Priest pays tribute to murdered IRA man amid investigation breakthrough
A priest has spoken of his hope that a breakthrough by detectives investigating the murder of an IRA man turned informer will help yield his killers.
Fifteen years after the savage killing of Eamon Collins outside Newry, Fr peter McVerry described the "strong integrity" of the murdered man.
He told how Collins (45) had knocked on his door in Ballymun in Dublin looking for work after fleeing over the border following threats from the IRA. The priest said he was a "wonderful person" who helped with young homeless people.
His comments came as it emerged that police have made a forensic breakthrough in the hunt for Collins's killers.
Detectives said they have found a DNA profile from the crime scene but issued a renewed appeal for information about a car used in the attack - a white Hyundai pony - and a hunting knife, part of which was also recovered from the scene.
Collins was beaten and stabbed beyond recognition in 1999 in a suspected revenge attack for turning informer.
He had received repeated death threats from republicans and it is believed provisional IRA members from south Armagh murdered him.
Collins agreed to turn supergrass after being arrested by police in 1985 but later retracted his statements.
in 1997 he wrote the book Killing Rage detailing his life as an IRA man, and the following year he testified against leading republican Thomas 'slab' Murphy in a libel case against a newspaper.
Collins, who had returned to the staunchly republican Barcroft estate in Newry, also wrote and featured in numerous newspaper articles.
Fr McVerry said he had met a "terrible death" and the "only enemies" that Collins had "would have been in the higher echelons of the IRA".
"It was just unthinkable for someone in the IRA to give evidence and to reveal secrets and reveal past atrocities and name names," he told the BBC.
He added that he hoped the police breakthrough would now identify the killers, "especially for his wife's sake and his children's sake".