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Irish priest found murdered in Cape Town

A priest who came to South Africa from Ireland 14 years ago was brutally murdered in his Johannesburg home at the weekend, police said Monday.

The body of Father Declan Collins was found at his house behind the Catholic Church in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, on Saturday night, police spokesperson Melanie Britz said.

"He was hit with a brick on the head and was stabbed in the neck with a knife," she told AFP. There was no sign of forced entry into the house and Collins' wallet was the only missing item.

"The motive is unknown at this stage. We are still investigating," Britz said.

The Star newspaper reported that Collins came from Ireland to South Africa in 1988 to work with the poor and destitute in Cape Town. His nephew, Shane Halpin, said Collins was instrumental in setting up a magazine to help jobless people who were employed to sell the publication on the city's streets. He also established a hostel for youths in Cape Town and fought for the rights of street people when city officials, bidding for the Olympic Games in the 1990s, threatened to remove them without providing alternative shelter.

In 1998, he upset church authorities by handing out free condoms which eventually led to his departure for Johannesburg two years ago.

A former director of a Cape Town home for street children, Annette Cockburn, told the newspaper: "Declan was a warrior and he always fought for what he believed in. He was down to earth, and many people in Cape Town are very upset about the way he died."


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