Ennis woman gets 6 years in 'Lying Eyes' case
A mother of two convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her wealthy partner and his two sons has been sentenced to six years in jail at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.
In July, Sharon Collins (45), from Ennis was found gulity of conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard in 2006.
Her co-accused, Essam Eid, an Egyptian-born poker dealer with a Las Vegas address, was convicted of demanding €100,000 with menace from Robert Howard on September 26th, 2006. The 52-year-old was also found guilty of handling a stolen laptop and being in possession of stolen items. Eid was cleared of robbing the offices of Downes Howard. He was also sentenced to 6 years in jail this afternoon.
Throughout the seven-week trial, the jury heard how Collins created the internet alias “Lying Eyes” and logged on to Hitmanforhire.com, where she made contact with Tony Luciano, otherwise known as Essam Eid. An elaborate plan was made for Mr Eid to fly to Ireland to kill PJ Howard and his two sons, Robert and Niall, for $90,000 (€66,000).
In a witness impact statement, Robert and Niall Howard said that the incident had caused significant changes in their lives.
“We cannot understand how we were propelled from our normal daily lives into such a national drama and shudder at the realisation that had the plan been effected we could have been poisoned to death. We believe it will take a long time, if at all, before we can put the incident behind us.”
Their father, PJ Howard, pleaded for a non custodial sentence for Collins.
“Sharon has a very positive outlook on life and she was very loving and giving of her time to our extended families. Sharon always kept an even keel and I have never known her to do anything drastic over those years. She is a very straightforward and honest person and if she wanted anything she would ask.”
He asked Mr Justice Roderick Murphy to consider Collins’s redeeming features and to be lenient when sentencing her.
“I am asking the Court not to impose a custodial sentence as I do not believe that Sharon poses any threat to my sons. I ask the Court to consider how a prison sentence would affect her mother, her two sons and myself.”
Mr Howard said that Collins had always handled his medication for a heart complaint and he would always trust her to do this. He told the Court that he would have no difficulty moving in to live with her again.
Mr Brian Glanville, a consultant psychologist, told Collins' defence counsel Mr Paul O’Higgins SC that Collins appeared to have a passive detached but dependent personality which could lead to conflict within relationships as she craved security but would feel herself to be stifled.
He said that when he had visited Collins on two occasions in prison she had been suffering from anxiety with major signs of depression.
Mr Justice Murphy sentenced Collins to six years for each of the six counts she was convicted on to all run concurrently.
He also convicted Eid to six years in jails for demanding the €100,000 from Robert Howard as well as a further year for each of the two charges of handling stolen goods to run concurrently with the extortion sentence.
Speaking after the sentencing, Collins' solicitor Mr Eugene O’Kelly said that his client took great comfort in the fact that her partner Mr Howard had acquitted her.
He said that his client has asked him to apologise to Mr Howard for the embarrassment caused to him by a letter to the Gerry Ryan radio show read out in court.
He said that Collins would be lodging an appeal against her conviction in the near future.
“Ms Collins believes that the truth has got obscured some place the elaborate set up that is cyber space.”
Speaking outside the court Superintendent John Scanlon said that it had been a long a difficult investigation.
"At this stage all I wish to say is that there are a lot of victims in this case, who need to get on with their lives now at this stage. This matter is over as far as we’re concerned.”