Sex, lies and emails: The assassin, the partner and a plot to poison
It is a bizarre tale of a would-be assassin who
turned out to be an Egyptian poker dealer in Las Vegas, a woman in an unhappy
relationship with a tycoon and revelations of a fake marriage, sex clubs in
Spain and a Jacobean-style poison plot.
They were the ingredients of one of the most
unusual murder trials ever heard by Ireland's central criminal court. The case
reached its climax this week after a 45-year-old mother-of-two, Sharon Collins,
was found guilty of conspiring to hire a hitman through a website to kill her
partner and his two sons.
PJ Howard was worth 12m (£9.6m)
through property rentals. He owned homes in the west of Ireland and Spain as
well as a boat called Heartbeat, named after his quadruple heart-bypass in
Five years after his heart
surgery Howard was dating blonde divorcee Collins who, like him, had two sons
from a previous marriage. But the match was not made in heaven, the court was
told. Collins admitted that in April 2005 she wrote to Gerry Ryan, a popular
Irish radio DJ, accusing Howard of frequenting prostitutes, transvestites and
swingers' clubs near Malaga on the Costa del Sol.
Yet despite this, she
was so obsessed with marrying Howard that she turned to the internet, paying
$1, 000 to Proxymarriage.com for a Mexican marriage certificate in the name of
In August 2006, Collins contacted the website
www.Hitman.us.com (not currently in operation). The jury was told that
correspondence began between her and a man from the site who called himself
Tony Luciano. Luciano was in fact an Egyptian poker dealer in Las Vegas, Essam
Eid. Collins allegedly suggested arranging an accident for Howard and his sons,
and supplied him with details of where the family lived and socialised. The
would-be assassin offered an alternative - poison that would induce heart
The plot unravelled in September 2006 after Eid flew to
Ireland and burgled the Howard family's business, taking computers. He then
arranged to meet Robert Howard, one of PJ's sons, claiming to be able to
identify the whereabouts of the equipment. He also warned the son that there
was a contract out on him, his brother and their father, demanding
100,000 to have the contract terminated.
Howard contacted the
Irish police and thus began a transatlantic investigation which included the
FBI. Collins was arrested in February 2007 after examination of one of the
stolen computers, which had been dumped in a Limerick hotel. It contained
emails between her and the hitman, which included complaints from Collins that
PJ Howard wanted to control her life, even down to asking her to have "stranger
In one email, Collins wrote: "His boys are going to suffer. I
wish it didn't have to be like this, but I know that if my husband was dead and
they were still here, they'd screw me."
Collins and Eid, who was found
guilty of demanding 100,000 from Howard and handling stolen property,
will be sentenced on October 8. Collins has secured the help of a Los
Angeles-based literary agent, after she told Ireland's director of public
prosecutions: "I'll write a book yet."