.

“However, police are always reliant on information from the public to help us solve such crimes.

"In this instance, the DNA profile was extracted from blood left at the scene. Forensic analysis of the blood tells us that the person who left it was male, and that he himself suffered a severe injury during this frenzied attack. 

Police issued this photo of a white Hyundai Pony, similar to the one used by the killers (PSNI/PA)
Police issued this photo of a white Hyundai Pony, similar to the one used by the killers (PSNI/PA)

"There will be people in the community, whether in the Newry area or south of the border or anywhere else, who are aware of an acquaintance, a relative, a neighbour suffering such an unexplained wound. It may stand out in their minds as having occurred on the same day that they heard about Eamon Collins’ murder. This is information that we need people to tell us.

“20 years have now passed since this merciless killing. I ask those who were involved, or heard accounts of what happened, either in the immediate aftermath or indeed over the years, to think about the devastating effect this has had on Eamon’s family, and to come forward to the police.

“A number of people were involved in Eamon’s murder. They know who they are and they are going to have to live with that for the rest of their lives. While they are not before the courts today, police will continue the investigation with the objective of putting them there.  I would appeal to them to do the right thing and make a difference to Eamon’s family by making themselves known.

“We are appealing for assistance from the local community who we still believe can help us, despite the amount of time which has elapsed.  Anyone with information can contact detectives in Legacy Investigation Branch on 101 or LIBEnquiries@psni.pnn.police.uk.  Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.”

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