A suspected murderer the Irish police have been hunting for over three years has been arrested in Majorca.

33 -year-old Colin Whelan stands accused of strangling his 27-year-old wife Mary at their home on the outskirts of Dublin in March 2001.

He then tried to stage his own death by driving his car, a Peugeot 203, over the cliffs in Howth, not far from the Irish capital.

However, police found clothes and various personal items at the “suicide” scene but no trace of Whelan's body, sparking what was to become an international manhunt with Whelan's photographs plastered over the Irish newspapers for days.

Over the past three years, police have never given up the search involving Interpol, but it was the blanket press coverage the case received back in 2001, that led to Colin Whelan's arrest in Portals Nous on Friday.

It was an Irish holidaymaker who recognised Colin Whelan in the bar in which he worked and contacted the Calvia police and Interpol.

Whelan was swiftly arrested, it took police just two hours to fingerprint him and confirm that he was the man Irish police have been looking for. He is now in Palma prison, awaiting extradition to Ireland where he could face life imprisonment.

It is likely that he will be moved first to Madrid, where he'll have the murder charge read out to him again by the High Court and than be extradited to Dublin. On Friday he appeared before a Palma magistrate who read Whelan the charge against him, his wife's murder.

Over the past three years, the debate over whether Whelan was dead or alive has been one of the on-going stories in Ireland.

He and Mary had only been married a few months and it was not until the autopsy results were made public that foul play was suspected.

Initially, it looked like Mary had fallen down the stairs at their home in the Balbriggan neighbourhood and broken her beck.

Colin looked clearly bereaved at her funeral.

But the autopsy result indicated that Mary had been strangled and that her fall was no accident. Colin however proclaimed his innocence but a few days after the autopsy results were revealed, police arrested Whelan and charged him with murder.

He was bailed before Swords District Court, after declaring himself innocent. He was released, but fearing that police were closing in on him, he staged his suicide and fled the country.

However he had to find a new identity in order to get out of Ireland and changed his name to Martin Bernard Sweeney and flew to Majorca on a fake passport.

According to sources in Ireland, Colin Whelan's arrest will enable the family of Mary to finally close this chapter in their lives.

However, the trial in Dublin will be an emotional ordeal for Mary's friends and family, many of whom, apparently, have always suspected that Colin has been alive all this time and never committed suicide.