Saturday 23 September 2017

I helped make deadly poison, says wife of alleged hitman

Teresa Engle leaving court yesterday after giving evidence in a trial involving Sharon Collins and Essam Eid on charges of conspiracy to murder kill PJ Howard and his
sons Robert and Niall.
Teresa Engle leaving court yesterday after giving evidence in a trial involving Sharon Collins and Essam Eid on charges of conspiracy to murder kill PJ Howard and his sons Robert and Niall.

Abigail Rieley

THE wife of a former Las Vegas poker dealer has told a jury she helped her husband make the deadly poison Ricin in their Nevada home.

Teresa Engle told prosecuting counsel she helped Essam Eid make the toxin, following instructions Eid had found on the internet.

She said they were intending to use the Ricin to carry out a contract killing ordered by Eid's co-accused.

Sharon Collins (45), with an address at Ballybeg House, Kildysart Road, Ennis, Co Clare, and Eid (52), an Egyptian man with a Las Vegas address, have pleaded not guilty in the Central Criminal Court to conspiring to kill PJ, Robert and Niall Howard between August 1, 2006 and September 26, 2006. Ms Collins also denies hiring Eid to shoot the three men.

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, stealing computers and other goods and then handling the stolen items.

Ms Engle told prosecuting counsel that Eid had made the Ricin using castor beans he had bought over the internet, together with acetone and a third ingredient she couldn't remember.

"I think we boiled the beans and took the skins off, blended it with the acetone and something else, then put it through a filter,'' she said. "Then it dried out into a powder.''

She said he brought it to Ireland in a contact lens case.

Ms Engle told the court she had been given a letter of immunity from prosecution by the gardai. She agreed she had pleaded guilty to extortion for a separate case in the US and was currently awaiting sentence for that.

She told the court that Eid ran a website called Hitmanforhire.com on which he used the name Tony Luciano. In August 2006 Sharon contacted the website looking to take a contract out on PJ, Robert and Niall Howard.

At the end of August a deposit arrived at the house comprising of €15,000 in a package with a pair of gaming goggles.

Ms Engle said she then travelled to Ireland where she met Ashram 'Ash' Gharbeiah, a friend of Eid.

Attack

"I know he had several medicines that were supposed to cause a heart attack or somebody to die. And he was going to put them in wine or liquor."

However, Ash then decided the plan "was not do-able" and pulled out.

She told the court she thought 'Ash' left Ireland the following day.

She continued on to Spain to familiarise herself with the area around PJ Howard's apartment in Fuengirola.

She said Mr Eid was furious when she returned home and told him the plan had not been carried out. He contacted Sharon and told her he would do the job himself but would need more money.

Flights for herself and Mr Eid as well as a hotel room were booked for September 2006 using the details of an American Express card in the name of PJ Howard, which Sharon supplied.

She said Mr Eid was trying to contact Sharon by phone and email but with no success.

They had agreed to break into the Howard business to take two computers Sharon had asked to be disposed of. Using keys and alarm codes left by Sharon, they stole a laptop and some computer cables.

Ms Engle said that Mr Eid became furious as Sharon remained out of contact and he decided to offer Robert Howard the opportunity to buy the contract.

The court also heard how Ms Engle had married her previous husband, Todd Engle, three times. She then married Mr Eid in Las Vegas while both he and she were married. She lived with Mr Eid and his wife Lisa. She agreed with counsel for Mr Eid that the living arrangement was "bizarre".

She said she had acted under the "total control" of Mr Eid and had only taken part in the events in Ireland because of his influence.

She denied that she was a "fraudster". However, she admitted that she was "an incompetent criminal".

She told the court that the plan had been to kill someone and had not simply been a scam to extort money.

In response to the prosecution she also denied she was disguising her voice for the jury.

The trial continues today.

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