YOU could have heard a pin drop as Steve Collins delivered an emotional victim impact statement at the Special Criminal Court after Wayne Dundon and Nathan Killeen were this week convicted of murdering his son, Roy, more than five years ago.
Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Steve, who attended each day of the lengthy trial, described how his life was devastated by the killing of his son exactly 1,833 days previously.
“On the April 9, 2009, cowardly evil men, who were devoid of any semblance of mercy or humanity, murdered Roy, shooting him without mercy in an act of cold-blooded, calculated murder,” he said.
Steve Collins, who broke down on a number of occasions as he read his statement, said it was impossible to quantify the loss of Roy who, he said, was a pal as much as a son.
“The day they murdered my son, they wounded me, and I am slowly bleeding to death. Sometimes I think his loss will kill me,” he said, adding that he has to live with the reality that he was the intended target on the day his son was murdered.
“I would have readily swapped places with my son, but I can not turn back time so all I’ve been left with is the time to grieve and to remember and to wonder what if this had never happened,” he said.
Steve also spoke of the impact Roy’s death has had on the rest of his family and, in particular, on Roy’s two daughters Shannon and Charlie.
“These innocent babies should never have experienced such evil – they will go through their lives without the support of their wonderful dad. It is impossible to quantify what this has done to them,” he said, adding that it “breaks his heart” to see the impact of the murder on them.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Limerick said he hopes the conviction of Wayne Dundon and Nathan Killeen for the murder of Roy Collins will be a watershed moment for the city which, he said, is already a long way down the path to being a much better place.
Reacting to the verdict, which was handed down on Tuesday, he said: “Justice has in some small way been done with the decision of the Special Criminal Court to the memory of Roy Collins, whose life was mercilessly ended in cold blood in our city on April 9, 2009.”
Bishop Leahy said the reaction of Limerick people at the time was one of revulsion and defiance, which manifested itself through more than 5,000 people marching through the city centre in support of the Collins family.
“Limerick simply and collectively said it had enough and while it is little, if any, consolation to the family of Roy Collins, the stand taken by them along with, the wonderful work of An Garda Síochána and the people of the city has made Limerick a safer place today, a place where those who rightly treasure life, peace and respect for others are winning out over the small minority who choose otherwise,” he said.
Bishop Leahy also issued an appeal to people not to get involved in a life of criminality.
“To those any way involved in, or on the periphery of crime, I urge them to step back, for their sakes, for their family’s sake, for the city’s sake.
“Because, as the verdict shows, crime is not a way; it is a darkness and we don’t thrive in darkness but rather and ultimately meet a demise.”
Retired detective, Sean Lynch, who was one of the first gardai at the scene of the shooting, said this week’s verdict was “hugely significant”.
However, he warned that gangland criminality will continue to be a problem unless there is a clampdown on the use of mobile phones in prisons.
“This is down now to the Minister for Justice with the prison authorities to clamp down and take it quite seriously. They have to be determined to clamp down and stop these mobile phones from getting into prisons. It’s not rocket science,” he said, adding that those who facilitate the smuggling of mobile phones into prisons are as culpable as those who use them.
“Whoever is bringing in these phones is just as guilty as the person who directs the crime; they’re just as guilty as the person who pulls the trigger and they are jst as guilty as the person who drives the getaway car, they are acting in concert with these people and that has to be addressed and it has to be addressed now.”
Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Michael Sheahan, also welcomed the guilty verdicts handed down by the non-jury court this week, saying he hopes the judgement will give the Collins family some closure.
Mayor Sheahan praised the gardai for their efforts investigating the murder of Roy Collins and for their role in securing the conviction of three men.
“It’s due to the single-mindedness and dedication of the gardai in the Limerick region that it has paid off in securing these major convictions and putting these people behind bars,” he said.
Deputy Willie O’Dea, who was specifically thanked by Steve Collins outside the Criminal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, also paid tribute to the bravery of the Collins family over the past decade, and especially since Roy’s murder in April 2009.
“The people of Limerick are in awe of the Collins’ family’s courage and bravery in standing up to the thugs who sought to terrorise them,” said the former defence minister.
“The Collins family put their determination not to be beaten down by those who had ordered their son’s murder, along with several other acts of violence, ahead of themselves,” he said.
Deputy O’Dea added that Limerick is a better place because the Collins family stood up to criminal elements.
“Stephen and Carmel’s resolve not to be bullied and coerced by the worst elements of our society galvanised the people of Limerick in their determination to end the hold those gangs held over parts of our city,” he added.