Jurors in hitman trial to resume deliberations


THE JURY in the trial of a Clare woman and a former Las Vegas poker dealer accused of conspiring to kill her partner and his two sons has been sent to a hotel for the night.

The jury of eight men and four women began their deliberations shortly before 4pm yesterday and deliberated for almost 3½ hours.

Sharon Collins (45), Ballybeg House, Kildysart Road, Ennis, and Essam Eid (52), an Egyptian man with an address in Las Vegas, Nevada in the US, have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard between August 1st, 2006, and September 26th, 2006.

Ms Collins also denies hiring Mr Eid to kill the three men.

Mr Eid denies demanding €100,000 from 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.

It is the prosecution's case that Ms Collins paid Mr Eid €15,000 to kill Mr Howard and his sons Robert and Niall.

The prosecution says she contacted the site Hitman.us using the email address lyingeyes98@ yahoo.ie and that she entered into a correspondence with Mr Eid, who was allegedly using the pseudonym Tony Luciano with the email address Hire_hitman@ yahoo.com.

Ms Collins's defence team says she sent the €15,000 in answer to a blackmail demand. She maintains that she was blackmailed over sexual allegations she had made against Mr Howard in an e-mail to her writing mentor Maria Marconi.

The prosecution says Ms Marconi does not exist.

Mr Eid's defence team says he was wrongly identified by Robert Howard as the man who had demanded €100,000 to cancel a contract against himself, his brother and his father.

They also say that the plan for which Mr Eid and one of his two wives, Teresa Engle, were arrested was merely an attempt to extort money from the Howards and was never a plot to kill.

In his closing argument to the jury on Friday, David Sutton SC, for Mr Eid, said his client was merely a "patsy" in the prosecution's attempt to secure a conviction for Ms Collins.

On Friday, the jury asked Mr Justice Roderick Murphy whether it was necessary to convict both accused on the conspiracy charges or whether it was possible to convict one only.

In his charge Mr Justice Murphy told the jurors that in order to convict on conspiracy they would have to be satisfied that both the accused had conspired with one another.

However, he told them, in cases where the case was proved against one and not the other, they could convict that accused.

The jury will resume its deliberations this morning when Mr Justice Murphy will recharge it.