'Everyone deserves a second chance,' says newly single Sharon Collins as she begins a new life in Belfast
Sharon Collins has begun a new life in Belfast and is single again, working as a masseuse and professional dog walker.
The woman who came to national prominence as 'Lying Eyes' has a large circle of friends and says she is tired of moving on and starting again every time her whereabouts are made public.
She has spoken to the Sunday Independent to say she wants to be left to live in peace. With tear-filled eyes, she said: "Everyone deserves a second chance. I should be able to get on with my life."
In 2008, Collins was found guilty of conspiring to murder her former partner, PJ Howard, and his two sons, Robert and Niall.
Collins, who had denied she used the internet alias 'lyingeyes98', was also convicted of soliciting an Egyptian poker dealer to murder the three men.
She was released after serving three years and nine months of her six-year-sentence. She has always protested her innocence.
Although she initially planned to pen a book on her experience, she now says she just wants to be able to live a quiet life. "I was writing two books to tell my side of the story and it would be lovely to be able to do, but then I thought 'the life I am living [when I am left alone]' is invaluable."
Speaking about making new friends and dipping her toes back in the dating scene, she said choosing whether or not to tell people about her past still tears her in two: "That is the one thing I have agonised about. At what point do you tell people? Do you build your relationship with someone first and is it then all based on a lie? Do you feel people deserve to know everything from the word 'go'? At what point do you tell people? It is a very difficult question.
"It was a slow process - talking to one friend, then talking to another and going about it that way. And then asking someone I have spoken to if they can explain the situation to someone else because every time I had to talk about it I had to relive it."
Describing her feelings about her past, she says: "I have always, always maintained my innocence. But shame and guilt are two very different things. No one wants to say they have been to prison. Of course you would prefer for people not to know."
Speaking about the friendships she has made, she says: "A lot of people who knew me had already heard it somewhere else and didn't care and when I did talk to them they said, 'look we don't want to know', which was fantastic.
"Even as late as last week someone said to me: 'I like to take people as I find them and I don't judge anyone.' It is incredible that people can be like that."
Collins is no longer in a relationship with PJ Howard, after initially reuniting again when she came out of prison, but she said the romance ended amicably. "I think you eventually get to the point where a relationship is over and it is time to let it go. But we ended on very good terms." On finding love again, she says: "I would be very slow to get myself involved with someone. It is not a priority in my life right now. The baggage that I am coming with it is a big ask for anyone to accept that and it would take someone very strong to accept all that." And she credits her belief in God with getting her through her toughest times: "I have a very strong faith in God. I would say my faith has gotten stronger now. I certainly never felt alone or abandoned when I was away," she says, referring to her time in prison.
Speaking about the long-term effects her incarceration has had, she adds: "I have nightmares that I am running away from something or I am back in prison and I wake up and I have to remember where I am." On enjoying the little things in life again, she says: "I love nature, I love being outdoors, I love being able to go out and walk the dogs. I do some work as a masseuse part-time. I trained as a massage therapist in sports massage and aromatherapy. I used to give massages to the other women when I was away [in prison] who were recovering from drugs addiction, that sort of thing. So I continued it afterwards. I only have a few clients. Friends of friends, that sort of thing. I operate a mobile service."
Speaking about her new start, she says: "I was only supposed to come to Belfast for a break for six months but I have made good friends here now. People here have been really, really good to me."