Aoife's body returns home

The heartbroken family of murdered pregnant nanny Aoife Phelan have said they were happy to have her body home as a local man appeared in court charged with her killing.

Robert Corbet, from Portlaoise, Co Laois, is to receive psychiatric treatment after he was remanded in custody over the murder two weeks ago.

Ms Phelan’s grief-stricken parents Michael and Betty, and their 11 other children, revealed a small comfort as they held a wake and prepared for her funeral tomorrow.

“We are happy to have Aoife back with us, her family,” the Phelans said.

“Her death has left us sad and heartbroken. She was a loving daughter and sister and we will miss her dearly.”

Up to 100 onlookers stood in silence on Portlaoise Main Street as Corbet was brought before a special District Court.

The 24-year-old of Sheffield, Timahoe Road, on the outskirts of the town, runs a local haulage business.

The court was told he shook his head and said “no” when charged with murdering Ms Phelan on October 25, the day she disappeared.

Her badly beaten body was found hidden in a bin buried in a pit in a field next to his family home off the Timahoe Road on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old, who was four months pregnant, went missing just over a fortnight ago.

Corbet, who knew the victim, was arrested twice this week over the killing before he was charged.

He is charged with the murder of Ms Phelan at an area known as Capoley, which is less than a mile from where her body was found after several searches.

Ms Phelan’s family issued a statement through local priest Father Gerard Ahern and praised all those who have supported them.

“We are overwhelmed by the support and the kindness we have received over the past two weeks. We would like to thank all the people who helped in searching for Aoife and who have been there for us, especially family members, neighbours, friends and the Ballyroan community,” they said.

“We would like to acknowledge the efforts of An Garda Siochana, who have worked tirelessly to have Aoife returned to us.”

Judge Catherine Staines remanded Corbet in custody to Cloverhill Prison and he will reappear in court next Thursday.

Two men heckled and shouted abuse at him as he left the courthouse, with one chasing the unmarked car for a short distance.

Ms Phelan, who worked in the town as a live-in nanny, was raised in the townland of Cashel in the village of Ballyroan, less than five miles from where she was found dead.

A memorial service was held last night at the local parish church, St Patrick’s, to mark two weeks since her disappearance.

Ms Phelan’s funeral will be held there tomorrow at 2pm.

Her family appealed for privacy as they held a wake in the home and prepared for the service.

During the brief court hearing, the judge agreed to an application by solicitor Declan Breen that Corbet be given psychiatric attention in prison.

Dressed in a black trouser suit and black-and-white striped shirt, Corbet – a tall man with a beard and a mass of curly brown hair – stood but did not speak during the case.

Detective Sergeant John Healy said he charged Corbet at 11.27pm last night in Portlaoise Garda station.

“He shook his head and said ’No’,” the detective added.

Mr Breen requested his client be given psychiatric attention and legal aid.

But Superintendent Yvonne Lundon rose to her feet and said: “The defendant has his own haulage business.”

Judge Staines ordered that a statement of means be prepared ahead of his next court appearance, in Cloverhill courthouse next Thursday, when the application will be dealt with.

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