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Computer unit has played key role

THE computer crimes investigation unit has played a key role in helping to solve some major cases.

Staff uncovered crucial evidence that helped result in a successful criminal prosecution in the notorious 'Lying Eyes' case.

Sharon Collins, right, surfed the internet to find a hitman to murder her millionaire property tycoon partner, PJ Howard and his two sons.

She created an email address, lyingeyes98@yahoo, and eventually made contact with a website called hitmanforhire.net.

Within a few days she had begun correspondence with a "Tony Luciano", who claimed his agency had a network of assassins worldwide. She offered to pay €66,000 for the hit but the scheme fell apart when the "hitman" contacted Mr Howard, who then alerted gardai.

Members of the garda unit established to the court's satisfaction that Collins was behind the plot and in 2008, Collins, of Ennis, Co Clare, was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and soliciting a man to kill the Howards. She was sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

The unit was also prominent in securing evidence that led to computer expert Colin Whelan, of Balbriggan, Co Dublin, being convicted of the murder of his wife Mary at their home in 2001. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Whelan stood to gain more than €500,000 from his wife's death after taking out a life insurance policy three months before their marriage.

Garda inquiries showed Whelan had carried out internet searches for information on strangulation, blocked windpipes, how long it would take to die and the result of lack of oxygen to vital organs such as the heart and brain.

Whelan attempted to wipe away searches from his computer but the garda experts managed to track the information.

Irish Independent