Tuesday 26 September 2017

DPP won't fight Lying Eyes murder conspiracy appeal

But State maintains she solicited hitman

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE Director of Public prosecutions (DPP) yesterday admitted the State cannot stand over the conviction of "Lying Eyes" Sharon Collins for conspiracy to murder her former lover and his two sons.

The State said the conviction for conspiracy to murder could not stand because her co-accused, Egyptian-born Las Vegas poker dealer Essam Eid, had been acquitted of the same charges. The DPP conceded that Collins's conspiracy conviction cannot be maintained because two people had to be guilty of conspiracy for such a conviction to hold, but insists it stands over her conviction for soliciting to murder three men.

Collins, a mother of two, was jailed for six years in 2008 for conspiracy to kill her partner PJ Howard and his two sons -- Robert and Niall Howard -- by hiring a hitman over the internet. The 46-year-old was also found guilty of soliciting a man to kill the three men, following a thrilling trial that gripped the nation throughout the summer of 2008.

Tom O'Connell, senior counsel for the State, told the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA): "Logically it (the conspiracy conviction) is simply unsustainable." But Mr O'Connell added that the State was standing over her conviction for soliciting a killer.

The three-judge CCA, led by Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, will consider Eid's appeal against a six-year sentence for extortion and handling stolen property later this morning.

The CCA adjourned the sentencing appeal after it was told the Egyptian was withdrawing his appeal against his conviction and would be appealing the severity of sentence only.

Ms Collins was found guilty of using the email alias "Lying Eyes" to find Eid, a "hitman for hire", on the internet and setting up the killings for September 2006.

The Clare woman is fighting her conviction on three charges of soliciting Eid.

Collins looked immaculate as she entered the courtroom in a smart, black trouser suit and white shirt with fake tan and newly highlighted blonde hair swept back. Her son Gary sat by her side until the case started.

Tainted

Brendan Grehan, senior counsel for Collins, told the hearing Collins's appeal would focus on four main points.

He said the whole focus of the prosecution's case was on the conspiracy charge.

All parties in the original case had agreed that the jury should have been told it could not convict one of conspiracy without convicting the other.

The jury had acquitted Eid of conspiracy but convicted Collins and Mr Grehan said it was therefore unclear on what basis the jury had approached the soliciting charge.

Mr Grehan said the solicitation charge was "included as a fall back position" and was "very much the poor relation" and argued the solicitation verdict was now "tainted" as there had been no effort to "treat them distinctly".

What was required was separation of the two issues, he said, when in fact they were conjoined in the judge's charge to the jury. The other main planks of Collins's appeal include the evidence of Teresa Engle, Eid's partner who was a convicted criminal awaiting sentence in the US, and the evidence of an alibi witness. The appeal will also focus on the treatment of evidence relating to the poison ricin.

Mr Grehan told the court the charges of soliciting referred to a date on or about August 15 2006, when it is alleged Collins and Eid agreed a hit contract and when she sent €15,000 to him by Fed Ex. Mr Grehan said his client denied throughout the garda investigation and seven-week trial that she was "Lying Eyes", and maintained there were times when she was not in Ireland when some emails and telephone calls were apparently made between "Lying Eyes" and the "hitman for hire" website.

The Central Criminal Court heard Collins and Mr Howard held a ceremony in Italy where they declared their love for each other and on their return home, they held a function for friends.

Collins had pretended the pair were married, obtained a fake marriage certificate through eBay and got a passport in the name of Sharon Howard.

The appeal continues today.

Irish Independent

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