A Clare man whose partner is accused of hiring a hitman to kill him and his two sons has told a jury at the Central Criminal Court that he found it “very, very, very hard to believe” that she was guilty of the charges.
Mr PJ Howard told defence counsel for Sharon Collins, Mr Paul O’Higgins SC in cross examination, that he did not believe the allegations. “It doesn’t make sense to me at all. It’s totally out of character and to be quite honest I find it very, very, very hard to believe.”
Ms Collins (aged 45), with an address at Ballybeg House, Kildysart Road, Ennis and Mr Essam Eid (aged 52), an Egyptian man with a Las Vegas address has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard between August 1 2006 and 26 September 2006. Ms Collins also denies hiring Mr Eid to shoot the three men.
Mr Eid denies demanding €100,000 from Mr Robert Howard to cancel the contracts. He also denies breaking into the Howard family business at Westgate Business Park and stealing two computers, some computer cables, a digital clock and a poster of old Irish money and then handling the stolen items.
Mr Howard told Mr O’Higgins Ms Collins had looked after him when he had cardiac problems in 2000. “When I wasn’t well she gave us a very good life. We didn’t feel there were any serious problems between us until this particular situation arose here. Up to that we were living quite normally.”
He said that Ms Collins, who had been living with him for eight years, had never shown any signs that she was with him for his money. “In the eight years I have known Sharon she has never asked for anything. I have often offered her things and she said no. If she is given three or four hundred euros for herself, she would see if her two lads had enough. She would spend it on clothes and not save it. She is far from a greedy person.”
Mr Howard said he thought the Iridium laptop on which gardaí found emails from Lyingeyes98@yahoo.ie to Hitmanforhire@yahoo.com had been stolen from his house after a party. He said it was left in the upstairs sitting room after Ms Collin’s son David had left college and he had never seen it or seen anyone using it.
As he was leaving the court, Mr Howard stopped and kissed Ms Collins on the lips.
The jury were also read the statement of Special Agent Deen Abbott, an FBI agent who searched Mr Eid’s house in Las Vegas. Special Agent Abbott told gardai that when they arrived at 6108 Camden Cove Street on December 4 2006, Mr Eid’s wife, Lisa let them in.
During the search they seized various items including a folder of documents and an address book containing various Irish phone numbers and addresses.
Ms Una Ni Raifeartaigh BL, prosecuting, told the jury that among the emails found in the folder was an email sent to email@example.com confirming the registration of Hitmanforhire.us and giving the administration password Casino.
There was also a message from Lyingeyes98@yahoo.ie, an address the prosecution say was set up by Sharon Collins. Dated August 8 2006 the contact form gave the name S. Cronin and an Irish mobile number, asking for contact to be made within 15 hours.
The text of the query read “2 male marks in Ireland, usually together. Make it look like an accident. Then possibly a third one 24 hours later. Make it look like suicide. Would appreciate a call by return.”
An email from Hitmanforhire to firstname.lastname@example.org on August 10 2006 offered a job. “I have a job for you if you are interested. Two males in Ireland and one in Spain. Let us know. We will try to call you.”
An earlier email to Tony Luciano dated July 29 2006 from Judas69 gave a location Dublin, Ireland and asked “You got work?” Judas69 described himself as a professional soldier for five years and listed skills including hand gun, rifle, sub machine gun and sniper rifle. The message finished “If you got work I will do it.”
An email to the Irish consulate asked for a visa for Essam Eid to travel to Ireland in October 2006. The email confirmed that Mr Eid was working as a poker dealer and earning $6.50 an hour plus tips.
A further email from Tony Luciano to Lyingeyes said that a reservation had been made in the Greenhill Hotel in Limerick for August 18. Luciano said he was sending “two women and a man to do that job” and said the plan was to poison the “two guys”.
He asked for cash to be sent before the plan was carried out and suggested the use of cardiac stimulants including the drug OUBAIN or herbal drugs digitalis or oleander. He said death using this poison was “very painful”.
The jury also heard from FedEx staff at Shannon Airport who told them that a parcel had been sent from an Anthony Howard to a Theresa Engels at 6108 Camden Cove Street, Las Vegas. The court has previously heard that Ms Engels is Mr Eid’s partner and lives with him and his wife Lisa at the Las Vegas address.
Mr Michael Smith told the court that the delivery was paid for by cheque and identified the signature as Sharon Collins. He agreed with Mr O’Higgins that the signature was hard to read and said that it had been suggested to him at every interview with gardai that it said Sharon Collins.
The jury also heard from staff at the passport office in Cork who had processed a passport request in the name of Sharon Howard. Ms Marian Harkin confirmed that the passport application was handed in to the public office on February 22 2006 and contained a previous passport in the name Sharon Collins, a birth certificate and a Spanish language marriage certificate with translation, which stated that Ms Collins had married PJ Howard in Trece, in Mexico in October 2005.
Mr Howard had previously confirmed that he had never married Ms Collins although he had proposed to her and given her an engagement ring.
The trial continues on Monday before Mr Justice Roderick Murphy and the jury of eight men and four women.