Sharon Collins found guilty of conspiring to kill partner

 

AFTER 32 days of hearings, 90 witnesses and more than 10 hours of deliberation, Sharon Collins - the 45-year-old Clare woman accused of hiring a Las Vegas poker dealer to kill her partner and his two sons - was found guilty on all counts.

The jury of eight men and four women found that she had solicited her co-defendant, Essam Eid, to murder PJ Howard and his sons, Robert (29) and Niall (24), and after further consideration, that she had conspired to murder them.

Eid, a 53-year-old Egyptian national, was found guilty of demanding €100,000 from Robert Howard and of handling stolen property. A verdict of "disagreed" was recorded on the conspiracy charges in his case, although State prosecution counsel Tom O'Connell did not rule out a retrial.

Both defendants were remanded in custody until sentencing on October 8th.

For Eid, who reacted jovially to the verdicts, a night in jail would have been nothing new, since he has been in custody for 22 months and from all appearances enjoys an easy, humorous relationship with prison officers and everyone around him.

For Collins, for whom life up to a couple of years ago had been lived between her partner's large, luxury home overlooking an Ennis lake and his Fuengirola apartment, prison promised a new experience.

At 6pm, as she walked towards the exit of the Four Courts Round Hall, head up, back straight, in her black trouser suit, white top and crucifix pendant, toting a tasteful black handbag, she looked like a solicitor heading home. She was a loving mother who had just kissed her loyal sons - Gary (25) and David (23) - goodbye. Only her determined stare into the distance and the prison officers on either side, one pulling her little red wheelie bag, indicated that she was headed for Mountjoy women's prison. Ten minutes later, she was taken away in a prison van.

Earlier, the woman who had been accused of using the internet alias Lying Eyes reacted with no surprise to the verdicts. She turned to comfort David, putting her arm around him, then to Gary, taking his head and murmuring softly. They were quickly joined by her ex- husband, Noel, from whom she separated 18 years ago, and his wife Fiona, with whom both David and Gary have been staying during the trial. Together they formed a tight, supportive little circle.

Later, Collins's solicitor, Eugene O'Kelly, read a statement outside the Four Courts, watched by the little Collins group. The people most affected by the verdict, "other than Sharon", he said, were "these two fine young men that have displayed loyalty and devotion and love for their mother".

There was no sign of PJ Howard, last seen a month ago when he startled the court with a vigorous defence of Ms Collins, and kissed her tenderly. Nor of his two sons, who made a brief appearance last week.

A brief statement on behalf of the three men thanked the jury and all who had assisted the family "during this difficult period".