Neighbours' horror after mum-of-three found beaten to death in flat
Neighbours have spoken of their horror after a young mum was found beaten to death in a city flat on Mother's Day.
Gardai are treating the death of Nicola Collins (39), a mother-of-three, as murder. A post-mortem revealed she died from a brutal and sustained attack in which she received multiple head and neck injuries.
The grim discovery was made in a flat above the Gala Xpress convenience store in Popham's Road, Farranree, Cork, shortly after 3am yesterday.
The young mother was pronounced dead at the scene. Her body was taken to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Gardai were alerted by an occupant of the premises. Officers from Mayfield Garda Station rushed to the scene and a 42-year-old man was taken into custody.
He was arrested under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and taken to Mayfield Garda Station for questioning. Gardai must either release or charge him before the end of today.
The man, who is known to the deceased, is from Charleville in north Cork, but has been resident in Cork city for some time.
The flat in which Ms Collins was found has been rented for the past year by a middle-age man. It is accessed by a door to the side of the convenience store.
It is understood she would occasionally spend nights there, particularly at weekends. Ms Collins, who was separated, lived in a flat off Clashduv Road, Togher, on the other side of Cork city. Her body was examined at 11am yesterday at the scene by assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster. A full post-mortem was later conducted at CUH.
Gardai upgraded the investigation to a murder inquiry under Supt Michael Comyn immediately after the post-mortem results were available.
Ailish Coker, who lives next to the flat where Ms Collins was found, said she was "totally shocked" by the news.
"I didn't really know her but I would see her coming in and out of the flat every so often. She seemed like a very nice girl," she said.
"It is absolutely awful what happened. I'm still shaking. I just can't believe it to be honest. It is such a quiet area."
Cllr Ken Collins lives only four doors away from the flat.
"It is a shocking thing to wake up to on a Monday morning," he said. "This is a very quiet area. There are a lot of elderly people living around here and it has shocked everyone. All I can say is that my thoughts and prayers go to the family of that poor young woman."
Ms Collins is understood to have also spent time in Cork city and Kerry over the past 10 years and was a graduate of Cork College of Commerce.
"She was a lovely person," said one Togher resident. "She was very quiet and private and pretty much kept to herself."
The man, who asked only to be called Colm, said he had seen Ms Collins around her flat in the past week.
Locals were appalled to hear the news of her death, he said.
"It's desperate for any family. God help them," he added. "I don't know much about Nicola. We knew she lived here alone so everyone kind of kept an eye out for her.
"The neighbours here are very good and everyone looks out for everyone else.
"I think she has been living here for about two years or so."
Another neighbour, who also asked to be unnamed, said Ms Collins would always greet people with a smile or a nod.
"She was very nice but was quiet. She kept to herself," they said. "But when you'd meet her out she would always wave or smile at you."
It is understood Ms Collins has an adult son and family members living in the Kerry area. Last night, Garda Technical Bureau experts continued a painstaking forensic and technical examination of the Popham's Road flat.
Gardai also began door-to-door inquiries to determine if anyone had seen or heard anything suspicious. They particularly want to talk to anyone who saw Ms Collins on Sunday.
The flat involved is located less than 30m from the busy Popham's Road post office. CCTV security camera footage from local business premises is also expected to play a critical role in the investigation.
Locals said Cork Fire Brigade attended a reported blaze at the flat earlier this month. Ms Collins is understood to have been out socialising with a friend at the weekend. She is believed to have travelled to Popham's Road sometime on Sunday evening.
Gardai suspect she sustained her fatal injuries sometime between 11.30pm on Sunday and 3am on Monday.